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The emerging trend of utility marketing

How to increase customer engagement by adding functional value to your campaigns

By Charlie Ogden • CEO, Antics Digital Marketing • May 21, 2014

Utility campaigns use technology to get customers more engaged with your brand. New technologies have afforded us the opportunity to think differently about marketing campaigns. By using web and mobile apps connected to behind-the-scenes computer intelligence, utility campaigns provide real value to customers, enhancing their experience with a brand.

Utility marketing is kind of like gamification taken to a new level of purpose. The opportunity for brands who recognize it is to create campaigns that do more than simply attract customers – they keep customers engaged by giving them tools that they can use on a regular basis, building affinity and loyalty. In addition, these apps provide valuable data to the brand and open a new channel of communication to customers through the mobile device.

This trend is just starting to happen and it promises to be one that will improve the customer experience as well as marketing efficiencies. Some examples of marketing apps that provide utility include the Zyrtec pollen count app, the I Am Generess body tracker app, the iPING putting app, and the Charmin sit or squat app.

These are some of the guiding principles for Utility Marketing:

  • The utility must be part and parcel to the product or service.
  • The value must be unique. It needs to provide functionality that customers don’t have already.
  • The utility should add value outside the buying cycle to help keep your brand top of mind when customers aren’t using or buying your products or services.

To further illustrate how it works, here are a few blue-sky concepts. Although these are just rough examples, you can see how utility marketing can be applied to a variety of marketing scenarios.

Family quick service restaurant campaign

A utility campaign could include an app that helps teach kids to make healthy food choices by showing the consequences of making good/bad choices. Use it at the restaurant to explore the menu and healthy eating efforts of the brand. Use it at home when Mom asks kids to make healthy snack or meal choices. Earn points that can be used at the restaurant as a reward. The campaign could highlight the brand’s commitment to healthy eating.

Beverage brand campaign

A utility campaign might feature a social cocktail app that helps customers concoct, share, rate, and name new and unique drinks. Customers use that app to connect and socialize with friends, and earn points and rewards for the drinks that end up on top. The campaign might highlight the top cocktails and demonstrate how the brand enables new and exciting social experiences.

Golfing equipment brand campaign

A utility campaign might include an app that helps customers track their performance on the course, compare with friends or teammates, and support each other via individual or group messages. Use it to find foursomes. Use it to rate courses and make notes on what techniques worked for each hole. Use it to order balls, tees, or lunch from the club house. The campaign might focus on how the brand enhances the golfing experience or how the brand helps courses earn incremental revenue.

Business software campaign

A utility campaign may include an app that provides a view of system or business performance based on 5-10 key metrics. Prospects enter the metrics manually, but they’re entered automatically for customers using the software. The campaign might focus on how the brand helps its customers improve these metrics.

Theme park campaign

A utility campaign could include an app to see the current high and low traffic areas in park, with guided directions to get from one location to another. It could double as a traffic flow monitoring system for the park operator. Outside the park, it can be used to track, monitor, and find your kids in crowded venues by using it with an existing child-tracking technology/wearable, perhaps highlighting the park operator’s partnership with a child tracking company.

The utility campaign itself uses messaging that’s enabled by the utility and supports a larger brand message. Ongoing benefits come when customers keep using the app, providing brand reinforcement, social sharing, and additional messaging opportunities. In addition, apps are easy to promote, making utility campaigns very efficient. As we ran a utility campaign for a client last year, we saw it outperform all of our other digital campaigns for the brand (see “How an app increased conversion rates 500%”).

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