Tag Archives: IOOH

Are the Priorities in IOOH vs. SEO?

Google & JC Penney SEO(Photo credit: NY Times)

Over the past year, I’ve kept up with a few brands that I feel have done a good job of utilizing the OOH channel, particularly the “new” OOH channel – where offline is purposefully merged with the online and enabling technologies are at play. One of these brands is JC Penney.

I’ve featured them twice here, and I’ve been impressed with the initiatives they’ve executed in this space. To me, the fact that they use mobile and interactive Out-of-Home (IOOH) shows they understand all of the channels at their disposal and more importantly, that they know this is becoming more and more a preferred and effective way to reach consumers.

So, when then news about their SEO practices surfaced yesterday, I have to say I was surprised. My initial reaction – without asking any experts on SEO – was from the POV of a general digital marketer. How can a company make a decision to utilize emerging channels – mobile and IOOH – but not have a complete grasp on one of the basic (yet complex) fundamentals in their media mix? Or in simpler terms, how can they focus their efforts in building large, in-store touchscreen units rather than getting their SEO right?

It makes me feel – again, upon first blush, and not having any insight into their operation – that someone there doesn’t have their priorities straight. How could this be?

So, I dug a little bit deeper. And in what I read (here and here), the blame seemed to be put more on Penney than not. But did they really know? Or is everyone doing it, just in subtler ways? How can they not have an SEO expert? I started to get more and more interested the deeper I got into it. So, I asked our SEO guy – Ryan Smith – who is also actually one of the cinematographers in our office.  And here’s what he had to say, just by me asking, “what do you think:”

  • Don’t mess with Google, it isn’t worth it 98% of the time.
  • We MUST be able to counsel our clients not to work with shady SEO companies, they will tell you they can provide results and then go out and buy links to do it.  A brand could get burned like this very easily with very little knowledge of what was actually going on. I believe that this was the case for Penney, they can’t even get the URLs of their core pages right.
  • Many SEO’s have often pointed out major hypocrisy of how Google hands out penalties. Major brands have been given passes because they are “vital” to results.  BMW could do anything because if they weren’t in the SERP for “luxury car” Google users would think less of Google.  So I think this says that Penney’s must have been pretty blatantly buying links on a large scale and that Google doesn’t view Penney’s as important to their results.  Also maybe they found a brand to make an example of to get everybody on the straight and narrow without damaging their results.
  • Penalty was confined to several non-branded keywords, if a lesser brand had been buying links on that scale they would have gotten blown out completely.  They still rank fine for anything with JC Penney in the query.
  • This is clearly a manually applied penalty and Matt Cutts said as much.  I can’t remember another time Google pointed to a specific penalty and admitted it was manually applied.  Mostly in the past they have stood on everything being algorithmic to the point that it insulted the intelligence of anything that could fog a mirror.  Interesting they chose to point to manual on this one all of a sudden, might be a bit of branding change from we have the best results because of our algorithm to we have the best results because we work hard at it.
  • JC Penney spends between $12 and $40k a day on Adwords, according to Spyfu.com.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you Adwords has a direct link to your organic rankings.

Good stuff. I could probably expand on each one of the points above, but I don’t want to get into SEO-specifics here.

My personal takeaway is this – it’s less about JC Penney knowing whether or not this was going on (but seriously, how can a company of this size not know what’s going on on this scale, especially with their monitoring and even warnings???). It’s more about the seeming oversight of not having an SEO expert in-house/on-staff in some form or fashion – someone who would have directed, caught, and presumably fixed the tactics. And more importantly, someone who is accountable.

This is one of the hurdles this (D/I)OOH channel/industry faces – a consistent champion, from the agency and brand side, who will be accountable. Right now, I feel like the (D/I)OOH industry is fed by brands/agencies who are risk-takers. This is still an emerging/experimental channel, not a tried-and-true one like online paid/organic media. But the problem is, when there aren’t specialists who can take responsibility of those tried-and-true channels like SEO, when will there ever be specialist who can champion channels like (D/I)OOH?

I know I’m being a little dramatic, but it does give me pause, especially when looking at a brand holistically, not just in the interest of one channel over the other. I think it’s our responsibility, as marketers/communicators, to understand how each of the channels work together – especially when emerging channels like (D/I)OOH & mobile are at play – and then provide counsel accordingly. As much as we can. We must do this. Our executions, particularly in the emerging channels, will be made stronger and more credible. And that’s what it’s going to take to become sticky, when reaching consumers while they’re out and about – strong stories from strong brands. Who consumers can trust.

Friday’s 4-1-1, Looking Ahead to 2011 Style

Happy Friday, everyone! Another week is over and we’re one more closer to the end of the year. I can’t believe it. It’s getting to be the time where the mad rush starts to “wrap things up” this year and everyone starts to look forward to the new year. I find this time of year to be both exciting and maddening because of this month-long dance between effort and anticipation. I’m choosing anticipation for this week’s Friday 4-1-1, coming at you with a first look at other’s looks into 2011.

