The power of utility marketing as showcased by Mountain Dew

Marketing statistics

It ain’t easy being a marketer these days.

The people you’re trying to talk to are increasing cynical about your profession and don’t really care about what you’re trying to say.

The prevalence of blocking advertising messages has increased steadily in the past few years, and will likely continue to go up.

And even when you do get that ad out there, attention spans have become increasingly fleeting, as the sheer volume of branded communications and channel choices have ballooned.

But dry your eyes lads and lassies.

As Mr Chris Martin once sang ‘nobody said it was easy’.

Advertising these days is becomes less and less about communication or interruption, and more about entertainment, facilitation and adding value.

Why would you piss somebody off with an ill timed message, when technology allows us to come up with novel solutions to interesting problems?

We expect things to be easy, fluid and frictionless these days, and brands that make that happen are valued. Look at some of the most valuable companies in the world like Uber (taxis & delivery), Amazon (one click shopping) and WhatsApp (communication between friends).

Each understands the power of simplicity.

Us marketers can learn from that.

Making life easier

Good marketing can be executed by simply making life easier for your customers. We need to become less arrogant and far more empathetic, more understanding of consumers rather than presumptuous around their needs, more about adding value and creating solutions than using the megaphone to interrupt.

A good examples of this new style of utility marketing comes from Mountain Dew in Colombia.

In attempting to attract notoriously cynical ‘skaters’ to their product (a cohort of over 2 million in the country), the strategic team behind the brand searched long and hard for an idea that could connect the brand with their needs and expectations. Through a week long ethnographic process with the skater audience, they uncovered an interesting truth.

They found that skaters spend 50% of their life in activities related to skateboarding, 60% of this time is spent skating. The remaining 40% is spent on fixing their boards. The damage that their boards suffer is so big that they spend a lot of time on bringing them back to action, making this a massive pain point.

But surely no brand could take on that challenge right? Surely some print and digital ads was the way to go?

Mountain Dew didn’t think that way.

If they really wanted to connect with the skater community, they couldn’t do a traditional advertising campaign. Instead they had to create something that was part of their lives.

The opportunity was staring them in the face, and for me, it’s a brilliant example of marketing as utility.

Mountain Dew created the “Dew Tool” concept – the first soda that also worked as a tool to fix their boards. The bottle had a cap with a 10mm gap so it could be used as tool on any skateboard (all skateboard’s wheels and truck screws are the same size).

The brand produced 10,000 Dew Tools and took them to point of sales where skaters usually concentrated.

And the bottle became a cult hit collector’s item.

With a low budget, the Dew Bottle Tool was sold out in less than 2 days and the skater community demanded to have more of this special edition through social media networks.

A simple truth, a little lateral thinking, a willingness to move beyond advertising and an understanding that consumers these days want more than just interruptive ads stuffed down their throat.

When are marketers going to realise that the old model is dead?

Over the weekend, I saw a revered Irish marketer bemoaning the fact that advertising is becoming irrelevant.

A more sincere, empathy driven way of acting is our opportunity to regain that credibility and relevance once again.