Genesis of the Useful Brand

Brands tend to think that we are thinking about them much more than we actually do. Especially when you take into account the average American attention spans is a mere 8 seconds. In a very real way that means you have approximately 8 seconds to earn yourself the right to have another 8 seconds. The quickest way to get there is by being useful to me, or showing how you will ultimately be useful in my life. And the reality is that 8 seconds is admittedly a bit harsh, but thats the reality. Which makes one wonder, how did we get here? 8 seconds?

Ill wait 4min 19 sec for you to enjoy this tasty tune.

Compressed Lives — Today, technology is at people’s fingertips and the expectation is to have access to it at any time and everywhere. It’s accelerating our access to information, communication possibilities, and causing an exponential growth in expectation. All of this leaving us feeling more compressed than ever. Consumers are strapped for time and look for solutions to make their lives easier and more convenient.

Choice — The Cheesecake Factory Menu of Life — We’re also inundated with so many choices. Brands are over-saturating categories, making even the simplest decision a hard one. Not only do we experience paralysis of decision making, but once we do there can be a constant nagging of the looming better option.

So how do brands combat this? They shout louder — while launching new and interesting ways to differentiate themselves. They even corner people into listening to them.

Look familiar?

The kicker is that this happens 5,000 times a day. That’s 5,000 brand messages a day that the average person encounters. And their attention is not guaranteed.

I mean, Im writing this with my slack, feedly, twitter, email all open and asking me to pay attention to something else.

Trust — Brands are also combating a lack of trust from consumers. With over 93 percent of consumers believing that companies are not telling them the truth in ads. Consumers need to see actions to build trust.

But luckily, with a new generation there’s a shift in behaviors and values. Younger generations like millennials and Gen Z turn to their peers to cut through the clutter. Seek the truth and advice from trusted advisors, but how are you as an organization allowing, encouraging, and measuring for this knowledge transfer [thats a different post]?

They want things that are USEFUL. And as an organization you should ask — How are we allowing our highest value customers to be better at whatever job they are trying to accomplish? Be it a fundamental need or nothing more than conspicuous consumption — they gravitate toward products and services that make their particular job easier.

All of this results in that decision making today is based on things that enable us to do something. So what does this mean for brands? Advertising has built the brand business on sentiment, which falls short in an age where people want to be enabled to do something. A brand’s presence must be based on what’s useful.

“Marketing will be judged by how useful it is, now that we have an unprecedented infrastructure of delivery and activation. Marketing can’t just communicate your ethos anymore; it has to deliver access to your brand through mechanisms that let people experience the value in everyday life,” –AdAge

And if you’re still hesitant about this, just take a look at the horizon. 80 million millennials make up the U.S. population. 40 percent of U.S consumers by 2020 will be accounted by Gen Z.

But this is just the beginning — the Useful Brand Report offers so much more. Download the Useful Brand Report here.