Lotsa people, no revenue

…it’s a funny business model.

But if marketing departments adopt it, an extremely powerful communication tool.

Great service no cost

Build a great product/service, attract vast numbers of people, attract some major investors and figure out how you’ll make money sometime down the track. Google had no revenue model for a few years, it’s taken two years to figure out a model for making money out of youtube… funny how it’s KINDA similar to the revenue streams they’ve used in the past.

Extremely popular sites and services are being given away and attracting large followings of involved people.

Money wasted

With new great ideas being constantly created and developed it amazes me that larger companies still pump large sums of money into their mass-market media and productions budgets. Less people are spending time watching television, more people are spending time being entertained and using useful services online to help with their daily lives… transfer some investment from one to the other… am I being too naive here?

The utelitarian web

You’re more likely to revisit a site if it’s entertaining or useful. As processing power online continues to grow we continue to see niche tools online that will help make our lives easier (I’ve listed some examples below). Once people start relying on a truly useful tool that’s it, they’re hooked, remember life without mobiles? Seems like another world.

 

Online photo editing software:

 Dairy:

 Crowd sourcing:

 Financial management:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s no reason a CBA, NAB or Westpac can’t move some of their media & production budget to create one of the financial management services above. The best example I’ve seen is the Nike Plus site which blends runner, mp3, exercise and social networking all in one.

 

Utilitarian brands

It’s in the interests of brands to look at how they can provide tools that truely add value to their consumer’s lives in order to become a necessity rather than an avoidance.

Four considerations on successful digital utilities…

1. They look at the user first. Twitter openly states that they’re happy to focus on their users and spend more money than they make. The main factor here is to get a product out early, get feedback and readily revise and adapt to consumer reactions. Build, attract, revise, attract, revise, revise, revise.

2. They’re not afraid to fail. Again, getting it right the first time isn’t everything, what’s important is that there are measures in place so that you can constantly work towards refining the user experience.

3. They’re made by smart people. These companies aren’t made by Joe’s Banner Agency down the road, it takes bright, entrepenurially-minded Engeneers to not only come up with these ideas but see them through. Universities like Stanford in the heart of Sillicon Valley is a production farm for these cleaver cookies. The problem is making them work for the man… if you can show them they can still save the world within your organisation and make a couple of bucks doing so you may nab a couple.

4. The first to market gets the lion’s share. To have maximum impact within the online space you need something new. The great thing is that at any given point there are hundreds if not thousands ofentrepenures looking for funding to get their ideas of the ground. Finding them is a bit trickier – form relationships with VCs who have these ideas pitched to them on a regular basis, run scholorship programs through some of the leading tech universities,  keep your ear to the blogosphere ground, there are plenty of ways to get in touch with these people, they want to be found.

Conclusion

 It comes down to changing the way we think about communications. Let’s help people out by creating something useful rather than blanket people with advertising that costs a bomb. I think there will certainly be a movement towards utalitarian brands these tools can become profit streams in their own right, just look at the progression of iTunes.