This is Part 2 in a multi-part series this week on Mobile Scanning Technologies. I think these types of technologies are powerful in the “new” OOH because they bridge the offline (real-world) with the online (virtual world). And the “new” OOH, to me, is all about connecting others with the places and things around them AND each other.
What’s their true value?
Yesterday, I posed this fundamental question I’m often faced with when exploring two powerful enabling technologies – code & image recognition.
Today, I’m going to share a couple examples I found in the latest edition of Wired. As if I was setting up the comparison myself, there they were, 2 different car companies, using 2 different types of technologies, in the same publication. In terms of industry and target, I couldn’t ask for a much closer sample from which to compare.
Ford is no stranger to the interactive print ad space, having used Microsoft Tags (code recognition) for the better part of the year. Now, GM, (specifically Buick) is in the game, bringing their own ads to life via Google Goggles (image recognition). As a deeper exploration of yesterday, the question here is, “do they deliver value?” And more, “is one more effective than the other in doing so?”
When looking at these types of experiences, there are 2 components that are critical to their success and effectiveness:
1. The point from which the interaction originates – in this case, the printed advertisement (offline)
2. The destination where consumers are driven (online)
Both are factors in how “valuable” the technologies are in the brand experience.
Right off the bat, I notice a benefit that addresses the main question yesterday – “why not use a URL instead of the code?” In the Ford ad, they use both. This is smart and a solid approach. The code takes you to an Edge-specific site and the URL takes you to a Ford-specific site. By including both, they’re a) able to offer up two different paths and b) something that can’t be overlooked, they’re not confusing the consumer by including two different URLs and/or two different codes. They each have a purpose.
This is on top of the sheer value of making an otherwise non-interactive piece of collateral interactive. From a consumer’s standpoint, if they’re in the right mindset, this technology enables a unique, immersive experience from something that’s never generated an “experience.” And that’s a key differentiator here – the experience – you just don’t have the same experience typing in a URL on your mobile phone as you do scanning a code or an image. I would argue that in this day and age of consumption and connectedness, experiences are more and more important for brands to create. Those experiences can be created in many different ways, and one of them is through technologies like this.
After the code/image is scanned, it’s important to pay off the experience with compelling content. This doesn’t mean that the content needs to be flashy or moving, it just needs to provide value.
While the Ford Edge site offers more content, I would say both of these brands do a good job of providing the right content. “More” does not necessarily equate to “right,” but “right” equates to “valuable.” Regardless of where the consumer is in the purchase funnel, both of these sites give them enough information to get further down the path.
For awareness – the sites give them basic information.
For consideration – the sites give them access to a deeper level of information.
For purchase – the sites give them the ability to connect with dealers.
The debate can be had to whether or not Ford’s “more” content is more valuable than Buick’s scaled-back content, but the important thing to recognize here is that there is content for everyone. When looking at these two examples through this lense, I walk away with an important insight – it’s OK to present fewer options of content, just as long as they’re the right options. And the brand’s objectives will dictate that.
So, I think that both of these brands bring value in their respective experiences. I don’t think that one does a better job than the other in using these technologies. Ford has had more time to test this type of technology and content with their audience(s). But both provide a level of utility through a unique experience that wouldn’t otherwise be had.
So I ask, what’s NOT valuable about that?
(Disclaimer – GM is one of our clients, but I had nothing to do with the Buick piece featured here.)
Thumbing through the latest Sports Illustrated (print edition), I came across 4 different ads that included some sort of enabling technology – technology that enables a static experience to become interactive. 2 of the ads used QR Codes, 1 of the ads used a Microsoft Tag, and the other used Google Goggles. They’re all based on the same premise – bridging the offline (real-world) with the online (virtual world) – but technically, the technology is a little different – QR Codes and MS Tags are 2D Barcodes and Google Goggles is an image-recognition technology. It’s the difference between the information/content being stored in the code vs. in images in the ad. For all intents and purposes, I consider them both effective technologies in merging offline (non-digital) with online (digital). Interestingly, though, I think image recognition technology like Google Goggles would enable a better digital to digital experience. I’ve never understood putting a 2D code on a digital medium to drive to another digital medium. But if I could take a picture of the image on the originating digital medium to drive into another, ideally deeper digital medium/experience, I could see the value. Anyway, it was interesting to see so many different interactive ads in the same place and it allowed me to compare and contrast them in a way that didn’t seem so disparate (like others that I’ve done here).
