Mar 10, 2008

The Great Leap Forward


Brian Morrissey has a great piece in Adweek today about how agencies are discovering the value of utility on the web vs. trying to build some sort of not-very-novel “engagement” site.

Finally.

This is something you’ve heard me go on about for some time now. The whole idea of how online (social media in particular) is all about providing utility for consumers who are online to actually do something. Versus offline media, which is mostly about providing consumers with news in a (hopefully) entertaining manner. How the only brands that can expect consumers to willingly engage them are the dozen or so “Prom King Brands™” and how everyone else is just waving a flag in the dark because (all together now) Your Brand Is Not My Friend™. How many traditional agency folk have this notion I call “Clicking Through The Internet” where they really believe that if you put a site up online people will magically find it as they “click through the internet” the way they click through their cable television line-up. (No utility or drive-to vehicles needed.)

And so on.

One excellent example Morrissey (my new Twitter friend) points out is the Dominos site developed by Crispin Porter. Which is just a nicely designed, easy-to-use (let me repeat that one: easy-to-use) site that lets you custom design a pizza and then (surprise!) actually order it. Because that’s what Dominos does: deliver pizzas. And that’s why I go to Dominos.com: to order pizzas. Not to play an online game called “Find The Anchovy.” Not to upload wacky videos of myself eating Dominos with my friends. Not even to recount my funniest pizza deliveryman story. No. I go there when I’m hungry and want to order pizza. And if you can make my pizza-ordering experience an easier and more enjoyable one, you’ve done more than any $100 million ad campaign could.

Now traditional agency folks are often baffled by this line of reasoning and with good reason: it totally makes what they do for a living totally obsolete. It puts experience front and center and sticks clever entertainment somewhere on the way back burner. The notion is not brain surgery: it’s what Whole Foods and Starbucks and Virgin did in the bricks and mortar world: made the experience satisfying enough to command loyalty. Not to mention higher prices.

This transition from entertainment to utility, from “what I want to tell you” to “what you want hear” is the single most important thing that’s happening in advertising and marketing in the past 100 years. It’s a huge transition and it’s bigger than the introduction of television and the rise of the internet. Those that get it and make it happen will thrive in the years to come.

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