Tag Archives: 11th Screen

Realtors Selling the House with QR Codes

Realtor QR Code

March might as well be QR Code Month here at 11th Screen. I just can’t escape them. There I was at my neices’ and nephew’s birthday celebration, in Suburbia, USA, and what do I see on the For Sale sign across the street? That’s right, a big, fat QR code in place of the standard floor plan/housing sale sheet.

Realtor QR Code

Have QR codes really made it into suburbia? And I’m not talking about geography.

This was fascinating to me.

This realtor is banking on the fact that the general house-hunter knows a) what QR codes are and b) how to use them. Enough to literally sell the house.

Here’s the thing – I get it.

I get the fact that house hunters are always out and about, carrying the one digital device that can give them information in this way, and with every passing day, more and more comfortable in knowing how to get the most out of it.

I get the efficiency of it all.

I get the notion of connecting them directly to the house information they want instead of wasting all that paper, which ends up wadded up in the car anyway.

But do they, the general suburban house hunter?


Macy’s Shows Us How to Think About (& Use) QR Codes

Macy's Backstage Pass QR Code

I have a love/hate relationship with QR codes.

On one hand, I love them because I think they’re a great enabling technology – a technology that bridges the offline world with the online, which is essential in driving any level of engagement when connecting with consumers outside of their homes. They’re efficient, convenient, and potentially rewarding. That is, they’re easy to use and they can unlock rich content.

In theory.

This is the hate side of the equation. Bad QR code executions are commonplace out there in the real world. Brands don’t know where to put them – should they go on TV or other digital screens or just be confined to print materials? Brands don’t know what content to put behind them – should they just unlock a website or an entry form or some sort of rich, multimedia content? But most of all, brands don’t seem to understand consumers’ awareness and comfort level with them – should they include instructions or an alternate way to access the information or just leave it to consumers to figure out how to use them? These are all general statements, I know. Yes, I have seen my fair share of quality code-based initiatives over the past 1.5 years, but they pale in comparison to the poor executions.

I believe now we’re seeing something that normally happens with any sort of technology that doesn’t wash out to the ocean of nothingness – on the consumer side, there is an awareness with what the technology is, and on the brand side, there is a drive to understand how best to use the technology to impact behavior. This adoption/impact wave is a long one. Right now, we’re just seeing brands actually understand how to best use social media to build relationships and impact consumer behavior. And social media (er, web 2.0) was introduced 5-6 years ago. That’s not to say QR codes will take 5-6 years to figure out, but adoption of technologies and new ways to utilize them do not happen overnight. They also require a fair amount of deliberate thought. They’ll hardly work if they’re just thrown out into the world for everyone to figure out.

This is what I’ve seen more often than not with QR codes.

So, it was refreshing to actually see a brand utilize traditional media channels in their marketing mix to raise awareness of their QR code campaign. A couple of weeks ago, I saw this Macy’s commercial on TV.

I did a double take. I had to rewind it to make sure I was seeing this right. A brand devoting a national TV spot to their QR code campaign? Brilliant.

I think the true brilliance is in the spot itself. It doesn’t just highlight the technology, it explains it. It explains what it is, where to look for it, how to use it, and most of all, what consumers can expect to get out of it. It also doesn’t limit this content to QR-code-only access. Have mobile phone? Can text? Then, not to worry, you can still experience this same content.

Now, when consumers go anywhere near Macy’s and see one of these pixilated stars, they at least have a better chance knowing what it is and what they can get out of it – two critical pieces needed to drive adoption and result in success.

And they’re not just focused on TV. They’re using many channels in their ecosystem to introduce, educate, and drive engagement with this star. Like on their Facebook page:

Macy's QR Code

On their windows:

Macy's QR Code

And of course, in their store:

Macy's QR Code

This, along print ads and even their staff wearing lanyards that explain what the program & code are, show how deliberate they want to be with this campaign.

Who knows if it will work? And more, who knows if QR codes, as a technology, will endure time and actually become adopted by the general consumer. In 5-6 years, we’ll know, right?

But this much is certain, and has endured over time – whoever reaches consumers at the right time with the right content will win.

The problem is – we’re living and consuming media in an evolving world, where consumers are on the go, out & about more than ever, technology is not the barrier it once was and everyone is connected. The rules have changed. Now, the right time to reach consumers is different for everyone. And it’s typically when they’re not in the confines of their homes.

