Give ‘Em Something They Can Actually Use

Members of the adverati are increasingly calling for branded utility. You might even say it’s a mantra for a new year. But what is it? What does it look like? And how might we sell it in?
Benjamin Palmer of Barbarian said, “For the same budget and energy as we expend on current forms of advertising, we could be making something more tangible, useful and reusable that plays a more integral part in the consumer’s life. This is ‘interactive,’ which is not synonymous with ‘online,’ by the way.”
Something more tangible, useful and reusable pretty much sums it up. Advertising isn’t any of these things. But could it be? I think yes. It just won’t look like any advertising we know, so we’ll want to call it something else, something clever like branded utility. The consumer, on the other hand, will not make such distinctions. The consumer will just say thanks for the helping hand.
Here are some ways brands can get into the branded utility game:

  • Adult beverage companies can educate consumers about local bar specials via web and mobile updates
  • Recreation concerns can update adventurers on surf, ski and kayak conditions
  • Rental car companies can offer green-thinking consumers environmental assessments on each car they offer for rent

And so on…
I’d love to hear your ideas on branded utility as a concept and also entertain any examples–real or imagined–you’d like to share.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.