Villing & Company

Utility is the New Persuasion: Why Apps Make More Sense Than Ads

When I started in this business, I considered myself a classic ad guy. Writer by background. Student of the ad giants like Bernbach, McElligott and Ogilvy. Believer in the power of clever and creative advertising.

Back then mass media was king. Or at least part of the royal family. But times have certainly changed. Where advertising on TV and other traditional media once ruled the land, there is a new authority. Consumers rule!

Marketers used to be in control because they dominated the media. Today consumers have the advantage because they are the loudest voice in the media. Consider this:

  • Consumers now spend more on media than advertisers do.
  • They get more information about brands from other consumers than from the brand itself.
  • Consumers write product reviews and post content by the millions on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites – every day.
  • Coca-Cola’s original Facebook page was not created by the company, but by consumers.
  • Starbucks has 500 Facebook pages. Care to guess who maintains virtually all of them?

Well, you get the idea. So what’s a marketer to do? To use an old expression, if you can’t beat them, join them. Today’s savvy marketers understand that they need to help optimize how customers experience their brands. While there are many ways to accomplish this, it really comes down to putting more effort toward helping customers than selling them.

I was recently at a seminar and the moderator used a phrase I really liked. “Utility is the new persuasion.” Marketers need to think of ways they can make their marketing messages more utilitarian for their customers. IPhone apps are a great example of this mindset. They aren’t just for news, sports or weather. They can make a profound statement about a brand while serving a real customer need. Take Sherwin Williams’ ColorSnap App. See a color that inspires you? Snap a picture on your iPhone and Sherwin Williams can match it to one of their paints – and provide a host of other valuable home decorating tools.

Like I said, there are many ways to optimize the customer experience. Apps, be they on browsers or iPhones, are just one means of brand building by serving buyers better. In coming weeks, we’ll address more ways marketers can maximize customer experiences. Stay tuned.

Filed Under: advertising

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