Smart Brands Will Create Their Own Digital Products And Services

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Marketing is so much more than advertising.

One of the bigger ideas (and evolutions) in marketing that I covered in my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete (which was published in 2013), was the idea of utilitarianism marketing. The fact is that marketing dollars don’t have to (only) go to advertising. Now – because of digital – all brands have the ability to develop and create real and functional tools for their consumers. Yes, these can be apps. Yes, these can be publications. The greater thought here, was that brands are in the nascent days of being able to create and sell digital products and services to better market themselves, and better connect themselves with consumers. 

The original thought.

Let’s say you’re a retailer. Let’s say that you’ve embraced e-commerce. The models are still similar. Whatever you could buy in the store, you can now shop online. This is great. This is profound. This is (still) the future. Now – more than ever – most businesses (small, medium, large, B2B and B2C) need some kind of e-commerce strategy in place (even if it’s simply ordering, instead of purchasing). With that, if you are a retailer – and you have put some kind of digital commerce model in place – why would you not start developing and selling adjunct digital products and services? Macy’s is still selling you physical goods online. What if they had some kind of great digital fashion app? What if they provided a Netflix-like model for certain types of valuable content? Fine, these may not be the best ideas, but the point is salient. The opportunity is clear.

Consumers – more than ever – are buying digital products and services. 

How many new devices do you think were purchased and gifted over the last holiday season? Computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, wearables and more. There’s a reason why some of the more popular posts in places like cnet and Business Insider are articles with titles like, “The 20 Must-Have Apps For Your New iPhone.” This is, precisely, what consumers are looking for. The timing could not be more perfect for brands to have (some kind of) digital products and services in place. 

Amazon is a model of excellence.

Without missing a beat, Amazon created their own, exclusive holiday sales event on December 30th called, Amazon Digital Day. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and now… Digital Day? Why not attempt to recreate the enthusiasm that comes with these super-special commerce events for only digital products? Amazon wound up discounting over one thousand digital items. It’s not only a great way to encourage post-holiday spending, it’s the type of sale that doesn’t need to stress over inventory (it’s unlimited!), fulfillment (the servers need to stay up, while the humans and robots can take a break from picking and packing) and more. Consumers got a whole bunch of new devices, so now they can fill them up with not only apps, games, movies, programs and music, but also digital subscriptions to online media properties… on the cheap. This was a brilliant play for Amazon and a sign of what’s to come at retail and for brands.   

So smart. So ready for other brands to replicate.

The challenge, of course, is that most brands are still struggling with how to make their digital experience more aligned with consumer’s current expectations (native, mobile-first). It’s not just about having a responsive experience anymore. Consumers are used to swiping right and flicking their thumbs to get what they want. The opportunity seems boundless. Brands need to study what Amazon did by developing Digital Day, and they need to unpack and experiment with digital models for themselves. No, most brands won’t be able to hold their own Digital Day, but the thinking needs to be done. If I were leading a brand, I would start here: what could our brand create that could be sold on a day like Digital Day? 

Start there. Start digital-first.