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12/02/2014 by

The Brand Utility: How Usefulness Can Go Viral (SlideShare)

If you think about a viral, you’re likely to think about entertainment: a funny YouTube clip, an addictive online game or a humorous top 10 list. So do marketers.

how-usefulness-can-go-viral - by Ingmar de Lange for

Most viral campaigns are based on a fun factor.

However, most marketers tend to overlook a different way to create a viral: functional usefulness.

How Functional Usefulness Can Go Viral

Their preference for ‘fun’ has a long history. Mass media used to be highly specialized tools. Radio or television could only do one thing: communicate.

Marketers quickly learned that if you’ve got something to say, you best say it in a fun way. Else you will quickly lose people’s attention.

Old habits die hard. Fun is still the most popular ingredient to make a brand’s message attractive and to give it viral potential. But digital is changing this.

Digital media aren’t specialists, like radio or television. They can do much more than communicate. Digital media can help, sell, connect, organize and so on.

The term media doesn’t apply to digital anymore, nor does it to social. Social ‘media’ go way beyond communication. It’s much better to approach social as a new infrastructure. This social infrastructure initiates completely new business models.

In other words, social can do much more than share funny messages. Its revolutionary functionality is changing the hotel, banking or insurance industry.

Interestingly, these new business models mainly reach their audiences with earned media: their innovative offering spreads virally. This viral reach is based on a functional factor, their new model is better, faster or cheaper.

In other words, these are ‘virals’ that are based on usefulness, not on a fun factor.

Usefulness: Uber, Airbnb & Snapchat

My question is therefore: if services like Uber, Airbnb and Snapchat can become a viral success based on a functional benefit, why can’t advertising?

Usefulness: Uber, Airbnb & Snapchat - by Ingmar de Lange for

Can you create a viral promotion with a functional, useful activity?

The answer is: yes. This is the domain of the brand utility. The brand utility is a combination of marketing and a functional service.

It doesn’t approach an audience with a promise. A brand utility offers proof.

A simple example of a brand utility is an app. An app can do much more than making a promise – ‘we are a service oriented taxi company’. It can actually offer prove, instantly, by making it easy to locate, book, follow and rate a taxi.

This kind of instant usefulness is the basis of Uber’s ‘viral success’.

A few years ago, I wrote a presentation to introduce the brand utility. Since then, the approach has been accepted and the principles have been further developed.

A Useful Guide to the Brand Utility 2014

This is why I wrote an update: A Useful Guide to the Brand Utility, 2014:

Above deck contains new cases, a more compact description of the underlying principals and it better describes the turn-around that marketing is making at this moment:

I hope it inspires you to think differently about virals. They can be based on usefulness as well as fun.

And a brand that offers something useful for free, is good fun as well :-)

What About You?
What are brand utilities that you really love? We all get smarter from peer discussions, so share your ideas.

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About the Author
Ingmar de Lange is a marketing strategist at Mountview.

Source: Brand Utility


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