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Smart Brands Will Create Their Own Digital Products and Services

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 (published in 2013) was the idea of utilitarianism marketing. The fact is that marketing dollars don’t have to go only to advertising. Because of digital, now all brands have the ability to develop and create real and functional tools for their consumers. Yes, these can be apps and publications. But the biggest thing here is 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 that’s embraced e-commerce. The models are still similar. Whatever you can buy in the store, you can now shop online. This is great, it’s profound, and it’s 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’re a retailer and you have 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 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? Sure, these may not be the best ideas, but the point is clear.

More than ever, consumers 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.” It’s precisely what consumers are looking for, and the timing could not be more perfect for brands to have digital products and services in place. 

Amazon: a model of excellence.

Without missing a beat, Amazon created their own exclusive holiday sales event on December 30th called Amazon Digital Day. So there’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and now Digital Day? Why not attempt to recreate the enthusiasm that comes with these super-special commerce events for just digital products? Amazon wound up discounting over a thousand digital items, which is not only a great way to encourage post-holiday spending, but it’s the type of sale that doesn’t need to stress over inventory –  unlimited! – and fulfillment: the servers just need to stay up while the humans and robots take a break from picking, packing and more. Consumers got a whole bunch of new devices, that they could then fill up with not only apps, games, movies, programs and music, but also digital subscriptions to online media properties, all on the cheap. It was a brilliant play by Amazon and a sign of what’s to come for 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 experiences more aligned with consumers’ current expectations, which is native and 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. So, the opportunities seem boundless. Brands need to study what Amazon did with Digital Day, and 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 start, the ball needs to get rolling. If I were leading a brand, I’d start here: what could our brand create that could be sold on our own Digital Day? 

A good start is to start digital-first.

- Mitch Joel is President of Mirum Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @mitchjoel.

This article originally appeared on Medium