In an effort to understand how brands are utilizing the Out-of-Home channel in their initiatives – specifically the “new” OOH channel, where they’re creating experiences between the real (offline) and virtual (online) worlds – I’m going to focus on paying special attention to a select number of brands and their cross-channel efforts. Some of these brands are going to be personal favorites of mine (see Coca Cola), some will be those who I’ve seen utilize this “new” OOH channel in unique ways. They’re all leaders, in some sense, in recognizing the power of reaching consumers when they’re out in the real world, literally outside of their homes. This is not a new target for brands, but today more than ever, technology and consumer behavior has reached a point to where this kind of engagement is critical. The “new” OOH is not made up of networks of physical digital screens, rather it’s made up of people, and the places/things around them, as they all have the ability to be turned “on” and connected.
I wrote about Budlight’s Playbook initiative late last year, after I’d seen a TV commercial touting a scannable image on their packaging with the ability to unlock certain pieces of content. It piqued my interest so I went to the store and found a box with the image, scanned it, and was immediately driven into this Playbook experience.
That day, I experienced quite a bit of content by simply scanning the image, but by taking that action, I also ended up in their communication stream. Since then, I’ve received a few text messages, but not as frequently as I’d expect, and certainly not in line with the expectations they set me up for when I originally scanned the image – which was a “new play every week.
But the thing I wanted to point out today happened on my commute into work this morning. I have a short commute to the train station, so my time with Howard Stern/satellite radio (so glad he re-signed for another 5 years) programming is at a premium – I always hope that I’m not going to be in the car at the same time they run their very few commercials during his show. This morning was unfortunately one of those times. Before I could change the station, though, I heard him reading a script for a commercial, saying something about “unlocking special content by scanning an image on their packaging”, and thought, “I know exactly what brand he’s talking about – Budlight.” Lo and behold, sure enough, he paid it off by saying something about experiencing “Bud Light’s Playbook” and directed everyone to “look for the image on the side of the box” or “visit Bud Light’s Facebook page.”
I smiled to myself because this was yet another channel I uncovered in their marketing mix, specifically surrounding this Playbook campaign. And to top it off, they were reaching me when I was in my car, not in front of my TV or my computer, not inside my house. I was out and about, going through my daily routine, and was made aware of a) the product (no duh!), b) the Playbook campaign and the accompanying content and c) the most important thing, the ability to interact with an otherwise non-interactive thing – their box.
That’s the thing here – it’s not about them advertising on the radio or on The Howard Stern Show (although I think it’s a VERY smart buy), it’s about their commitment to this new type of engagement (via this enabling mobile technology) and making sure their consumers know what & how to interact with it. The image scanning technology won’t work if people don’t know what it is and/or how to operate it. If it doesn’t work, no one will experience the brand through this channel.
As I explore the different ways brands are utilizing this “new” OOH space, I think it’s important to recognize every channel they’re using in the ecosystem. OOH – whether in the traditional sense, even throwing the word “digital” in front of it, or this “new” one that I talk about – is only one of them. It can be made infinitely more powerful by using other channels and telling a consistent story across them all. As we’ve seen with Bud Light and their TV commercials, radio spots, online and mobile properties, they’re spending an incredible amount of time and money supporting this campaign, and at the heart of it all is this new type of engagement that allows consumers to experience the brand through a regular, everyday object – the box that holds their beer cans.
But here’s the real thing – unfortunately, the most important aspect to this whole experience – the payoff/promise at the other end – is now no longer available. As I look at the Facebook page, searching for anything around the Playbook, I am at a loss. There’s no mention of anything Playbook-related. So, the commercial, along with my previous experience, hooked me, and drove me to look for something that wasn’t there. As is the case with any sort of interactive technology when you’re out and about and it doesn’t work, here it is now – I feel jipped. Totally let down. This ended up being a huge waste of my time and as a brand, that’s the last feeling you want me to be feeling.
Fail, Bud Light, Fail.