Business Model Generation has a nice section on FREE. Ad-based multisided (usually web based) companies offer a utility for free in order to sell ad space. This is not a new idea. Google and FB do it the best because they are tracking your metadata and sell personalized ad space. What I’m wondering though is if ideas like Intel’s Museum of Me are feeding social graph and meta data to add personalization to their recent moves into gaming optimization tech, platforms and partnerships. In any case, this raises an interesting idea. What happens when brands start wanting to invest in free utilities purely in order to drive user data and personalization across their entire business model? Not only is the CTO merging with the CMO, but to me, in the future, ad agencies look more like tech/web-based start ups. They contribute not only awareness and connection to customers, but also insight into what customers need. A utility goes beyond a desire. Utility offers need fulfillment and intuitive design in exchange for data.
This is different than buying ad space on a utility. It’s brands investing directly in the utility in order to access that data and insight.
Free utilities can be great. They can add connective and educational value to the world in an open access design. They can also learn directly from their userbase, meaning that they are a platform for users to directly voice their concerns and vote up their interests. Personally, I think it’s most important though to see the opportunity of moving these utilities toward transparency so that users understand exactly what they are exchanging in the experience. Museum of Me is at least pretty clear about how it works. But it’s so narcissistic… and to what end? It’d be great if branded utilities could be designed for everyone to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves, company included.