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D. Armano just turned me on to this article via Twitter.

Nike is one of what I call the "Prom King Brands" - about a dozen brands (along with movies, TV shows, music acts & sports teams) that people want to engage with/be friends with, etc. So they'll gladly flock to a Nike-branded running site, which, in this instance, also proved to be entirely useful.

I doubt that MizunoPlus or NewBalancePlus would have had the same impact. At first, anyway.

It's part of the whole "Your Brand Is Not My Friend" thing I've been talking about for some time now: brands that are not Prom King Brands need to provide some sort of utility for customers online. And by utility I mean something they'd actually want and use.

It's easier for brands whose customers have a reason to use their websites (e.g. airlines, hotels. Dominos) to come up with that that is is for those brands whose online presence is at some level a vanity project (e.g. household cleaning products, canned vegetables, etc.) But at this point, it's the only way in.

Great article Paul. Very timely since I am in the middle of a posting called "When do Facebook apps make sense?" and the topic of being useful is so important. It has to do with the idea that just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should. Although if you do, just don't be surprised if your plan fails.

There are lots of Facebook apps out there where it seems that the sponsoring business didn't put much thought into whether the move made sense for their brand. For example, are Facebook users even their target?

TripAdvisor is doing a great job with their Cities I've Visited app. People love sharing trip stories and planning future trips, and TA has become top of mind for that group. Very useful and thus very successful.

Cheers, Ken

Hey Paul,

First, an apology:
I didn't mean to take a jab at you, or at anybody else...honestly.

It was in relation to a recent blogosphere evangelism trend where everybody calls for brands to be more useful in people's life, participate in social media as equal members and all kinds of easier said than done hackneyed recommendations....

It was taking the jab at myself, if anything ;-)

I suggest that we shouldn't be alowd to talk about:

1. Nike+ in relation to branded utility.
2. Apple in relation to design
3. Innocent in relation to modern brands

your blog kick ass!

best

A.

Toad - Thanks for the thoughts and for dropping by to comment. Armano is great at connecting people to information and sharing his own great thoughts. I'll definitely be dropping by to read some of your thoughts on this stuff.

It is challenging for brands whose web sites don't initially have much there beyond vanity. But for household cleaning products, look at what Method is doing - they're starting to build a community. And on canned goods... a recipe site could make a lot of sense to help people find new ways to use those canned goods. For me it's all about finding what value you can add to the product and then getting people there to use it.

Ken - Great to hear from you and glad this can help with what you're working on. Definitely agree with the "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" conversation. That was the big discussion around using Flash on the web and now you're going to see it coming into play more with widgets and applications. You know, it's funny you said the Cities I've Visited app is sponsored by TA. I didn't know that until you said it and I used to have it on my profile. Hmmm...

Asi -

No apology needed. I think it was a very good challenge to all of us and I just maybe really took it to heart since it linked here. I wasn't offended at all. In fact, I was inspired. Maybe I used the wrong words and should've said something more about challenging or pushing us to take action. Anyway, really no worries. Thank you for taking a stand and stating what needs to be done.

You're right that a lot of people are over-simplifying this. Maybe I just did with my SlideShare even. It's a big undertaking and is going to require a lot of change. Too many people don't realize the structures that are in place against it. It's not going to be an easy road at all, but we've got to push forward talking and doing. But hopefully more and more doing and less and less talking as we go.

I agree that there are examples that get used way too much (again a sin I committed in my SlideShare preso). I'll do my best to stop using them and start digging deeper.

Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. And again, no worries. I really liked the push and took it to heart. We've got to hold each other accountable, right?

indeed!

thanks for your comments here and over at mine

looking forward to future blogversations

best wishes

A.

Hey,

Just found this blog via '25 letters in the alphabet', lots of interesting conversations going on, added to the feed list!

On further examples, here's one from England which I've been loving and talking about recently which I think ticks a lot of boxes.

http://www.whypayforthegym.com/

It's from Pruhealth health insurance, I was drawn to it from a billboard initially.

from Brandrepublic:

"The microsite features a Google Maps mashup, helping users to locate their nearest gym. A calculator tool uses a complex engine to work out membership costs based on factors including location, and frequency of visits."

It seems it doesn't take much to qualify for completely free gym membership, alongside a quote for health insurance which is often cheaper than the gym membership would be on its own.

The site design maybe could be simplified a little, but all in all I found the journey through to a quote and offer of free gym membership really straightforward.

I was rooting around some forums and found people actually using the service exclusively to get the cheapest deal for gym membership, not looking for insurance.

Branded utility in all directions, a yes on both counts for the red man!

A new thought for me is that it's one thing to create a service/utility/piece of technology for consumers, which can act as marketing for the brand (so ultimately should contribute to growth), but it's harder to create something which is of value to the consumer, and the client - directly, in hard terms.

By the way, health insurance is something I at the moment have no real interest in engaging with (poor, recent graduate), but the prospect of cheaper gym use certainly got my attention.


Cheers!

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