It's a cluttered world. It's an even more cluttered Marketing world.
Brands still think it's all about the pomp and circumstance. It is... and it isn't. No one (especially me) is going to deny that a well-executed Superbowl ad gets attention, gets a brand noticed and results in lift (sales, brand awareness, whatever). No one is going to deny that a well-played experiential marketing event builds buzz and gets attention. There are many online media properties that have very convincing data to back-up the purchase of a homepage takeover ad. Making noise can create noise in the marketplace.
The challenge comes when you shift over to the newer digital marketing platforms.
It's obvious that just having a Facebook page, YouTube channel, Twitter feed or whatever can get a brand to accumulate followers and friends at a fast and furious pace. Consumers like feeling that they're a part of an inner circle or the first to know something. Brands are great at dangling those carrots in front of consumers who are willing to click a "like" or "follow" button. It can be a dangerous game of diminishing returns. All marketing initiatives face the reality of fatigue - it happens in direct marketing, it happens in email marketing and it's going to happen in Social Media (it's probably already happened). People get tired (pretty quickly) of the same old, same old.
Give them utility or give them death.
The rise of Utilitarianism Marketing is not something we see talked about as much as we should. When something out of the marketing department doesn't have a huge splash around it or a billboard in Times Square for the senior management team to point at, it tends to get yawns. The yawns happen because the numbers don't look the same when benchmarked against traditional mass media or other forms of advertising. Actually giving consumers something valuable seems counterintuitive to most marketing departments because they equate "value" with "cost" and the last thing a marketer wants to do is give something that costs them more money to less people than the heat they are getting from their traditional advertising.
The truth is that great Utilitarianism Marketing doesn't have to cost more. It just has to be useful.
Last year, I was in a business meeting where the idea for an iPhone app came up. It was a smart idea (you know, the kind of idea that you wish you had thought of). The Chief Marketing Officer smiled during the presentation, put his hand up to ask a question, removed the glasses from his eyes and placed them on his notebook, folded his hands, leaned forward and said, "it's genius... but can we put our four key brand messages in there as well, because if we don't force people to look at them, what's the point of this app?"
The point is this: if you give something to people that they actually want to use.... no, need to use, they will love you and be loyal to you forever.
It seems simple enough, doesn't it? Something that is useful to a consumer... truly useful... without a sales pitch... without in-your-face marketing messaging is the next generation of marketing. People are smart. They'll figure it out. They'll think to themselves, "I can't live without this app... I can't believe Brand X just gave it to me... how cool is that?
Utilitarianism Marketing is already working.
Two brands that are leveraging the notion of Utilitarianism Marketing are Charmin and Nationwide. They are both mobile apps. Charmin launched Sit Or Squat - an application that leverages the location-based services of your mobile device to tell you where the nearest (and cleanest) bathroom is. Consumers can also add their favorites or rate the ones they have just used (as a frequent traveler, this app holds a coveted position on my home screen). The Nationwide Mobile App is for people who were just in a car accident. It's a useful step-by-step program that walks consumers through everything from collecting and exchanging accident information to taking pictures of the accident scene, recording the location and it even has a flashlight in case it happens at night. It's not an ad. It's not push Marketing. It's Utilitarianism Marketing.
Why don't more brands make themselves more useful?