Brand utility apps: how brands can leverage technology to create true brand affinity


In the hyper clutter space of advertisement what differentiates a good ad is interaction. The important thing is that once a brand has been able to catch people’s attention through an ad, they just can’t afford to waste the opportunity.

This is where digital marketing ads a lot of value. The medium lends well to triggering engagements and can be used to ‘help’ or ‘entertain’ a person. Unfortunately, a lot of digital marketing spends are still about ‘interrupting’ the person as opposed to adding value.

Welcome to the world of brand utility, where brands look to provide a useful service or give people something they actually need — without demanding an immediate return. Now with the massive adoption of smartphones and social networks and a range of startups and app developers, it has never been easier to leverage digital apps that provide a clear value to people and in return create a long lasting affinity for the brand.

In this article we will briefly look at four ‘brand utility’ examples where brands chose to market themselves by providing a utility value to people.

Stiegl – Free public transportation ticket on beer bottles

Design firm Demner, Merlicek & Bergmann came up with an ingenious way to help Stiegl dissuade people from drunk driving. Stiegl replaced the traditional label on their bottles of beer with a free ticket for public transportation. “The campaign not only helped to save lives but also promote Stiegl as a socially responsible beer producer,” the company claims.

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Starbucks: Early Bird catches a discount drink

Starbucks connected its product to the act of waking up in the morning. They launched an app, called  ‘Early Bird’. The idea was to encourage people to wake up on time.

The app was just like an alarm clock. If the app users pressed ‘wake up’ instead of snooze, they would earn a discounted coffee or other drinks at any Starbucks store within one hour of waking up. This was a fun way to connect with the target audience while helping them get up on time.

Brand Utility Apps

Nestle – Dessert – chocolate recipe idea app

Instead of pushing a standard message, Nestlé built an app to provide ideas for desserts using the product.  The dessert app provided daily free recipes with black chocolate, dark roast, milk, white, caramel, praline or coffee. What they created was way more useful and interesting for the customers and hence got great adoption.

Sherwin-Williams –  ColorSnap app

Imagine spotting the perfect shade of paint while out on a walk — and being able to translate that image into a palette at the paint store. That was the idea behind Sherwin-Williams Co.’s ColorSnap Glass, a free mobile app that the Cleveland paint company launched for users of Google Glass.

But even if you don’t have Google Glass or any intentions of getting it, you could still try out ColorSnap’s technology via its free mobile apps for iPhones, Android and Blackberry.

ColorSnap mobile apps let users upload photos of their room and virtually try out more than 1,500 Sherwin-Williams colours, varying them by light and intensity until they find a shade they are happy with. They can then save the palette or share it via email or Facebook. ‘Advertising Age’ hailed the app as one of the Top 10 ‘Cool Branded iPhone Apps’.

The case studies mentioned above are entirely possible, eminently affordable and very effective.  This approach puts brands into the centre of people’s lives earning those brands attention and engagement.

Creative entrepreneurs and business leaders have an opportunity to leverage the advances in app development space to guide marketing departments in bringing life to branded utilities. These apps help provide clear value to people and create a long lasting relationship with each existing and potential customer.

Kaushal Sarda, KulizaAbout the author


Kaushal Sarda is the CEO of Kuliza Technologies Kuliza builds mobile ready sites, apps and cross-device campaigns for businesses. They have worked with brands like Titan, Myntra, Intuit, Whirlpool, VanHeusen and Himalaya Drug Company.


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