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The Boss of Engagement

Posted By: Liana Miller
Posted On: April 21, 2013
Category: Engagement

Bruce SpringsteenI was on my way to Cleveland. It was more of a personal pilgrimage to visit the hallowed Rock Hall (specifically the Bruce Springsteen exhibit). While The Boss might be best known as a rock legend, there are some interesting pearls of engagement to cull from him. Springsteen has recently opened up about his songwriting, recording, but for me, most interestingly, about performing. Whether you are a Springsteen fan or not, his career was made on his live performances. Some of his albums, with otherwise sluggish sales, saw sales skyrocket after a tour. His insights into the live performance add an important chapter to the playbook of engagement.

1) Extreme Presence
Springsteen is probably the singularly most present man I know when it comes to his music. It’s no surprise to hear that while playing before tens of thousands, he strives for moments of extreme presence during a concert. It culminates with the audience feeling (and undoubtedly the band too) that there is no other concert or audience more important than the one happening that night.
Imagine if businesses strived for moments of extreme presence with their consumers. What might we hear? What might we gain? Today’s tools and technologies allow us to connect with our consumers in a variety of channels and at virtually any time. For me, this speaks to the humanizing of business and is a fundamental tenant of engagement.

2) The Mental Lean In
Springsteen has described “the mental lean in” he seeks to create with the audience. Note that this works hand-in-hand with the aforementioned extreme presence. It’s about the art of action and reaction, surprise, the unexpected and creating the rebirth of moments that might not have occurred the night before.
Engagement marketing is also about the mental lean in. To some degree, it’s the very same action / reaction. It’s about creating value to the point that your audience leans in and engages.

3) Relevance
A fundamental challenge in playing the same music night after night after night is staying relevant – to the audience, as well as to the music being played. How do you keep it fresh and not stale? How do you appeal to the many different members of your audience? For Springsteen, his gift as a songwriter makes the music relevant. But, it doesn’t stop there — he’s in tune with his audience today. Thus, He plays it with the emotion of today — not yesterday. For brands, isn’t it the same? If you’re true to your product / service and you’re true to your consumer, then you are relevant.

4) Sustaining
Springsteen has said that the challenge is not only creating the “moments,” but also sustaining them. His own secret sauce for sustaining the moment is creating the feeling among the band and the audience that you really are not sure what is going to come next. It’s the unexpected — but in a controlled, extremely present, relevant sort of way. This is a highly-nuanced skill: marketers tend to use big sticks, same tricks and loud megaphones. Sustained engagement is about knowing your audience, shared trust and real-time presence — and your own secret sauce.

5) The Ultimate: In Concert
Bruce describes the ultimate concert as the moment when he, the band and the audience literally move in on themselves – the literal “in concert” moment. It’s the epitome of the lean in, the extreme presence, the relevance sustained – the moment. The ultimate engagement is moving in concert with our consumers.