Traditional broadcast channels like television are still great awareness channels, regardless of what you say about DVR. Non-traditional, emerging channels like Out-of-Home (OOH) and mobile are more and more becoming great engagement channels. Everything needs to work together. And Macy’s – much to their credit – has recognized this and is actually doing something about it.

I know the jury is still out on QR codes so I’d be interested to know if you think even a full-out marketing blitz like this will move the needle, in terms of QR code adoption and engagement? What do you think?

Out & About: DFW Airport Touch Screen Terminal Assistant

So there I was walking through Terminal D of the DFW Airport close to midnight and all I wanted to do is get to my car so I could go home. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see this – another 11th Screen (IOOH) example – a large display that looked like it was just inviting a touch. So, of course, I stopped, got my trusty flip cam out, and started to poke around on it.

Let’s dust the scorecard off and put ‘er to the test.

Purpose – This is simply an interactive information kiosk that just happens to be an 80″+ touch screen. It’s designed solely to give travelers all of the essential information they need while they’re in the terminal – places to eat, where to shop, where to get your shoes shined, where the restrooms are, flight information – anything any traveler needs to know. Right at their fingertips. On an 80″+ touch screen. Mission accomplished.

Drama – When does an 80″+ touch screen not create a sense of drama? For the experience, I think it’s a bit like using a bazooka when you need a pea shooter. But the size is the thing that tipped me off to its interactivity. Ironically, I think it’s too well designed because the screen and structure fit right in to everything else in the terminal, so one could easily pass right by it thinking it’s just a big sign. And that’s the biggest problem. There was no clear call-to-action on the screen, nothing really that says, “hey there, why don’t you stop and touch this screen because I’ll give you some great information.” Instead, it’s just a silent 80″+ screen.

Usability – This is a simple experience so it’s usable. Or maybe it’s the other way around? In any case, this was an easy experience to navigate through. It wasn’t deep with content, so after you drill down a couple of times, you’ve hit the end of the path. But the GUI is laid out in a way that allows you to get to other pieces of content in a single press. As far as the functionality goes, I would underwhelmed with this experience. I wanted more and as you can see in the video, I expected it to function different than it actually did. With a large touch screen like this, I expect the functionality to be just as big. Not complex or obnoxious, but in some way commiserate with the size of the screen.

Interactivity – This is a single touch, single user touch screen experience. For a screen this big, they could have planned for multi-user interaction and created a rich experience. As it stands – in its current state – it’s as basic as you can get. The response and its functionality, after you press one of the buttons, is not distinct enough to let you know that something has happened. So, while the screen is responsive to your touch, the action (or seeming lack thereof) makes you think that it doesn’t work.

Information – To me, this succeeds at 1.0 information, but fails miserably at 2.0 information. Yes, it contains all of the information that it promises. But it’s base-level information – the name, the place, and the location. This experience could be made instantly better by integrating LBS (Foursquare, Gowalla) and/or consumer reviews/comments (Yelp?). Our friends at LocaModa would have a field day with this experience.

Personalization – There was no personalization in this experience. I think a social component – check-ins, reviews, comments – could add a welcome level of personalization to this. It would be relatively low user commitment, especially compared to the high level of benefit this sort of information would provide.

Overall, the lack of social integration has been a huge theme in these touch screen experiences over the last year. I am starting to feel like single-source information is not good enough anymore. But these are the things I pay attention to. I’m not sure that the average consumer – or traveler in this case – cares so much about it. Here’s the thing though – when their first impression includes social content, they feel like this is just another extension of what they’re used to when they use their computers or their phones. When it doesn’t include social content, I think we run the risk of not providing the type of value they need (based on their not-yet-completely-understood expectation).

More than that, though – when you’re going to do anything with an 80″+ touch screen, the experience better be 80″+.

Are Consumers Blind to Place-Based Digital Signage?

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

The more I reflect on my time at DSE last week, the more rich I feel it was. And the funny thing about it is, I didn’t spend my time racing around seeing everything under the sun. I focused on a couple of activities and spent the rest of the time meeting & talking to people. There are some incredible minds in the digital signage industry. That much is for sure.

