The Cup Runneth Over And We Are Screwed

Consumer Engagement Threshold

Yes this sounds jargony, much like all of the terms we are trying to avoid through non-selfish communication. The reason why I like this term, and ultimately take the time to explain to people what this means, is that it is a relevant way of looking at our communication.

Information takes up space. “Out of Memory” is a common thing I am seeing these days on people’s smartphones as we document EVERY BLOODY THING WE DO.

As marketers we are guilty of the same thing. We all push so much content at consumers, 24 hours a day, in every channel we can find, make, or troll.

Add the social content being pushed at this audience (friends, family, coworkers, and people we don’t know well)

Then add instructions, directions, warnings, way finding systems, news, and blog posts like this one.

Now take into consideration how much this consumer understands about what you are presenting them, their interest level, and the other things that are distracting them.

Things are looking bleak now to get a word in edge wise with these people.

Let’s get back to the term Consumer Engagement Threshold and break it down into parts:

  1. Consumer – The reason why I want you to consider the people we are speaking to, as consumers, is to understand their mindset. The definition of consumers is “a person who purchases goods and services for personal use. So never lose sight that they are ultimately out to get something. Or else they are not consumers. So this need is a two way street for both you and your audience.
  2. Engagement – This is the active word in this term. We are actively engaging with this consumer, whether it is speaking to them in person, presenting information in a 30 second youtube ad spot, through social media, or on physical packaging. This is important to acknowledge because our format of engagement plays a critical role in getting our messages across. Does this communication channel allow for the consumer to absorb the information at their own pace? Will they be able to read or see it more than once? Will they be engaged at the relevant time for the intended action? I think of the surveys attempted in Union Station at 9am or 5pm. Yes these are the highest traffic times, but they are also the least likely time to find an open and engageable audience.
  3. Threshold – This is all about limits. How much we can cram into people’s heads. This is probably the most ignored part of communication today. We make assumptions about the audience we are speaking with, from comprehension to interest level, and we try to jam as much info into them as we can. Think of the legal disclaimers at the end of a 15 second beer ad, they have a motormouthed voice actor spew lines of legal disclaimers in the last 3 seconds of an ad to make it compliant. It may technically be compliant, but do the listeners actually retain any of it? Or do you want them to remember that you beer is always ice cold, or available in 3 sizes, or that it comes with a free towel while supplies last, or that this towel promotion is only available from June 1st until September 31st, and, and, and…

And now we are back to the image of the overfilling cup.

Your audience has a limit to what they can take in, from all sources of communication, even yours. So be mindful of this before starting any out reach campaign.

Check out the previous parts to this series:

We Are Selfish Communicators

Understanding What Our Audience Knows

Taking Distractions Into Account


Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

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