The Rise Of Utility Marketing
While I may have spent most my professional career, to-date, working for a utility, the idea of Utility Marketing is not something that's the exclusive domain of actual utilities. Utility Marketing may in fact feel alien to utilities who may not be overly comfortable with giving away their utility for free! While the consumer may not pay for the service with cold hard cash, depending on the value exchange, the consumer will essentially be paying with attention, data, headspace and very often all three. The utility in itself is a marketing or promotional tool that means your brand is banking lots of (hopefully) positive interactions with your consumer on an ongoing basis. They will be hitting that mental availability sweet-spot as well as that physical availability sweet spot (depending on your setup).
Be it providing a useful service or facilitating access to useful content, tools or connections; inserting your brand in the consumer's everyday life answering a specific non-commercial need can pay off when that need state shifts to a commercial one.
The consumer will have your brand front of mind, a positive predisposition and affinity already established, a recent positive experience to nudge them your way, and an already well established frictionless route to access your brand.
Utility marketing not only improves the customer journey making the brand more accessible, helpful and friendly, it (can) also positively impact sales by eliminating friction reducing both mental and physical barriers to purchase. It’s no accident that the rise of utility marketing has been driven and supported by the proliferation of digital, social and connected media which makes connecting directly with consumers much easier.
KLM, long known for their innovative campaigns that engender massive amounts of brand love, has taken this idea of marketing as a utility to the new heights recently with their ‘Care Tag’. KLM value their helpful service positioning above all else with their cabin and ground staff front and center for most of its campaigns and the Care Tag campaign is no different.
The Care Tag is a manifestation of this helpful positioning that extends beyond the flight and the airport or anything you’d typically expect to occur between an airline and a consumer. They are providing a, albeit slightly gimmicky, useful service that helps its customers navigate the city of Amsterdam giving them safety advice and helpful tips via a GPS enabled tag that you attach to your bag or your person. These tips are delivered as audio (voiced by KLM staff) via the tag and are prompted at specific locations as you navigate your way through the city.
The Irish National Lottery
The Irish National Lottery have explored this idea (*disclaimer under my tenure when I worked in TNL), on a smaller scale, via their ‘Tweet @NationalLottery’ service. The service essentially allows consumers to ping them via Twitter with a series of commands (hashtags) to trigger useful, relevant and fun information in an automated process. This type of interaction is akin to installing ticket checking machines in retail outlets separate from the ticket terminals. It delivers utility by meeting consumers where they are instead of forcing them to get useful information from a platform that's directly selling their product.
Domino's & Sky
Brands like Sky and Domino's have also played in this space using mobile and social to provide layers of utility on top of their product offering that again breaks down the barriers between them and their consumer.
Sky as part of their activity promoting Game of Thrones season 6 on Sky Atlantic allowed Twitter users to set and get reminders, via Twitter, of when new season was starting and when new episodes were about to air. This gave Sky a reason, and permission, to engage directly with Game of Thrones fans throughout the entire series.
Similarly, Domino's as part of their DominosAnyWare.com initiative, have built an entire strategy around utility, allowing their customers to order pizzas through a multitude of channels. By meeting their consumers where they are, Domino's are playing into that place utility making the order process as frictionless and easy as possible; a point they then use as a key differentiator in their marketing communications.
As we move further and further away from interrupt and repeat era of advertising, the strategic opportunity exists for brands to become part of consumers’ everyday lives. They do this by using brand communication and their various touchpoints to deliver utility, rather than a vehicle to deliver a commercial message, with a view to building long term relationships with their customers that's based on multiple non-commercial interactions and value exchanges that over time build trust, loyalty and brand love!