How the Brand Utility Makes Marketing Truly Customer-Centric

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Customer-centric marketing is like wet water, it’s a pleonasm. The nature of marketing is about responding to a customer’s need. Without it, there would be no marketing.

Still, walk through a shopping street, go to a website, visit Facebook or watch TV and you’re likely to be interrupted by marketing promotions. Promotions you don’t want and don’t need. Marketing doesn’t feel customer-centric at all.

Marketing seems to have a split personality. On the one hand products and services are thoughtfully developed to offer value to a customer. If they don’t offer the right value, they don’t make money and simply cease to exist.

On the other hand these valuable products and services are promoted by interrupting potential buyers. In other words, something of value is promoted by offering something that has a negative value. It’s like shouting ‘I am here to help’ in the ear of an unsuspecting bystander. The promotional activity does exactly the opposite of what it promises.

How can this split personality be resolved? How can marketers promote value by offering something valuable?

The brand utility is based on this question. It creates something that’s useful and attracts attention at the same time. A brand utility simultaneously tries to make a promise and prove it.

A brand utility can be something as simple as a smartphone app. The app doesn’t just say ‘I am here to help’, but actually helps you, instantly. Interestingly, the app is easily scalable: it can be provided for free to a large number of people. The app is a mass medium that is based on a service, not (just) on a message.

In 2010, I wrote a presentation to introduce the brand utility. Since then, the approach has been widely accepted. And the principles have been further developed as well. That’s why I wrote an update: A Useful Guide to the Brand Utility, 2014. It has new cases, a more compact description of the underlying principals and it better describes the turn-around that marketing is making at this moment.

I hope you enjoy it and that it helps you to truly make marketing customer-centric.

Ingmar de Lange, is associate at Futurelab and marketing strategist at Mountview.