Branded utility: why it’s not just about apps

Branded utility is not just a tool or tactic — it is far greater and how a brand perceives marketing as an integral part of their service and offering to their customers. Offering a branded utility app or service is about being able to provide something of value, for free, that improves, facilitates or makes life easier for the user. Branded utility is much than just marketing — its core idea is to give something away in order to gain people’s attention, time and trust.

By using this concept, we can offer useful services or products that use digital platforms to transcend into real life experiences. This is the heart of branded utility: creating a platform that people use in their everyday lives that allows the brand to constantly remain top of mind. Branded utility sends a message that traditional forms of marketing that advertising cannot – it’s the ability to deliver something of real value. Not just empty messaging.

Although the reach of creating a utility may be smaller than that of a mass marketing campaign, the effectives, and degree of penetration into the consumers day to day life is far greater, and that has far greater appeal and value to any brand. Considering the amount of clutter and broadcast messaging today’s consumer is exposed to, they are far more likely to take notice of something that adds value and meaning to them as opposed to a beautifully crafted 30 second TV spot.

Branded utility is not just limited to apps. South African bank FNB’s airport-based Slow Lounge, for example is an example of a space that has been converted into a destination that allows travelers to relax and unwind. The Millennium Dome in London has been turned into multifunctional events venue, and has evolved into far more than a simple sponsored space — it has become a complete destination venue where, as a customer of cellular provider O2, you are entitled to special treatment.

“The O2 is a unique property; we’re not just badging something and gauging awareness. It’s a totally integrated customer experience, which allows us to offer our customers priority ticketing, unique customer bars or exclusive downloads.” — Susie Moore: Head of brand at O2.

That’s branded utility. It’s about convenience and offering increased levels of service, experience and rewards, whilst still operating as a very real multifunctional venue.

Branded utility is about creating value by enhancing people’s digital life through brand behaviour whether that is through purely digital platforms or a mix of online and offline. The bottom line is that it delivers value, real value, to your consumer.

Is branded utility right for your business?

Well that depends — you need to understand how your customers engage with you brand, product and services and what aspects of their lives this relates to. If you can find a common link between an everyday need or frustration that can be eased through supplying an app or service from your brand then I’d say go for it.

Just remember that branded utility isn’t about hardcore selling. Branded utility helps your customer get what they need to done, simpler and easier, or contributes to an enjoyable experience. It’s soft, non-obtrusive brand messaging that subtly tells your customer “Hey, remember us, we’re here and want to help you”.

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