Branded utility isn’t new — at least, not in theory. The term, however, is one of the newer buzz words in marketing. Companies have actually been creating branded or marketing utility since well before the days of Mad Men. Today, consumer companies are constantly pushing the envelope as technology becomes an increasingly important component of marketing efforts. Though technology is not a requirement of utility, brands are using it more frequently to stay relevant and enhance (or simplify) their customers’ lives.
By definition, branded utility is about developing tools that make people’s lives easier by helping them understand their needs and by addressing their issues. That means, essentially, offering customers a tool outside of the business product or service line that addresses an issue or challenge — to make their lives better or their work easier.
An example that’s overused, but honestly the most appropriate to help explain the concept of branded utility, is the Nike+ FuelBand. Nike — a company built around great apparel and products — introduced a service — a utility — that measures all activity for its six million users, and ties all the services and products together. It tracks performance and allows users to compete with friends, families and celebrities/athletes. Examples like this, for consumer marketing, are plentiful, and frankly, easier to conceive and bring to life. Not so much in B2B.
In a study conducted by the Association of National Advertisers and Booz & Company, researchers found that “B2B companies are awakening to the need for greater marketing prowess and that those that develop it win increased market share.” Branded utility is the answer, it’s the prowess, an imperative function of business in today’s crowded marketplaces. But B2B challenges are typically more complicated, and therefore utility doesn’t come as easily as B2C experiences have led us to believe.
While B2B branded utility is still lacking widespread adoption, here’s a snapshot of B2B companies bringing branded utility to the forefront in useful, relevant ways. By the numbers:
- 2010 — the year Hoover’s Near Here app launched, for sales professionals to find prospects based on their current location. Searchable data points include annual sales, number of employees, key contacts, contact information, etc.
- 202,000 Twitter followers for American Express OPEN, an online community and forum for small-business owners to grow their business through insights and online resources. OPEN was launched to help businesses do more business.
- 20 — U.S. metro areas covered in the monthly Paychex* and IHS Small Business Jobs Index, which first launched in 2014. Small businesses represent almost 95% of all employers in the U.S., and the SBJI serves as an indicator of the overall economy.
- 30 seconds is how long Southwire’s* SIMpull Rip CHIP™ disc takes to remove the protective shrink wrap covering a wire or cable. It also decreases the likelihood that a worker will be injured or will damage the wire while using a knife to cut the shipping plastic.
- 2.75% service charge for businesses using Square — via a free reader that connects to your mobile device — to accept credit-card payments on the go. Merchants typically pay up to 3.5% service charges plus a transaction fee for each swipe.
- 100 — Number of enterprise apps to launch in the IBM MobileFirst for iOS collaboration between IBM and Apple to help companies and their employees in energy/utility, healthcare, government, retail, insurance, banking, telco and travel industries.
Considering how you can introduce a branded utility to your B2B customers? Shoot us a note.
*Paychex and Southwire are EMA clients.