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Ozgur Alaz: Is It Time For Utility Marketing?

The marketing expert talks about how companies need to make their customers' lives easier in order to gain their respect and attention.

Ozgur Alaz, Promoqube
Ozgur Alaz, Promoqube on July 14, 2013.

Digital media has always been the rising star of marketing. We are accustomed to hearing promising statistics and results in our marketing strategy meetings. While some see this marketing agenda as a “gold rush” area, some others see it as a “magic wand.” Considering that Facebook’s users number over a billion and time spent on digital devices has reached unbelievable amounts, we have no choice but to take our businesses into the digital realm. But is the pervasive knowledge about our digital activity the key to a marketing miracle or a guarantee of success? First of all, let’s take a look at the other numbers around digital, which we don’t often see. Here are a couple of statistics for you.

  • The average internet user is exposed to banner ads 1,707 times in a month. (ComScore) There is such an advertisement abundance in the online spheres, that people have grown indifferent to them.
  • The rate of banner clicks is below 0.1%. When it comes to the most popular size of internet advertisement, 468 x 60 banners, the rate goes below 0,04%. (DoubleClick)
  • 8% of all internet users account for 85% of banner clicks (ComScore). Advertisement click rates are not meaningful on their own. Statistics show that it’s always the same people who click on advertisements.
  • 31% of average advertising displays are not even seen by internet users. (ComScore)
  • Almost 50% of mobile advertisement clicks are made by mistake. (GoldSpot Media)
  • While 29% of people trust TV spots, the rate is less than 15% for the ones who trust banner ads. (eMarketer)

The people who do see your ads and happen to click on them are the same people and not necessarily different people. More advertisements only bring you more clicks from the same minority of people. Thus the evaluation model of clicks per ad is defunct.

Is social media the answer to getting your message out there? No, it’s not in the manner we’ve been seeing in today’s online advertisements. Today, the lifespan of your messages on social media is shorter than half an hour and only 4% of your online community actually views your message.

Marketing is about distinguishing yourself in this abundance of online content. And it doesn’t always happen by posting ads and messages that seem to yell at people. On the contrary, good marketing can be executed by simply making life easier for your customers. This marketing approach is shaped under the term, “Utility Marketing.”

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Utility Marketing is about developing tools that make people’s lives easier by helping them understand their needs and by addressing their issues. In this manner, Utility Marketing connects your brand to nourishing and advancing the lives of consumers. It is not about pushing people to buy things they’re not familiar with. It is about creating something useful for social progress which would market and sell itself without unnecessary ads.

This marketing technique can be see in the winners of Cannes advertising awards. For the last couple of years, none of the winning ads actually look like traditional “selling” advertisements. The ads are about simple, useful things like a shoe, an iPhone application and a payment system. You ask, “Where is the message of the ad?” but the message is hidden in the product itself.

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Nike+ allows people to know themselves better and get social by keeping their running records. Paywithatweet project allows people to pay with their influence on Twitter. Fiat EcoDrive app is educating drivers without their knowledge in order to cause them to drive in a better and more eco-friendly way. All these advertisements make people’s lives easier in a way that has not been imagined before. They discover new ways to pull people toward their services.

It’s possible to see the traces of utility marketing in the core of marketing’s oldest examples. For instance, a supermarket’s basic concept of “customer services” can be qualified under “utility marketing”. However, today, advancing technology allows us to create and scale these tools in ways we have never imagined before.

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So, as marketers, how should we get organized in this world? We’ve been hearing the term “marketing agencies that work like tech companies” more often over the last couple of years. We’ve seen a new crop of business development agencies, that combine technical perspective with emphasis on numbers and fast product development with qualities such as customer management, idea development and creative strategy. Departments that are generally more inward-oriented, such as IT, CRM and business development, should learn how to collaborate with marketing departments and agencies. As statistics point out, we need to make careful reevaluations while determining our KPIs. And lastly, we should change our perspective on data and by embracing open source systems, imagine our organizations as structures that use data, instead of storehouses that put them away.

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Utility marketing is the latest big wave in marketing. It’s time to apply innovation, digitalization and social outreach to our products. In this journey, you, innovative marketers have a great responsibility to take your brands up higher. Don’t let your messages get lost in the noise of social media. Now is time to do things that bring people to your brand.

Ozgur Alaz

Thinking...