[ image inspired by Joshua Porter ]
In his write-up, he links to my post earlier in the week where I shared the ADWEEK article on brands moving toward doing things that, well, do things for people along with a few of my thoughts around this. I'm not calling this out to brag. I'm calling it out because the way I read it, he's rightfully taking a jab at me for just talking about doing these things.
Fair enough. I gave no proof as to what we're doing in this area. I wish I could, but I can't. For one, some of it's not done yet. Additionally, and unfortunately, for those that are done I'm not allowed to talk about them per contractual agreements we have with the clients we're working with on them. I attempted to share one before and almost as soon as the post went live, I was pinged with a request to take it down. Lesson learned. As soon as that changes, I'll be sure to let you know. But anyway...
I'm glad he called me out because I wasn't entirely happy with where that post ended up. It turned into something I wasn't intending it to. I didn't mean for it to sound like you should never create another micro-site or extend an off-line campaign into the digital realm. There are definitely cases where you should.
I left it as it was though because it felt like a good place to start the conversation on moving from just creating more noise online to creating utility. So, it was a good push for me to pick back up sooner than later.
First, I agree that it's absolutely "easier said than done." If it weren't, we'd see a lot more brands who have cracked this nut. This is also why everyone keeps referring to the same case study which Asi is tired of hearing about. I have to agree that I'm tired of hearing about it as well. The hard thing is, because it is in a class all on its own and it's the gold standard, it ends up being the champion for utility in the digital age. The good news is that I think we will see more and more of them soon, but right now there aren't many. (For a few examples, again, see the ADWEEK article.)
Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about the first stage of creating utility...
Take anything digital you might be creating or are thinking about creating and plug it into the blue character's chat bubble above - Web site, micro site, application, MySpace profile, Facebook fan page, widget, digital thing-a-ma-bob, etc. Then look at your answer to the red character's question. If the answer is no, maybe it's time to press pause and see how you can turn that answer into a "yes."
1. being of use or service; serving some purpose; advantageous, helpful, or of good effect: a useful member of society.
2. of practical use, as for doing work; producing material results; supplying common needs: the useful arts; useful work.
I take this to mean that useful can be accomplished in a variety of forms. From the user perspective, useful can be as simple as giving someone information they were looking for quickly and easily. Useful can be teaching someone something new. Useful can be helping people communicate with each other easier or better. Useful can be saving people time. Useful can be extending the value or capabilities of your real-world product. And, under the right circumstances, useful can be entertaining someone.
From the client/brand side of things, useful can also mean several things. Useful can mean opening up a new channel for conversation with fans/users of your product or service (please use it for conversation and not just to spam people). Useful can mean creating a new stream of revenue. Useful can mean engaging people in something that encourages them to purchase more of your product or service in order to extend that experience. Useful can mean reinforcing a first time purchase. Useful can be simply giving them yet another positive experience with your brand so that they're more likely to want to buy your brand again in the future.
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of new technologies and new places where people are gathering and then rush to do something in that area so you can say you've done it. Before creating whatever it is you're thinking about doing, just ask yourself how both parties involved will find it useful. You need to figure this out in the beginning. After it's created is too late.
Let's all try to remember, it's not only not enough to be first, it's also not enough to only be useful to one of the parties involved. Especially if the only beneficiary is the brand. It needs to be useful to both parties involved.
More to come on the subject of utility for sure. This post has already gone too long as it is.
ALSO: I would love to hear any thoughts any of you have around this or any other post I put up. I realize that the way I often tend to write things may seem like I'm not asking for participation, but please share anything you wish in the comments. Share if you agree or disagree. Share if you have a great example that counters or supports it. I'm just sharing what is in my head here and by no means am arrogant enough to think I'm right all of the time. So please, comment away as much as you please. We'll all be smarter because of it...