Alastair Duncan

Branding Utility is the answer. Seriously.

Posted by October 22, 2008
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I wrote a post on Brand Republic today about the dangers of taking things at face value. For example, there must be more to Sarah Palin than the glossy anti-intellectual sneering so neatly taped by Tina Fey. (“I can see Russia from ma house”). Hmm. But in the world of the ‘innernet’ and all it provides, is there a brilliant answer to the perennial question from brand owners about how to connect better with consumers and present the brand benefit in a unique and distinctive way? Can we really solve all the mysteries of CRM online? Can we really sell more chocolate?

The answer lies somewhere in the combination of ‘advertising’ thinking – building the case for a brand based on values and communicating those values through a series of tightly controlled advertisements to a theoretically specific audience – and ‘utility’ thinking – where you create a series of environments that provide functionality that helps the consumer in some way, through experiencing the context of the brand and what it stands for. For those of you who have been involved in interactive experience for many years, you may think isn’t that what we’ve been doing? Indeed it is, but now the ad people are involved, interaction has been rebranded ‘brand utility’. Neat, huh?


One small problem though, is that it’s not quite so easy to create relevant and useful brand utility as the video above demonstrates. Like many terms of trend, it’s great to talk about, hard to do. I get the privileged view of both advertiser and web developer, as my organisation holds both ends of the stick. (Or both ends of the candle, depending on your point of view!)

Measurement is a good baseline for discussion – what it’s for,  who is it for, why in earth would anyone want to spend even a nanosecond doing whatever it is you’ve dreamed up – these are good things to set objectives around. Technology is another. Nothing works if you can’t make it happen, no matter what the idea is, and the role of the technologist is oft underplayed and undervalued by the agencies seeping into the discussion through what one Client recently described to me as the digital land grab.

Tech people are just as important as creative people in the new world. They should not be treated as production slaves, althoug it’s all too easy to let that happen. A case in point – not many big agencies (by which I mean the ones who would prefer to be making TV commercials) at the Future of Web Apps event recently, I noticed. Rachel from my place went, and she liked it so much she wrote about it on the participation marketing blog. Another case in point – the five nomination we’ve got for the BIMA awards all had technology at their heart, were complex tech projects as well as insightful and clever ideas with top results. This tech centricity is to be celebrated. I wonder how many agency people really get that.

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