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The Undiscovered Marketing Potential Of A USB Stick

IStock_000011386639XSmall My laptop doesn't have a CD-ROM drive. Like many owners of smaller notebooks, I don't see the value of having that piece built into my computer as I would rather save the space and have a lighter and smaller machine. As netbooks become more and more popular and the rumored tablet becomes a reality (either from Apple or other manufacturers), larger computers with built-in CD-ROM drives will be less and less common.

Despite this shift, most content you can purchase today is only offered in two forms of distribution. You can either download something off the web, or you can buy a physical disk of music or a dvd or a CD-ROM disc of software to run on your computer. With downloadable content in particular, you need to decide the night before if you want to download an entire movie to my portable media device or laptop, and also need to make sure you have enough hard drive capacity to store all the huge files you need to download. What if you cannot rely on a fast consistent web connection and you don't have a CD-ROM drive in your computer? This is the single biggest missed opportunity of the content distribution universe – selling content to a captive audience in a way that they are able to use.

Taking my own example, the moment when I have the most time to get content like this is at an airport. Getting ready for a 14 hour flight to Sydney last year was the first moment when I started thinking a potential solution to this problem – and landed on the one thing that all laptops have – a USB drive. What if I could buy content that I wanted to watch or listen to on a USB stick and simply plug it into my computer?

Rather than a disk, I would happily pay a bit extra to simply get a USB stick with the movie on it to watch. Or use an interface in a store to select a combination of music, videos, and any other kind of content to download onto a custom created stick that I could take with me. In fact, this could even be a kiosk. Choose your content, get it written to a stick and take it with you.

From a marketing point of view, this stick could be branded, the videos could include embedded advertising and the stick itself could also include marketing materials such as PDFs or product videos. These sticks could even include some form of copyright protection so that the content providers would not have a barrier to making their content available in this format. What do you think? Could a store that offered content to purchase on USB sticks ever work? As someone who will probably never again have a portable computer with a CD-ROM drive, I certainly hope so.

12 thoughts on “The Undiscovered Marketing Potential Of A USB Stick”

  1. They’d make good promotional items, too.
    I’ve been thinking about using one to give local clients their files. You can get small numbers of them branded at a reasonable price, and it’s a useful item people will keep and use.

  2. They’re relatively inexpensive to imprint with your name and logo, they have many many styles now, and they are easier to ship than a CD/DVD.
    I love the kiosk idea too.

  3. We already use them at my company, MTS, to give promotional info – for instance, we purchased custom-built USB sticks with our logo for the latest Analyst and Investor Day. It is a nice present and holds all the data you need to share with your audiences.

    Given the price of a stick, though, I think a more efficient content distribution model would be to purchase stick and content separately. Then, you can plug in your stick and download whichever content you want through a kiosk (it can be protected as well).

  4. I am sure they could come up with a vending machine that would load data to a flash drive, however, it’s a pretty expensive proposition if you’re only in need of content. I see a vending machine that gives you the option to purchase a drive with your data, or simply plug your drive into the front of the machine to be loaded. Pretty cool idea.

    As for pre-loads and imprints, all good ideas – we sell them every day in the promo industry. Quality could be a stumbling block – there are a LOT of garbage chips out there. I can see it giving the idea a black eye if they’re not very careful.

    Great stuff, Rohit.

  5. Great post and so timely, Rohit.

    It’s already being done. I mention all the time to people based on my schwag site that my favorite schwag is a USB stick since they’re always usable. I prefer 512MB or larger, and those are easy to come by.

    I am now doing work for a promotional products company called rushIMPRINT and they offer USB keys between 32MB and 16GB. I might be biased but I *highly* recommend them.

    There are a lot of options for this. If only more companies took notice! I could collect them all 😉

  6. It’s a very good idea but I ask myself, why would I bother buying a USB with a pre-installed movie or document of which I could easily copy or attain myself? I guess this idea would work for premium ideas or content such as music albums, video games, and educational material. It would be interesting to see in the near future a new kind of HMV music store that displayed USB keys instead of DVDs, CDs, and Blu-rays. That would be cool!

  7. I have seen many movie trailers here in India- in which they explicitly mention ‘Purchase music on USB/Memory sticks’. the prices are comparable to the CD versions too.

    But if this trend continues- then regular music buyers will end up with way too many USB drives; What if we take a USB to the music store, pay a nominal amount- and purchase the album? like a physical iTunes store.

    I know it sounds weird, but people go to the music stores for the experience- not for getting an album (which can always be done at the convenience of home/office via internet). why cant we give it to them? select all the albums you want, pay a nominal amount for the tracks you are interested in- and get them copied onto your media.

    Should start making a business plan now 🙂

  8. Webkeys are extremely useful as well (and more affordable). When one inserts a USB Webkey, it launches the website programmed on the webkey. If this went to a resource page for handouts and more information, it would give the person who gave the webkey a chance to change docs on that resource page at a moments notice. I think we’ll see an increase in webkeys since so much more computing is done done in the cloud.

  9. I am reliable they could come up with a peddling organization that would alluvial collection to a winkle force, withal, it’s a pretty dear proposal if you’re exclusive in necessity of content. I see a selling machine that gives you the choice to acquire a track with your assemblage, or only closure your ram into the side of the organization to be full. Pretty alter design.

    As for preloaded and printings, all good ideas – we cozen them every day in the promo manufacture. Caliber could be a stumbling platform – there are a LOT of message chips out there. I can see it giving the content a fateful eye if they’re not really elaborated.Its really very very nice rohit
    legal marketing


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Rohit is the author of 9 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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