What is brand engagement? The two types you need to know about.

What is brand engagement? The two types you need to know about.

Brand engagement is all about building and sustaining a connection between people and a brand. Companies focus on their customers, but don’t forget your employees.

Companies use lots of customer engagement strategies to encourage people to connect with their brands. For example, HubSpot runs an annual conference with world-famous keynote speakers like Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama. Starbucks has a loyalty program that offers exclusive offers and incentives if you use its app. In the UK, PayPal offers you £50 in actual money if you refer a friend.

These brand engagement strategies are all aimed at current customers. Brand engagement is the process of building and sustaining a connection between people and a brand, and it includes your current and potential customers as well as company employees and other internal stakeholders.

It's not enough to only focus on creating a loyal customer base. Companies need to engage two core audiences to build a strong brand: their customers and their employees.

Customer brand engagement builds loyalty over time

Customer brand engagement is the relationship companies develop with their current and potential customers based on their interactions and experiences with the brand across all touchpoints and channels. When companies talk about building brand engagement, this is usually what they mean – helping customers connect with the brand.

Customer engagement is closely linked to brand awareness. Current customers are more likely to share word-of-mouth recommendations with their friends, and new customers are more likely to recognize your brand in the wild. It also relates to brand loyalty, as it strengthens your current customer relationships.

Companies that engage their customers with their brand experience several benefits:

  • Improved brand loyalty. Research by Motista shows that customers with an emotional connection to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value than customers who aren’t engaged. You benefit from their loyalty over time as engaged customers are more likely to make repeat purchases while unengaged customers may just make a single purchase and not come back again.
  • Increased brand recognition. Engaged customers (or not-yet customers) will spot your brand everywhere. They'll notice your online ads and social media posts and spot your products on crowded retail shelves.
  • Greater sense of community for your customers. Customers engage with your brand for more than just your great products. For many people, it's what your brand stands for that draws them in. 52% of consumers choose one brand over another because it “stands for something bigger than just the products and services it sells, which aligns with my personal values.” Having a strong set of values can help you build a community of engaged customers who share similar values.

Pet supplies retailer Chewy has high levels of customer brand engagement – especially through its social media platforms. It builds customer brand engagement by focusing on delivering a first-class customer experience. It wants to give its customers an amazing experience every time they interact with the brand – whether on the website, on social media, or when their order arrives.

Chewy uses its social media to provide customer service and support and to engage with and share customers’ posts and feedback. The Chewy team recognizes what’s truly important to its customers: their pets. So it gives customers a prompt to share pictures of their pets on social media by sending them birthday cards or simply asking to see pets enjoying their latest Chewy order.

Chewy also recognizes that pet ownership can be difficult, so it regularly sends customers condolence gifts when pets pass away. It also refunds the costs of unused food and encourages customers to donate it to pet rescues rather than return it. This means customers can support local charities at no cost to themselves.

Employee brand engagement creates consistent messaging across all departments

Employee brand engagement is the relationship and sense of attachment employees, investors, and other internal stakeholders have with a brand. It’s also called internal brand engagement because it helps your internal team connect with their work, your mission, and each other through shared values and a shared understanding of how their roles contribute to building the brand.

Companies with high employee engagement levels benefit from:

  • Improved brand ownership across the whole company. Companies often struggle to help their employees feel connected to the brand, with big differences in engagement levels across different departments. Our State of Brand Ownership report found that nearly 90% of C-level respondents felt deeply connected to their brand, but only half of UX professionals felt the same way. If you have high levels of employee brand engagement, you’ll likely see increased levels of brand ownership, too, as everyone will understand how their role contributes to the brand.
  • Improved brand consistency. Engaged employees know how to present the brand to the people they interact with. They follow brand guidelines in order to present a consistent tone, style, and image of the brand, which helps to build brand recognition in the market.
  • Higher levels of talent retention. CareerArc found that a “poor or diminishing employer brand and reputation” was one of the reasons 53% of job seekers left their previous jobs. Employee brand engagement supports employee retention by giving team members a sense of belonging in the company. They connect to the company for what it stands for – its brand values and purpose – not just the job itself.

Technology company Drift has high levels of employee engagement, with 93% of employees sharing that they’re proud to be part of the Drift brand. It gets an A+ rating for employee retention, which suggests its employees are engaged with the company mission and happy to keep working for the organization.

Another indicator your employees are engaged is that they regularly create and share content for the brand. They wouldn’t do so if they weren’t confident in how to describe the company and its values.

This is where Drift excels. It has a track record of engaging its employees and turning them into advocates for the brand. By publishing content created by its employees (rather than having everything produced by Drift), it builds its employees’ personal brands alongside the company brand, which helps employees feel like the company cares about their growth and reputation.

For example, Drift Insider features content by many members of its team, such as its sales, marketing, and operations departments. It currently has four active podcasts hosted by five different people – and only one of them is a member of the leadership team. It’s not just the company leaders who want to represent the company in public-facing content. It’s the wider Drift team, too.

Don’t undermine your brand-building efforts by ignoring the most important element of brand engagement

Successful brand engagement has two sides to it: your customers and your employees. If you treat brand engagement as a marketing strategy and only focus on customer interaction, you’re missing the people who can have the biggest impact on your brand: your employees.

Improving employee brand engagement helps you achieve unified, consistent messaging across all teams and channels. Your teams communicate your core values to prospects and customers and bring your brand mission to life. Aligned, engaged employees boost your customer brand engagement efforts by building brand recognition and strengthening the connection your customers have with your brand.

If your brand engagement efforts stop with your customers, you’re only doing half the work. Don’t forget about your employees – they can be the best advocates for your brand and your company.

Oskar Duberg
Oskar Duberg
Content lead