Brand Utility: Making Your Brand Useful

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Just take a look out your window and you’ll see it: People using their mobile phones to make a restaurant reservation, start their cars, share their location with friends. These devices are so ubiquitous and so addictive because they help us in so many ways.

Would you engage with your own smartphone as often as you do if it weren’t so useful? Of course you wouldn’t. Now, apply that same thinking to your marketing.

When your brand helps people live better lives, they respond by engaging with it. When your brand disrupts people’s lives (think poorly timed messages), they disengage.

So what’s a marketer to do? Stop asking, “How can I promote my brand?” And start asking, “How can I help my customers?”

The concept is known as brand utility. It’s not about bombarding people with messages about your brand and hoping it resonates. It’s about promoting your brand through the act of helping people.

Think about the Domino’s Tracker® that allows customers to check the status of their pizza order online. Or Ray-Ban’s Bright Light app that helps users locate a sunny spot nearby—essentially, a place to wear Ray-Ban sunglasses. Or workout apps from the likes of Nike and New Balance.

The tie-in to the brand is clear, but it’s not about the brand. It’s about the brand helping the customer.

Helping people builds goodwill, whether it’s a person helping another person or a brand helping a person. So start thinking about your brand from an altruistic point of view and find that sweet spot where you’re helping people but promoting your brand at the same time.

Whatever you come up with, be sure it’s mobile-centric. Because mobile is where your customers are and the device they turn to when they need a little H-E-L-P.

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