One of the richer times I had and that I wrote about last week was my dinner with Dave and Pat from Preset. It was really an interesting discussion – I was able to hear from them more than surface thoughts on important concepts that this industry wrestles with. In a lot of ways, it was kinda like a master class for me. You ever have those times when you find yourself in a situation where you’re like, holy crap, there’s some serious knowledge here? Well, that was me then.

One of the things we talked about was this idea of screen blindness. It’s an idea that I’ve thought about for awhile now. The question is – is the average consumer blind to outdoor screens? (And I’m not talking about Times Square or the strip in Vegas. I’m talking about standard outdoor screens like in elevators or in lobbies or at the gas station.) They’re everywhere now, so when someone encounters a screen, how much do they pay attention to it? Or better yet, how much do they even notice it?

I would say (and I did that night) that the answer is a) yes, generally consumers are blind to the screens, b) they don’t pay much attention to them and better yet c) they notice them less and less.

The reason? Mainly content and lack of interaction. Over time.

I think these digital screens have been around long enough with bad content that the average consumer perceives them as delivering little value. There are, of course, exceptions to this statement, but overall, most of these screens seem to be filled with advertisements, boring/useless content loops and/or some sort of broadcast news. They’re push-only devices delivering content that is completely un-engaging, un-inspiring, and most of all, something any one of us could experience on our own personal mobile devices.

And it’s been this way for years. Literally.

So, why pay attention to them?

I think this is a serious question that everyone who is trying to reach and engage consumers outside of the home, through these digital screens, must answer.

I don’t think the answer is because it reaches them at the right place and the right time. That, to me, is a given, and sure there’s value in that – reaching someone when they’re closer to the point of sale. Giving them a pertinent message while they’re in a waiting in a doctor’s office. But I think people been reached in the right place at the right time in so many un-effective ways, over time, that they see less and less value with these screens and are becoming blind to them.

Next time you’re in the presence with someone, outside of the home, in the vicinity of a digital screen, watch them. Do they watch what’s on the screen? If so, are they watching because they’re engaged? Or are they watching because it’s a distraction and something to pass the time?

Place-based digital signs, in order to be truly effective and valued, cannot be viewed as simply good at distracting people.

They have to do more. They have to deliver good, relevant content and more and more, in order to re-see them, to associate them with value, they have to engage consumers in some way.

So, that’s what I think. What do YOU think? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Bud Light’s Cross-Channel Engagement Fail

Bud Light Playbook Fail

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.

Friday’s 4-1-1, Coke’s Brand Story Style

Coke Secret Formula Keyhole

Wow. What a week. Do I say that every Friday? It’s felt like 5 weeks back from the break, not 5 days. As you can see, I’m making some changes to the blog. I haven’t been able to get it exactly where I want it, but over the next few days, it will be there. I hope you like the change. It’s really designed to reflect the depth of this space I’m calling the 11th Screen – a bit more robust, visual, and exploratory – and hopefully, it will be just as simple to get around (or simpler!).

I haven’t explored as much as I would have liked to on the Coke campaign that I posted about earlier in the week. A few people commented and gave me some insight on other components of the campaign (Kyle/Brian – thanks!) and I have been able to uncover a few more myself. But as I said, this is going to be an ongoing journey, so I expect the scope to be more filled out throughout the year. Since it’s all fresh, I thought it would be best to dedicate today’s Friday 4-1-1 to more of this Coke story.

1. Thanks to the guys at IndoorDIRECT, they clued me into a video that ran on their Restaurant Entertainment Network, specifically in Wendy’s (~200 locations).

As you can see by the video, they ran a complimentary ad (to the right of the video) advertising a special offer – obtained by texting in a short code. When texted in, consumers received a coupon for a $1 Frosty (Coke) Float.

Coke Secret 18 Campaign Short Code

They also received a link directing them back to the same mobile site I experienced from the “Secret” shortcode on my bottle. Smart, although I wouldn’t expect anything else from Coke, to utilize the same mobile property and create different initiatives to drive traffic to it. This is another example of how purposeful they are about touching consumers when they’re out and about, whether in a grocery store or quick serve restaurant, and enabling them a way to engage with the brand story.

And along with this whole promotion, Coke also included a nice piece of branded content by sending out the Polar Bear to give out Frostys at an LA Wendy’s to tie in the Frosty coupon offer as well. Thanks to Brian at IndoorDIRECT for bringing this to my attention, and kudos to the great work they did around this!