First, I should point out that I’ve never seen this many interactive print ads in the same publication to date. At the beginning of the year, you would’ve been hard-pressed to have found 1 interactive ad like this in 10 publications. As the year has gone on, it’s not unusual to find 10 publications with 1 interactive ad each (some brands are using these consistently in their print pieces – Ford and Asus, to name two). Over the past couple of months, I’ve noticed a couple in each publication, but never FOUR. I really think this trend is going to continue growing into next year and we’ll see the majority of these ads including some sort of technology like this that enables a deeper, interactive experience with the brand. It’s a no-brainer, in my opinion. However, I do think it’s going to force brands to think about the entire experience rather than just plopping a code onto their print pieces, as it seems is the case more often than not now. The brands who will be successful in using technologies like this are those who put the experience first and let it lead the technology vs. putting the technology first and letting it lead the experience. Overall, when looking at each of these 4 executions, it seems as if the latter is more of the case.
Before I get into dissecting the experiences, I do think it’s important to acknowledge these brands for using these technologies. There are at least 20 other advertisers in this same publication who aren’t using anything other than a URL (if that) to drive consumers deeper into the experience. The catch here, though, is that consumers are smart – when they start using these technologies and scanning codes/images, if they don’t see value on the other end (it can come in many different forms – content, offers, coupons, connections, etc…), they’re going to equate them with being invaluable, and once that happens, it will be hard to change their behavior and get them scanning again.
So, let’s get into it – the biggest consistency was the inconsistency. From the directions that they do/don’t give on the actual print piece to the site they send you to to the content on the site to the extensions beyond the site – none are the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – no two brand experiences should be the same – but I do expect some level of standardization on what I believe to be elementary components of this type of experience.
Let’s start with the ads themselves and two things right off the bat – 1) how prominent is the code/ability to know that the ad is interactive and 2) how clear and useful is the call-to-action/instructions?
The 3 ads that include codes, you can clearly tell that they include something unusual-looking that you can probably do something with. (Unlike Stickybits, I think the form factor of both QR Codes and MS Tags are different enough that consumers stop and actually look to see what they’re all about. They might know that they have to do something with them, but they’re not exactly sure what they are and/or how to use them – this is a start. They know that they can take an action.) The ad that included Google Goggles, however, made it difficult to see that there was something interactive about it. Google’s Goggles logo is small and within the context of the ad, it gets lost. So, here, advantage to the 2D codes.
But it doesn’t stop there. Perhaps the most important component of using this technology is the instructions. It’s simple people – don’t get cute with instructions. Say what to do and how to do it in the simplest, most clear terms. Don’t make consumers guess at what they’re supposed to do. Tell them exactly. There’s nothing useful about enabling interactivity if the user can’t figure out how to actually interact with it (same can be said for not knowing what to do with touchscreen experiences). I found all 4 of these to miss the mark on instructions, some a little less drastic than the others. Google Goggles was the clear winner here – their instructions were the closest to being simple and clear.
The only thing they’re missing here is being clear that Goggles is an application. They make the assumption that users will know what “Google Goggles on Android” is, and besides that, they completely ignore iPhone users. I think it’s best to approach these directions with an ultra-conservative mindset in these early stages – be explicitly clear with them. Approach them like no one knows anything about anything. (Then, don’t make them into a book.)
Coming in a close 2nd is Lane Furniture and their MS Tag. One of the clear differentiators, to me, between MS Tags and QR Codes is Microsoft’s proprietary technology to scan and read their codes. There’s only 1 type of reader, only 1 place to get it and anyone can use it. This combination makes instructions easy. I don’t think anyone using MS Tags should stray from the, “Get the free app for your phone at http://gettag.mobi.” Simple, clear, and short. Where these guys go a little astray is in their other instructions – “Snap this icon to snag a coupon…”
“Snap?” “Snag?” “Icon?” Talk about colloquialisms. Why use fancy words when normal words will do? “Take a picture of the code for a coupon…” sounds much more clear and to the point, don’t you think?
