Last week, I wrote about why so many brands seem to be hitting a sophomore social media stall. In short, they are failing to aim their social efforts at creating new-in-kind value for consumers around the brand.
Spotting these sorts of white-space opportunities is, of course, tricky. Because we’re talking about new-in-kind value, we are almost by definition dealing in the realm of unarticulated or even unknown needs. We can’t simply ask our consumers what they’d like to see in this space because they often don’t realize they need it.
So what’s a marketer to do? We’d recommend looking at the nexus of four things:
- Trends in consumer needs adjacent to your brand’s space
- Emerging technologies (specific social, mobile, geo-location applications)
- Your brand’s unique capabilities
- Your brand’s essence
Here’s a live example, especially good for retailers, banks or any business model that has a strong presence and role to play in local communities.
Start with the emerging consumer trend for sharing used items which, until the recession, most consumers would never have considered sharing (e.g., bikes, clothes and toys). The Economist wrote a nice summary of the trend in last week’s edition here.
The Economist piece details the emergence of new business models to aid this sharing, largely drawing on social and mobile technology. There are all sorts of ways that these technologies can help consumers with something they want to share or exchange connect with one another—lots of degrees of freedom for brands to consider.
Now consider what kinds of unique capabilities could enter the picture. Brands with networks of retail outlets can bring a local meeting place to the table for exchanges to happen. Moreover, these brands may be able to contribute a built-in audience, which is often the critical missing ingredient for getting local networks to become self sustaining. Finally, these brands can serve as a trusted broker of sorts, where consumers might otherwise be unwilling to trust a start-up brand, much less a stranger who is on the hook to share a promised bill of goods.
Finally, think about the brand essence that best fits here. Why shouldn’t community banks take a run at this, given their mission to help consumers manage their finances and their connection to helping the local community thrive? Or what about Walmart orchestrating something like this with its “Save money. Live better.” positioning and massive customer base in some of the hardest hit geographic areas?
There are many more examples out there. Every brand ought to be able to generate ideas like these in an environment where consumer values are so strongly in flux and new social/mobile/location-based technology players are emerging every day.
MLC members, looking for brain food to spark your thinking? Try browsing some of the consumer trends reported on by Iconoculture. One of my recent favorites is Photo Album Storyteller—it speaks to the trend enabling consumers to tag physical objects with rich digital files (audio or even video).
Then, take a look at how BCBS Florida used trends and a customer jobs-to-be-done methodology to spot these kinds of white spaces.