2. One of the best Out-of-Home experiences that I saw last year was Coke’s Happiness Machine. If you’re not familiar with it, it was a vending machine that they placed in a school (don’t know how set up it all really was?) and it delivered “doses of happiness.” See for yourself.

This is great because they took an object – a “thing” – around us and turned it into an engagement vehicle. It wasn’t digital. But it was highly interactive. Through good ol’ human touch. Thanks to Kyle for sending my way!

3. Although I can’t find this feature out there, I read about Studiocom and Hypnoticmedia partnering together to create an immersive website.

After two years of running its “Secret Formula” campaign in traditional media, The Coca-Cola Company discovered that its target consumers (18-35) weren’t hearing the message…Coke realized this was the perfect opportunity to both engage its audience in the digital realm and re-position the story behind the “secret.”…Studiocom filmed, developed and launched a highly-interactive, self-guided, video-driven web experience to show young consumers how Coke’s “secret” ingredients could make everyday moments better and serve as an anticdote to modern day woes. Innovative augmented reality features brought interactivity and engagement to a whole new level, allowing users to unlock additional video content using only printouts and their webcams.

Quite interesting that this campaign was recently “refreshed” and targeted to millennials, which brings me to the last thing I found….

4. Coke Targets Teens with Black Friday SCVNGR Promotion

Coke SCVNGR Campaign

Teens (Audience) + Coke (Brand) + SCVNGR (mobile) + Malls (OOH) = the type of engagement that makes sense because it’s a) centered around the idea of interacting with teens while they’re out and about b) supporting the brand’s story in a unique way and c) the thing that could make a memorable experience for this highly impressionable and influential target audience. And memorable experiences with a brand create trust and trust creates loyalty.

“Uh-huh” – as I’ve said before, in the end, it’s all about building trust-based relationships between brands and their target audience(s). In order to do this, I believe it’s imperative for brand’s to understand their story and the channels available to them. Once they understand those two fundamentals, they can only hope to utilize them to their fullest capability. Few brands do this well. Coke is one of the ones who do.

“Duh” – I have not uncovered 1 2D barcode (ie – QR Code) in this short journey and I haven’t come across any while I’ve organically experience Coke myself, in my personal, everyday life. And that kinda makes me happy. As you can see by all of the technologies that they’re already using – mobile SMS, mobile location-based SCVNGR, augmented reality, that good ol’ human touch – they’re driving consumers into the brand story just fine. If anyone’s seen a code-based implementation for Coke, I’d love to see it. I wonder if they ban them from their arsenal?

In one long week, I’ve been able to uncover a deep brand story that is being told through many channels, including OOH. The channel is powerful, for sure. It’s about understanding what you need to say, though, before getting to exactly how, or through what channel, you’re going to say it.

As always, I’d appreciate any thoughts you can send my way. Have a great weekend!

The Evolution of My Brand

For the next 15 days, I’m going to participate in Reverb 10. It’s an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year and manifest what’s next. It’s an opportunity to retreat and consider the reverberations of your year past, and those that you’d like to create in the year ahead. We’re connected by the belief that sharing our stories has the power to change us.

Today’s prompt – NEW NAME:  Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

I’m going to take a little bit of a different path for today’s prompt. It doesn’t inspire me in a literal sense. But it does allow me to formally introduce a few new things to you, namely an evolved brand and point of view. These are things I’ve been thinking about and working on for awhile now, but I’ve been waiting for the right time to roll them out. I’m taking this prompt as the signal that now is the opportune time.

First on the brand – I’m a big believer in establishing consistency with your brand. Brands – especially new brands – take time to form, and their evolution is natural. But in my opinion, they must remain consistent to gain/maintain credibility and sustain themselves over time. This means the look/feel, the voice, the tone, the personality, and the messages can’t stray too far from what they originated from, or else people will either a) get confused and not know which brand they believe in b) question too much whether or not something is wrong with the brand because it’s changing so drastically and/or c) never remember what the brand is all about. There’s always a fine line to walk, particularly with older, more established brands, between staying where they originated and evolving too much, especially to the point where no one can keep up with them. 

