Advertisers have rather struggled with the internet. Over the years cars have had to come to terms with no one wanting to click on their banners. Shampoos realise no one really wants to be mates with them on Facebook. And airlines learnt people are more interested in complaining at them on Twitter than following their musings on the world.
So we’ve taken to being “publishers”, desperate to create compelling content that is as riveting as it is effective. Whilst being left a little deflated when our #hashtag short films on washing powder aren’t getting the likes or views we had anticipated.
I’m not the first to proclaim successful content should be useful or entertaining, or both. But I would urge us to focus on the “useful” bit to begin with. Not in a hackneyed “brand utility” way either, where a bluetooth button re-orders pork scratchings effortlessly creating “meaningful connections with consumers”. But rather where brands look to focus as much on service provision as product provision.
A service outlives an ad by a hundred times when people choose to use it. Again, and again. If successful, you become a small but genuine part of that person’s life. Be it giving advice or directions, you are there for them when they need you. Furthermore, a service lives organically online. It doesn’t need to be seeded, or fuelled or manipulated. And it can be iterated until it is functioning perfectly. It isn’t a slave to messaging. Or flash in the pan “viral success”. It holds our attention, and does wonders for brand loyalty.
Perhaps we will see a world where all brands move from simply pushing message or content in the digital space, and take money out of marketing budget to create online services. Done well, could these ultimately become a revenue stream of their own?