The Content & Experience Behind Macy’s Backstage Pass

Macys Backstage Pass

“Fashion is fleeting. Style is forever.” So says Tommy Hilfiger in one of the Macy’s Backstage Pass videos available through their current QR code campaign. Makes me think of a similar comparison that relates directly to today’s post: Campaigns are fleeting. Content is forever. Meaning, even though campaigns come and go, whatever content is created around any particular campaign lives on forever. This can be a benefit because of it’s long-term potential impact. Good content can still sell product or reflect positively on a brand regardless of the campaign-of-the-day. Bad content – be it so tied to a campaign or of little/no value to the brand because of its quality or message – can actually influence negative behavior (not selling product and/or reflecting positively on the brand) far beyond the campaign.

So, needless to say, content is kinda important.

Throw in the fact that brands are not entirely in control of the content that is created around them and/or a certain campaign and you have a critical element in the brand experience that needs a fair amount of attention, scrutiny and thought.

It’s so easy with any code-based campaign to use the code as just an easier way to drive consumers to the .com. The thinking probably goes something like this: the technology is new and novel and slightly more convenient that typing in the URL, why wouldn’t we just slap a code on something and drive more traffic to destination X? I think there’s validity in that thought, but it’s hardly strategic and even more, sustainable. Now that code-based technology has been in the U.S. marketplace for awhile and mobile has become more and more an expected channel to engage, we’re starting to see brands defy the easy/convenient approach for a more purposeful and directed approach.

Thank goodness.

This is the case with Macy’s Backstage Pass QR code (really, it’s mobile, but the QR codes are front-and-center) campaign. It’s clear – by the content that I’ve been able to uncover across their various channels – that they have put in due time to planning and creating content to support this campaign and beyond. From my standpoint, I think they’ve done a great job and it even seems like there’s more to come.

Before I get into the specifics of this particular campaign, let me first begin with the lense that I look at everything related to content through. When I think about content, there are 2 primary questions that I ask:

1. How engaging is it?

2. How effective is it at accomplishing the brand’s objectives?

Even though the intuition might be to tie them directly to each other, I think they are mutually exclusive. Creating highly engaging content does not mean that you will move the needle more. In fact, some of the most un-engaging content (coupons?) makes the biggest impact. But, as an experience guy, I think there is tremendous value to highly engaging content and I tend to focus more heavily on it, sometimes more than it needs to be.

Overall, with this particular campaign, I think Macy’s did a great job with all of the content that they created. The operative word here is ALL. They’ve created a lot of content so far, and they might even have more to go? I see 36 different videos in their Backstage Pass playlist on YouTube, most of which consumers can unlock after they scan the various codes. And it’s all good content.

What makes them so? Well, I think they’ve done a lot of things right with these videos:

  1. High production value – my take on production value, as it relates to brand-generated content, is that timeliness, relevancy, and audience need to dictate the appropriate level of production value. There is no tried-and-true formula that you can apply across the board in terms of video production. Now, with the social web, consumers (and community members) are more lenient on how it looks as long as it delivers relevant content in the most timely fashion. Side note – it’s interesting because technology has reached a point to where anyone can afford nice video equipment and as adoption rises, I wonder how these viewing expectations will change?  Anyway, I think if the brand has enough time to create highly produced videos, then by all means, it’s great to create the best-looking videos possible. For all of these videos, Macy’s took the time and resources needed to plan and produce them at a high level.
  2. Top name talent – this campaign is centered around giving consumers “behind-the-scenes” access to top designers and fashion experts like Bobbi Brown, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Tommy Hilfiger. By participating, these celebrities lend a high level of credibility to Macy’s, which certainly helps. Add in the fact that these are highly produced videos (which they have to be if they’re going to involve talent like this) and you have a pretty good reason to watch.
  3. Good content – the key, above talent and production value, to compelling content is the content itself. The story. The voice-over. The images. Everything of substance inside the video. If that’s crap, then it undermines both the talent and the production value. And what you’re left with is a really expensive piece of content that provides no value to the consumer or the brand. These particular videos are made up of tips and tricks and sources of inspiration from all of these celebrities. They give us a look at information that isn’t commonly known or made available, and it’s all presented in an interesting, behind-the-scene-sy way.
  4. Short mobile pieces with longer web pieces – there’s nothing worse than watching a lengthy video on your mobile phone in a department store with 3 kids clamoring to watch as well and/or fighting over the phone. This would be my experience trying engage in this experience in Macy’s. My situation might be extreme, but it’s unrealistic to bring someone into an experience that requires a lot of time via video on a mobile device. At least long enough to influence their decision in a department store. For those who then want to hear more from their favorite designer or what others have to say, in a different setting (say, in front of their computer), they can access longer videos.

When you watch these videos, do you come away with the same impression I do? In terms of quality and credibility?

All of this plays into the overall strategy that seems to be behind this campaign:

“Macy’s new Backstage Pass is an exciting evolution that brings our stable of fashion experts and designers directly to the customer while they’re shopping in our store, through their hand-held mobile devices,” said Martine Reardon, Macy’s executive vice president of Marketing. “By providing fun and informative video features via an easy-to-use, direct-to-consumer platform, we are connecting and engaging our customer in a personal way that enhances and adds a new element to their shopping experience.”

What I take away from that is:

  • Get directly to the consumer.
  • Enhance their shopping experience.
  • Connect them easily to the brand.

And this is the way they chose to execute against that strategy. I’m sure they had some insights that indicate their target audience is mobile & social heavy with a propensity to consume video and it’s one of the types of content that impact their behavior in the shopping process. On top of all this, Macy’s has worked in immediate Facebook and Twitter hooks on their mobile site, and for those who do not feel comfortable with and/or know how to use QR codes, they can subscribe to this experience via SMS. There’s also a way into the experience through, which results in a more robust Backstage Pass microsite. All this considered, I think they’re pretty much right on in their approach to content.

Now, this brings us to their objectives. And specifically, how effective this content is at accomplishing their objectives. You can see some details of really what they’re trying to accomplish by reading above, but as with all retailers, their primary objective is to increase sales. That being the case, I would question if these videos are the best tactic to achieve that objective. Do they help increase consideration? More than likely. Do they help increase intent? Probably. Do they help increase sales? Maybe. But pretty indirectly. Where is the coupon? Or the discount? Or some incentive to actually purchase what Diddy is selling?

This is where I think the campaign falls short. I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the retail industry and couponing and everything that goes into all that. But for the organizational considerations they made (even the sales reps are wearing “How To” QR code name tags) for this campaign, I would think they could pull off something like couponing.

Perhaps this was more of a campaign that focused on the top of the purchase funnel – awareness to consideration. And they weren’t using this is as a tactic to function well at the bottom of the funnel – purchase. I could see that. There are so many other things at play inside a department store like Macy’s that I would be shocked if there aren’t promotions tied to any of these particular designer’s brands going on all the time. But I’m just surprised that there’s nothing powerful enough in the experience to directly drive consumers to the cash register.

All in all, I think this is a really solid campaign. There’s a solid mobile component. There’s a solid social component. There’s a solid offline print component. There’s a solid broadcast TV component. There’s a solid in-store component. There’s a solid .com component. This spans many channels and the impressive part about it is that it leads with the QR codes.

It just goes to show that if you think about all of the channels in a brand’s ecosystem when planning any campaign, you can plan for creating the right content for each channel. And if you have the luxury, then the result will be enough content to create a deep experience in those channels. Then, perhaps you can create content that addresses consumers’ needs at every stage of the shopping process.

And if you do it right, that content will outlast any one campaign and live on far beyond.


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