I don’t want to do that, but I feel like my brand has matured over the last year due to a good length of time thinking about and studying the space. So, I want to grow with it, and at the same time, guide it to remain consistent with its origin. That said, let me introduce to you the new 11th Screen logo:  

11th Screen

The inspiration is tied directly to my evolved POV. I’ve always felt like we’re in this wide open space called Out of Home and now, more than ever, technology has affected it to the point of few limitations. I don’t think you can put a “screen” label on it because everything’s a screen. It’s just a matter of whether or not it’s been turned “on.”

The depth of this world is fascinating and full of potential because there are so many ways that the physical spaces/things around us can be connected to the virtual world of information/each other. It’s this in-between world – beyond “digital” Out of Home and not as far as the Internet of Things – where engaging experiences can, and are, taking place. And it’s a world full of dimension.  

I started the year out with the experience and intuition that meaningful engagement can happen outside of the home. But my thinking was tied to an actual screen. No more. The beauty about this space is that technology has enabled everything to become a screen and in a large sense, the people are the network. We’re connected with each other more than ever and it doesn’t matter where we are, we’re finding more and more access to the things we want, when we want, how we want them. And I’m not talking about advertisements. I’m talking about experiences.

It’s these experiences that led me to latch onto the idea of engagement Out of Home. And this is really something that I want to dig in and explore even further in the coming year.

So, it’s not an entirely different POV, but an evolved POV. A purposeful evolution. And I hope now and in the coming weeks, that you’ll see this evolution through everything about my brand. I’m excited about the year to come and I’m looking forward to another phase of the journey. I hope you guys find it as exciting as I do.

Out & About: JC Penney’s “Find More” Touch Screen

Shoe shopping on Saturday at the mall with 3 kids – PAINFUL.  I should clarify that – boot shopping for my wife on a Saturday afternoon and taking care of the 3 kids in a crowded section of a crowded store – HEADACHE PAINFUL.  My wife found her boots, and in the end, that’s really all that matters.  What I found, while trying to keep the clan busy in the shoe section, was JC Penney’s “Find More” touch screen kiosk.  Even though it was pretty much hidden from major traffic, it wasn’t hidden from us.  It provided a great source of entertainment, and I even had a chance to try to teach my daughter some of the finer points of usability and interface design.  It was an awesome conversation.

I haven’t used my scorecard in a while, so let’s dust it off and put this bad boy to the test.

Purpose – Just as almost every one of these kiosks I’ve reviewed here, this is designed to sell products.  The kiosk itself does not serve as a self-checkout unit, so if we want to get technical about it, it’s designed to help customers find anything that JC Penney offers and make the shopping experience more convenient.  Appropriately named, “Find More,” I suspect anyone who walks up to this kiosk and sees what it is (title is big and bold at the top) and hears the opening V.O. to “choose from thousands of online only products,” will know that if JC Penney has it, they can find it here.

Drama – It’s big and bold so from that standpoint, it’s quite dramatic.  But it stands out like a big, ugly piece of technology in an inconvenient location in the store.  This is clearly a fine piece of equipment – it looks like it would withstand a tornado, but it is not easy on the eyes.  I also think the placement makes it seem like an afterthought more than a purposeful tool for customers.  Not only is it away from any aisle, it’s tucked in the shoe department, which is crammed in the first place.  The only reason I saw it is because I’m always looking for this sort of thing.  Even if I wasn’t, the only reason I would have seen it is because I was sequestered in this particular section of the store.  Since they only have one unit, I would really suggest putting it next to one of the escalators or store entrances.  At the very least, move it up close to a busy aisle.  It’s too good of a tool to be hidden.  Insofar as the call-to-action goes, once you do see the kiosk, they’ve done a good job with big moving images and type and they support it with audio.  From that standpoint, they did a great job.

Usability – I would say the experience is a mix between an interactive magazine and a website.  They have the real estate to utilize more images than words and they capitalize on it.  But they structure it very much like a website, with the primary, secondary, and tertiary navigation in clear buckets.  I like the way they duplicated the idea of breadcrumbs on the left-hand side of the interface.  It makes navigating deep into this experience easy.  All of the buttons/hot spots are large enough to press with any size finger and I love all of their instructional copy throughout (ie. – “Touch a Category to Continue.”)  They’ve made this as close to browsing a website without duplicating the website experience as you can get, and I suspect that will help them with customer involvement.