The other two – OnStar and Axe – failed miserably on the instructions. OnStar takes the casual language to the next level, to the point of being utterly confusing.
“Just snap this QR code with your phone. If it doesn’t have a QR reader, there are lots of free apps to download.” I think the basic concept in anything, particularly instructions, is making it seem simple and not complicated. “Lots of” anything automatically implies that there are more than a couple. If there are more than a couple, I might very well get overwhelmed, and if I don’t even know what exactly a QR code and/or reader is, I might not even know where to start. I think this is a case of wanting to be cute and not having a word editor that says, “we need to cut everything in half.”
Axe, on the other hand, needs a few more words. “Scan this code to watch the video.”
For the experienced and savvy, this is beautiful. Only problem is that there is an ultra-minute fraction of consumers who are both experienced and savvy with QR Codes. I would bet that here, they’re likely just to use the URL to get to the video instead of scanning the code – that would be a great piece of data to see – when presented with 2 options like this, what do consumers tend to do? What do you want them to do? Yes, go to the website, but why put the QR Code on the ad in the first place unless you want them to scan it?
I’m also of the mindset that this sort of technology can become extremely beneficial if it’s the gateway to something (content or offer) exclusive, only to be seen/accessed through this channel. If anyone can see the same content just by going to the website, I think it devalues the experience.
So, now that we’re on content, let’s turn our attention to that which makes or breaks these experiences – the actual content behind the code/image. All of these 4 brands utilized video in their experience. Makes a lot of sense since video viewing on mobile is a) good and b) expected. I think it’s about the type of video that separates these experiences more than anything. And here, Axe is the winner. The first video you see is an edgy, just-what-you’d-expect-from-Axe video.
I don’t think we’re here yet, but before too long, we’ll be talking about how “on brand” these experiences are. It’s not enough to have this type of technology or video content, it’s going to become about how in line with the brand these experiences are. This sort of content from Axe is definitely “on brand.”
While the others – G2, OnStar, and Lane – included relevant video, there was nothing special about their content. In OnStar’s & Lane’s case, I found the videos to be long, boring, and overall, not compelling.
The actual site from which these videos originated from, and the experience through the code to get to the videos was another point of differentiation. On the positive side, they all sent me to a mobile version of a particular website, be it the product website or a YouTube channel. So, I didn’t have to futz around with navigating through a normal website experience on my mobile phone. That said, the only experience I found to be substantial and complete was the G2 experience. It’s the same experience that I highlighted through another ad last week.
In addition to the video, there are:
Consumer reviews & forums (social component)
It’s really as complete of an experience you can expect.
The OnStar and Axe experiences, on the other hand, were not complete and honestly, pretty underwhelming. They both took me to a YouTube page where the experiences were similar.
The only difference was that through Axe, they asked me to “Subscribe” to the channel first. It was kind of annoying, but from a brand’s standpoint, I think it’s a smart thing to do. It’s a different form of data collection and through the subscription, the consumer experience with the brand doesn’t stop after this particular experience. Every time a video gets uploaded to the channel, all of the subscribers receive a notification and in turn, go watch the video, and you’re they’re that much deeper in the brand’s experience. I think they could have done so much more, though (at the very least, included more of a clear social – other channels – extension).
Lane’s experience included the ability to sign-up for a coupon (which is always a great enticement) via email and aside from the vague (in this case, absent) opt-in language, enables consumers to receive updates and information from Lane beyond this experience.
There are 2 other things about this particular experience that I appreciated:
The ability to find a store close to me. This is a simple utility that offers another channel (the right one, mind you) to drive consumers into the store.
A mobile experience that is only a sub-set of their normal .com website. Consumers don’t need everything a brand offers on their website through their mobile device. Just the right things. Lane has done a good job here.
I think it’s appropriate to say at this point, if you’ve made it this far in the post, THANKS. It’s the longest post ever. I didn’t want to break it up into 2 different posts because the opportunity to view (and review) this many experiences in the same setting hasn’t come along before and I didn’t want to separate any part of my thoughts.
