NEW YORK — Elevating consumer engagement to participation pays dividends for marketers, as “when we are successful at sparking participation, you tend to have a disproportionately higher return on your investment,” said ICF Next senior partner Ed Dziedzic.

“These consumers start to feel like the brand is part of their very core, a part of their identity, and these are the ones that marketers want desperately to have more of,” said Dziedzic, referring to consumers who support the likes of Disney and Apple and “will go to bat for the brand.”

Dziedzic’s comments were part of a presentation at PRovoke Media’s North America Summit held earlier this month in New York, during which he, along with ICF Next partner Alanna Glass, explored what it takes to get consumers to be participatory supporters of brands and the array of benefits of having them do so.

Describing participation as next-level engagement, Dziedzic said sparking participation boils down to one of the fundamental tenets of PR — relationship building — but doing so in a way that invites consumers into “story living” versus story telling.

Having shared values and beliefs is core to creating deeper connections with consumers, as well as fostering longer lasting support. In an ICF Next survey of 2,000 adults 18 and older, 81% of respondents said brand values and beliefs are important to them and 75% said they are more likely to support a brand if its values align with their own. 

Respondents said the No. 1 reason they would stop buying a brand is discovering their and the company’s values don’t align. Sixty-six percent said they would stop buying or spending less on a brand under those circumstances.

“These notions of key ingredients have never been more important,” Dziedzic said.

Dziedzic noted that shared values are usually based around “weighty topics” — honesty, treating people with respect and doing the right thing, for instance.

Yet Glass noted that forging relationships around those issues doesn’t mean marketers have to always imbed gravity into their communications.

The agency’s fall 2022 pumpkin-scented trash bag campaign for Hefty, for instance, was covered by 500 news outlets and drove participation with the brand among consumers, Glass said.

“Shared beliefs can be really weighty, but they also can be things that drive fun in culture brand moments, which is something we get really excited about,” she said.