Interactivity – This is a single touch experience and the touch screen was responsive.  All of their buttons/hotspots were large enough to get me where I wanted to go and I never had to press anything more than twice.  They’ve even got the nice swipe capability that one expects from anything touch-related thanks to smartphones.  They’ve also worked in a couple of extensions to this experience with the ability to email yourself and print out any of this information right from the kiosk.  I would think these features are table stakes by now, but I’ve seen some experiences that don’t include them.  So, as I would expect from JCP, they’ve clearly thought this through.

Information – As you would expect, they’ve got any and all product information you can imagine.  It’s all hooked to JC Penney’s system, so if this particular store doesn’t have the item you’re looking for, you can see which one does, where it is, and even a way to contact them.  They use large images and audio to attract customers to the kiosk, and throughout the experience, they have nice videos that support particular products (a favorite feature of my daughters).  I was impressed that the experience was ADA accessible.  The one downfall was the absence of social extensions, even a way to get to JC Penney’s FB page and/or Twitter page.  Customer reviews should become table stakes before too long.

Personalization – Other than the email and print options, this experience is the same for everyone.  They could really make this a special experience for a loyalty program.  Everything I said about the opportunities Target has to personalize their kiosks apply here, too.

This is a great example of an IOOH solution, particularly a retail-based kiosk.  I think JC Penney is one of those retailers who get it.  They understand multi-channel and how important it is to engage consumers throughout their shopping and brand journey.  I wasn’t surprised to see this in the store.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this experience evolves because although I think they’re doing a great job with what they have right now, I think there are many easy opportunities that they are missing.

Have any of you seen this kiosk?  Would love to hear your thoughts, too!

Will the Holidays Save QR Codes?

First, SXSW.  Then, Facebook.  Then, NYC.  Now, it looks like the holidays are bringing QR codes with them.  It’s the time of the year when we receive loads of holiday circulars and it all started this past week.  I like these magazine-type circulars.  I like looking through them to see the sales and this year, at least, I like to see if the brands are making any effort to drive consumers deeper into the brand experience.  Well, judging by what I saw this week, they’re jumping all over the opportunity.

First, it was Best Buy.  I opened it up (I take as many opportunities as I can to remind my wife where she can get me an iPad), and the first thing I see is a big, fat QR code staring me in the face.  This really didn’t surprise me because I’ve noticed that Best Buy is now printing QR codes on all of their shelf price labels.

Best Buy QR Codes

Then, it was Target.  We’re on the lookout to help Santa, so of course, I had to see what kind of contribution Target could make.  And, bam, right there, 3 on 1 page.  I started to get real excited at this point, scanning codes, talking to myself, kind of freaking my family out.

Target QR Codes

And then, because I felt like we were on a roll with finding these little treasures, when I got our Geico newsletter/magazine, I just knew they had to be using them in some way.  So, I opened it up, and sure enough, QR codes sprinkled throughout.

Geico QR Codes

This whole 3-day experience really brought to light a few things for me, all of which made me happy:

  1. Brands (and the agencies supporting them) know what QR codes are.
  2. They’re not afraid to expose them to any type of consumer (tech, toys, insurance.)
  3. They’re taking the opportunity to drive consumers into a deeper brand experience.

I think these basic fundamental acknowledgements are important because it shows a level of comfort, from a brand’s standpoint, to introduce these codes to consumers, in such a mass-visibility way.  I suspect there is a little bit of experimentation going on, but they’re exposing them nonetheless.  Next question is whether or not consumers will know what to do with these.  I wonder how far off I really am – along with the general consumer – in expecting these codes to be included in print pieces like this?  By the time I got to the Geico magazine, I expected them to include QR codes.  And they did.

So, I believe sooner rather than later, consumers will expect these crazy-looking codes to be in magazines like this and perhaps more print pieces than not.  By seeing them in this type of collateral and on windows of their local businesses and at airports, they’re going to know that they can “unlock” some sort of information.  It’s really the “payoff” now – the content on the other end – that is going to drive expectations and perceived value.  The content is certainly more important than the code, but we have to start with the code and getting consumers familiar with them.

