On Thursday, September 4, at the Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Ray, hundreds of social media experts, explorers, and enthusiasts gathered to discuss Evolving Social: Taking a fresh, innovative and human approach to social. The inaugural ThinkLA Social Media Breakfast, sponsored by Sismek and tumblr., centered around keeping social media human and organic - no easy task for companies like McCormick seasonings and Ajax cleaning products, which are not social by nature. How did brands like these win using utility marketing?
Kim Celestre, Senior Analyst, Marketing Leadership at Forrester Research explored the "5 primary ways to offer utility," with the following examples of brands that embraced utility marketing with (mostly) successful results:
- Become a trusted agent. Rather than simply expecting consumers to trust you by touting your brand's excellence, help them trust you by providing something of value. McCormick seasonings did this by creating the McCormick FlavorPrint platform, which allows users to customize a profile, and browse user-generated recipes based on personal flavor preferences. This may not make users run to the grocery store for copious amounts of McCormick seasonings, but it does create trust and foster interaction with the brand, leading to a stronger relationship and greater brand loyalty.
- Solve a problem. Consumers can price-compare and read reviews all day, but certain products need a hands-on tryout before they can be confidently purchased. Sephora's Beauty Talk Community seeks to eliminate this barrier by allowing users to upload photos featuring different colors or effects of cosmetics, giving shoppers an opportunity to see what items look like in "real-color." An added benefit for Sephora: creating more value for its brand partners as the user-generated content gives brands better visual representation across the site.
- Get out of the way. Whenever possible, remove a step. The Toyota Collaborator Program sought to remove (or at least minimize) the dreaded "go to the dealership" step of buying a car. Users can customize a vehicle digitally, then use Google+ Hangouts to get real-time input from friends and family to create the perfect car. Once satisfied, the user has the opportunity to contact a dealer via Google+ to discuss the details in the comfort of his own home.
- Automate mundane tasks. Ajax Australia took a bold move here with Social Wipes, an app that allows users to automate social spam cleanup. The tool curates all "spammy" brands a user has "liked," and with one action the user selects which brands to continue following. Ajax then captures data via a social sign-in and sharing component. Something to consider: although it automates a mundane task, does it also discount Ajax as a trusted brand by allowing them to wipe clean other brands' hard-earned "likes?"
- Fulfill a need a customer doesn't know they had. Ever board a plane and think, I really wish I could talk to every passenger on this flight? Me neither. Which is probably why the crowd erupted when Celestre introduced KLM's "Meet & Seat." Travelers can share their social media profile details in order to see other passengers' details and where they'll be sitting. Passengers can strategically select (or avoid) certain seats based on these details. This did not fly with the ThinkLA crowd (pun intended), and I can't imagine who would go for this. Good effort!
After laying out these parameters, Celestre offered a few simple tips to help brands follow these 5 steps to mastering utility marketing. She stressed using social data to inform other strategies, moving beyond standalone social campaigns to more integrated uses. It is important to demonstrate your brand promise, don't just talk about it . Lastly, a la the Sephora example, build a community that provides utility and they will help you succeed.