Build it and they won't necessarily come


Alan Wolk in Adweek:

There’s a phenomenon whereby normally intelligent people at both digital and traditional agencies decide that people will embrace their new widget or app simply because they’ve built it. It’s as if the Internet were a giant cornfield in Iowa and the mere presence of yet another branded widget or app is enough to get thousands of people clicking.

But Field of Dreams was just a movie. In the real world, if you build it, they will not come. Not unless you give them a reason to do so. That reason has to be pretty compelling. Branded widgets and apps compete for our attention with a score of very well done unbranded ones. And yet I rarely hear anyone – on the client or agency side – asking, “Why would anyone want to use this thing?”

That delusion is part of a mind-set left over from the days of “push” advertising, where the consumer had no choice (short of changing the channel or flipping through the magazine) but to hear the advertiser’s message. We didn’t get to actively choose which ones we wanted to see.

And that’s a critical difference that bears repeating. With the push method of advertising, we must take action in order not to see the ad. With widgets, apps and other online vehicles, we must take action in order to see them. People don’t stumble upon widgets and apps by accident. Which means they need to be judged by a completely different set of standards than push advertising like TV and print, the primary one being: Would anyone actually go out of their way to use it?

Make something people like and would want to use even if it didn’t have a brand logo attached to it. If that sounds like an overly trite platitude and more than a bit obvious, that’s because it is. But agencies and clients who assume a far greater degree of interest in and love for their products than actually exists often ignore this basic tenet of marketing.

Alan is right (especially his last sentence), but we should also remember that however good your branded app or widget is, you still need to get people engaged with it and talking about it for it to succeed – which, of course, is where we come in…