We’ve implemented quite a few code-based initiatives this year and have learned from each one of them.  Here are some best practices that we follow:

  1. Before creating the codes, understand what you are going to offer to the consumer once they scan the code.  Is it going to be a mobile version of your site?  Is it going to be a video?  Is it going to be a text?  Is it going to be a VCard?  You must answer this question before you get into creating the actual code.
  2. Creating the codes is the easy part.  We’ve used Kaywa and I’ve seen ScanLife a lot lately.  It’s a simple process, just follow the directions with whichever service you’re going to use.
  3. Understand where the code is going to be placed, when printed.  Is it going to be circular like this?  Or is it going to be on a poster?  Or is it going to be on a magazine ad?  You’ll need to include instructions for consumers to understand what it is and how to actually use it.  What kind of piece it’s going to be printed on will dictate the amount of instructional information you can include.  At the very least, let consumers know that they can a) scan the code for something else (more content, special offers, etc…) and b) how to do it.  This includes telling them what QR code reader application they need on their smartphone and that they need to take a picture of the code.
  4. If you have the means to use/implement a text messaging service, it would give the consumer another way to “unlock” the information without scanning a code.  Include this option in your instructions.
  5. Let consumers know – very clearly – what they can expect by scanning the code.  This can be a simple text description next to the code.
  6. And finally, if at all possible, make sure the content offered up on the “other side of the code” is appropriate to experience on a mobile phone.  If you can help it, don’t send them to the regular .com.  Send them to the mobile version of the site or even directly to a Vimeo/YouTube playlist.  The more valuable the content on the other side is, the more value consumers will perceive to be behind these codes.

QR codes are an ideal technology to enable the offline and the online to converge.  They’re so simple to create, if you have the wherewithal to use them and good content to use, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t include the codes on all of your printed pieces.  It’s good to see so many brands using them.  At the beginning of the year, I don’t feel like anyone really knew what QR codes were, certainly not the average consumer.  But if these holiday circulars are any sign of the times, it hasn’t taken long to learn.

Awareness OOH vs. Engagement OOH


Over the last couple of weeks (and year, really), I’ve tried to wrap my hands around all of the “OOH” thinking going on in my head.  I’ve put a couple of stakes in the ground along the way.  First there was my definition, then there were the basics of displays and their relationship with technology and what those two combined really mean and most recently, I explored the different components of the “new” OOH.

I feel like, conceptually, they’re all pretty close, but they’re not quite there.  They don’t tell a complete story.  That’s the thing that’s bugging me – the incomplete story.  It’s a complex story, no doubt.  Media consumption and consumer behavior and “always on” technology have evolved to such a high point that there is no longer an easy formula for moving someone down the decision/purchase funnel.  That same technology has transformed the places and things around us into consumption & interaction “screens” – “Out of Home” is no longer just the mass awareness platform that agencies and brands have relied on in their media mix to achieve maximum impressions.

This potential of the “new” OOH is something that I’ve explored since day 1 on this blog, but many disparate thoughts do not a complete story make.  I’m a little closer today than I was yesterday.

If you’re a regular reader here, you know how much I dislike the “Digital Out-of-Home/DOOH” moniker.  I’m starting to dislike “digital signage” just as much, but unfortunately, these are the two most widely-used terms in the industry.  Ask anyone in the industry what they actually do, and 9 people out of 10 (if not all 10) will give you a response with “DOOH” or “digital signage” in it.  And if you asked them what exactly that is, I’d put a solid bet on a response that included something like this – “it’s a network of screens held together by digital technology.

Network.  Screens.  Digital technology.

That’s so 1995.

In all seriousness, here’s my newest stake in the ground (and it’s not groundbreaking, but I think it provides clarity) – OOH, DOOH, and digital signage is Awareness Out-of-Home.  Digital signage (technology + a display) has enabled brands to be more effective at creating awareness, with dynamic loop times and dayparting and on-the-fly content updates, but at the end of the day, it’s all about pushing content out to as many eyeballs as they can.  It’s about impressions.  OOH/DOOH can be an extremely effective channel at achieving those impressions.