All that said…drumroll please….I think the winner here is G2 and Google Goggles. But this is what I’d expect out of them. It’s their phone and their enabling technology. I’d be surprised and disappointed if it were anything less than this type of experience. The others ranked this way for me:
2. Lane – their offline (on-page) call-to-action was clearer than the other 2 and their online (on-phone) experience was more valuable and simpler.
3. Axe – their experience was the most “on brand” but I expect more out of Axe, all the way around.
4. OnStar – just think they need to spend a little bit more time thinking through the entire experience and paying off their awesome service in a unique way – they can do some interesting things through these enabling technologies, given the capabilities of their own technology.
Again, it made me happy to see so many in one place. I think there is much potential in this sort of technology. Most importantly, it allows for something that would have otherwise NOT been interactive or a 2-way engagement to be so. It’s opens up an entirely new communication channel. But as we can see here, most everyone has a long way to go to make a complete, compelling, valuable experience through this type of engagement.
So, now that I have belabored this in more ways than one, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think???
As I’ve said before here, I think technology has enabled what was once static to become interactive, particularly as it relates to the “OOH” channel, which up until recently has been a static, “offline” advertising and communications channel. On one hand, you have the digital display technology that enables those static ads to become digitized and as a result, more dynamic, relevant, and meaningful (digital signage). Those digital “screens” have become more efficient advertising channels for brands, and can even help push consumers along the purchase journey, depending on their placement in a particular environment. I don’t talk much about that kind of OOH here. In the coming year, I want to put more of a focus on it here, but that aspect of OOH has never excited me to the point that the other aspect has. Which is the other hand – on the other hand, you have various enabling technologies that enable those static ads to become interactive, and as a result, actually engaging. It’s the difference between a 1-way push message (the former) and a 2-way push/pull communication (the latter). One is passive. The other is active. It’s the active that really excites me. So, I’m always looking for examples that do just that – take what was once passive and make active through these enabling technologies.
I’ve noticed many of these examples this year through print ads. Whether it be QR codes or MS Tags, brands have really started experimenting with this type of engagement. By no means has it taken off, but it’s an easy technology to include from a production standpoint, so I suspect to see the trend continue to grow slowly in the coming year. I think we still have a ways to go to reach critical mass, but the consumers who actually recognize these codes and take a picture of them have the opportunity to engage with the brand in a way that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
I came across another such technology in this month’s Wired – Google Goggles. I learned about Google Goggles earlier in the year, and as an Android smartphone owner, it was one of the first apps I downloaded. But I haven’t ever had success with it until now. HTC “enabled” their most recent ad with Google Goggles.
If you’re not familiar with Google Goggles, it’s an image recognition technology that enables you, as a user, to snap a photo of a variety of things – landmarks, logos, print ads to name a few – and then learn more about them through mobile web without “searching.” As with other image reading technologies (like the aforementioned codes), it’s designed to be a convenient way to get information you want about anything in the real world. They’re an ideal technology to bridge the offline (real world) with the online (virtual world).
This particular experience was a good one. HTC, supported by their friends at Google (it runs the Android platform), really thought through this and actually maximized the full potential of creating a deeper experience. Once the picture is scanned, you’re taken to the G2 mobile site (yes, it is a mobile site) where you can:
view multiple angles of the phone (awareness)
learn about all of its features, mostly through copy – there’s 1 video that takes you to YouTube – not a great experience (awareness)
see news releases (awareness)
see reviews – as of tonight, there are no reviews on the site (awareness)
see Twitter feed (awareness)
see G2 Forums (awareness/consideration)
share with your social communities (awareness/consideration)
BUY – via your phone, in the most convenient store, and/or later (consideration/conversion)
Agree with everything everyone said here, but I don’t think the only answer is Google Goggles. Like I said, up until now, I haven’t had a good experience with the application. It’s had a hard time reading the “real world item” and I’ve found QR codes/MS Tags to be more responsive, and ultimately convenient. The one thing about Google Goggles is that it is designed to enable to “wordless search” via image recognition – what happens if you’re a brand and someone takes a photo of your product and through Goggles is taken to a Google search where right there in the first listing is a bad review? It seems like there are elements of the openness of this that could work against the brand instead of for them. What do you guys think? Have you used Google Goggles? I would love to hear about your experience, if so.