The mobile space is clearly one ripe for the "utility" game, as evidenced by the 2 billion-plus iPhone app downloads to date. Kraft's "iFood Assistant," Benjamin Moore's "Color Capture" and Barnes & Noble's "Bookstore" apps are great examples of brands providing real value to their customers, while at the same time advancing a dialogue about their brand and products. Brand apps may never be able to compete with the most popular apps from a volume perspective, but by basing their apps on true consumer needs, brands stand a very good chance of seeing far greater traction in this space.
I believe we will see the rise of a new type of marketing in the digital age, which as a fan of wordplay, I'll dub "advertility." It's a true value exchange, where marketing balances the brand's goals with a higher-order purpose of providing some tangible value to the consumer.
This is not to say that unbridled creativity, with the goal of entertaining and engaging consumers online, has lost its luster. Recent campaigns and their viral success prove this, including Evian's "Roller babies," Cadbury's "Gorilla" and T-Mobile's flash mobs. Every brand is unique, and has many ways of earning the time and attention of consumers online. Likewise, every brand has an opportunity -- perhaps even an obligation, in order to remain relevant moving forward -- to pay it forward.
Which brings me to the point. We know our consumers inside and out -- their aspirations, desires, and unmet needs. Let's take all of that insight and apply it more broadly and more generously. Let's think about what problems we can solve for our customers and how we can improve some aspect of their daily experiences. Successful digital marketing moves advertising from a message to an experience, which optimistically, results in a conversation. It's a pretty good bet that providing consumers with a valuable service will give them something worth talking about.
It's a thought as old as the Bible itself -- give and ye shall receive -- but one on which the Internet has shined a new light.
Jeff Brooks is co-CEO and chief digital officer of Euro RSCG New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.