Here’s the thing(s) about Awareness though:

  • Relies more heavily on the channel (or “screen”) than it does on the brand story
  • The media component is driven by mass reach, not targeted personalization
  • Brand is at the center, communication is to many
  • It’s a push message, meaning it’s a “talk-to” communication, meaning it’s a 1-way communication, meaning there is no real brand/consumer engagement
  • Consumers are guided down the funnel, literally, by screen (the placement of the screen guides the brand story)
  • The technology is the thing keeps everything connected

So, sure, if you want to talk about networks and technology, er “DOOH” & “digital signage”, here’s where we should be talking.  This is what the industry is talking about now – hardware and software and networks and installations and everything else.  If you boil it down, it’s all an awareness discussion.  This is where my thinking differs from many in the industry (communications, advertising and digital signage industries) that I’ve heard.  I don’t see the potential in using the OOH/DOOH channel as an awareness channel.  It’s an evolved 1995 discussion, with the introduction of new “digital” display technologies, but it’s just display.  Display technologies drive more consumption; they don’t drive more engagement.  And this is the big differentiator – do you want to use OOH, even DOOH as an awareness channel?  Or do you believe that the places and things around us have the ability to engage consumers where they are and actually drive them deeper into the brand experience?  This is the “new” OOH and this is its potential.

Engagement Out-of-Home is predicated on the understanding that a) everyone and everything is connected and b) the places and things around us have the ability to be turned “on.”  Everything is a screen, but the screen is not what makes up the network in Engagement OOH, the people make up the network.  They are made stronger by technology – enabling technologies here, not display technologies – and brands can and should take advantage of these developments.

Just last week, I gave my thoughts on a similar concept, something that LocaModa and Posterscope call “Sociable Media.”  (I spoke to a couple of guys at LocaModa late last week and they provided great insight to their POV.)  We’re all talking about basically the same thing, but I think where I differ is that I think Engagement OOH provides a unique opportunity for brands to go beyond just being there and allows them to tell their story in a way that they would not have otherwise been able to tell it – in an individual, 1-to-1 engagement.  (And it doesn’t have to be on a mobile phone.  It can be on a floor in a store.)  It’s less about the technology and more about the interaction.  That’s the nut – engagement OOH enables brands to be more effective at driving interaction – not awareness – on everything around us.

As compared to Awareness OOH, Engagement OOH:

  • Relies more heavily on the brand story than it does on the channel (or “screen”)
  • The media component is driven by targeted personalization, not mass reach
  • In one sense, the brand is can be the center, but communicate to one.  In another sense, the consumer is at the center and the brand has the ability to engage with them.  The key is that it’s a personalized communication
  • It’s a push/pull message, meaning it’s a “talk-with” communication, meaning it’s a 2-way communication, meaning there is actually real brand/consumer engagement
  • Consumers are guided down the funnel by interaction
  • The brand story is the thing keeps everything connected

So, maybe we still need to be talking in 1995 speak.  I have a feeling that the industry is going to continue to talk in these terms, at least for the foreseeable future.  If you look at social media and the way it had been talked about until the last year or so, it was all talked about differently, too.  Now, there are enough buzz words that can make someone feel sick.  But whenever I hear “DOOH” or “digital signage,” I always stop and give it pause and really try to determine what people are talking about.  And most of the time, they are talking about true “digital” Out-of-Home or true “digital” signage.  Interactivity is either an afterthought or void from the thought altogether.

I just look at it a little bit differently.  For every action, there is a reaction and we have the responsibility, not to mention the opportunity, to be there and interact and have a 2-way communication so the relationship doesn’t end as soon as they walk away.  It gets stronger.  I believe that can only happen through engagement.

It’s important to note that I am not a media guy and never have been.  I’ve always been an experience guy, so that’s immediately where my mind goes, regardless of the “channel.”  I love this space because it truly is a blank canvas, not confined by structure or surface, or technology or medium – only by the limits of our imagination and the strength of a brand’s story.  I’m going to be speaking at CETW in a couple of weeks on Incorporating Digital/Interactive Out-of-Home into Campaign Strategy and from my point of view, after we understand who we’re talking to, the very next question I would want to answer is, “is it Awareness OOH” or “Engagement OOH?”  What do we want to create?  Do we want to push messages out?  Or do we want to engage with consumers around our messages?  This would tell me what technology (or not) I need – display technology or enabling technology – thus defining what the “true” OOH was.

My story still isn’t complete.  It isn’t as focused as I’d like it to be, but I think it’s getting there.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you care to share them.  This is truly an evolving space that requires evolving thought, so in my opinion, the more the merrier.