1.  2011, A Tipping Point for DOOH? – very well rounded post from Ken Goldberg at Neocast.  From someone who does not operate within the DOOH industry (particularly the media side of things), it sure does already seem like we’ve reached that tipping point. Look around and note how many digital screens you see. On my morning commute alone, I see 1 at the courthouse, 1 at a church, 1 on the train, 1 in my office building lobby, 1 in the elevator, and 1 on our office floor. Everywhere I turn, there’s a screen with content. I feel like consumer’s expectations are to see physical digital screens around them more often than not. Now, the question to me is: is 2011 going to be the tipping point for “everything’s a screen” and “Interactive Out-of-Home (IOOH)”?

2.  A True Outsider’s Prediction of 2011 – this post comes from someone that has no affiliation to the OOH/DOOH industry. Dave Snyder at digital/tech agency, Firstborn, presented one of the first “looks” at 2011 in one of my favorite publications. The entire list is worth reading, but the couple that I focused on:

Privacy – “we will say goodbye to privacy. Actually that happened long ago, it’s just that people will stop caring.”….This is one of the big concerns about truly targeted place-based advertising – how creepy and invasive the thought of it is. My thought is aligned with Dave’s. People like to complain about it, but I’m not convinced that they really care. They want their lives to be made easier and more convenient, and if that involves giving up more and more of their privacy, so be it. I don’t know if people will ever “embrace” it completely, at least not for the foreseeable future, but I think they’ll “accept” it. They already have to a large extent.

Flash vs. HTML 5 – this is big, too, to the DOOH industry. Much of the moving content in digital screens is created in Flash. Now, HTML 5 opens up possibilities that don’t have some of the handcuffs that Flash has, particularly in terms of compatibility. Who cares? Consumers don’t care. They just want to see moving, dynamic content. We – on the storytelling side – can’t lose site of the most important thing – telling the story in the most compelling way. The story’s the thing, not the technology to create and deliver it.

Frivolous Technologies – ie QR codes – agree and disagree with him on this. More and more, QR codes are being introduced to the mass public by big brands. Will they stay? Or will they evolve into something else? Don’t know. But to me, the most important thing here – these types of technologies are not frivolous. They serve a critical need in today’s ecosystem by connecting the offline (real-world) with the online (virtual-world). I hope 2011 will be the year of the shakeout with these technologies (will there by 1 universal code or will codes begin to have similar, more comprehensive capabilities, will readers automatically be installed on all phones???), but I sure do hope they don’t disappear. Personally, I don’t see it happening.

3.  11 Consumer Trends for 2011 – this time brought to us by TrendWatching.com. Shout out to them for noting that trends don’t begin/end on a particular date. They evolve. Hope you get that message here, too.  #1 “Trend” – Random Acts of Kindness. This is great because at the core is the idea that people are good and appreciate appreciation. This requires connections – between people themselves and between brands with people. Particularly important to the OOH industry because it’s this connection – this real connection – that people crave, not dynamic, place-based ads. It’s the 2-way communication that they appreciate, not the 1-way push. It’s knowing, and seeing via action, that “someone’s on the other end,” not the dreaded black hole of awareness-driven, self-serving advertising. It’s the purposeful engagement that really matters.

Another trend mentioned – Pricing Pandemonium. This section of the report talks about “always-on technology” and “connecting consumers to deals closer to the point of sale,” but never mentions any other screen than the mobile screen. True digital signage can make this new type of experience even more dynamic, working in concert with the mobile phone. I really think that the reason physical screens are not being mentioned by almost anyone outside of the industry is that a) we don’t really need them and/or b) the screens up right now are not providing the type of value to make others notice. Yes, they’re everywhere, but are they effective?

4.  What our phones will be in 2011? – watch and drool:

Bringing every-surface-can-be-turned-on-and-made-into-a-screen right to your pocket. Doubt we’ll see something like this in 2011, but what will these devices be like a year from now, and more importantly, what kind of effect will they have on the places and things around us?

“Uh-huh” – I’m big on infographics and becoming big on the idea of data visualization. I presented a version of this infographic a few weeks ago – my vision of the components that make up any OOH initiative and insofar as the overlap goes, some of the finer things to think about when planning.

Out of Home modelBut this week, I found the infographics of all infographics and its focus is on data visualization. INTENSE –

For a complete explanation, check this out. It’s smart and makes a lot of sense, once you get over the overwhelming feeling. So, I ask myself the question – what if I turned mine into something like this? What “components” would each one of the sections of overalap result in? I think it could get real interesting.

“Duh” – I talked to my team this past week about reflecting on the last year and specifically taking note of everything they’ve accomplished. As is the case for many of us, it’s been a long and trying year, but certainly not without reward. I find it easy to get bogged down in the disappointments and/or struggles that will inevitably be there each and every day, but it’s important to recognize the good things, the accomplishments, the blessings that we have experienced in our lives over the past year.

Well, as always, I’d love to hear any of your thoughts. Just drop me a comment or a tweet, whatever you’re comfortable with. Thanks, again, for reading. Have a great weekend!

Out & About: Kohl’s Kiosk

Remember those boots that I talked about my wife finding at JC Penney, the last time I wrote an Out & About (their “Find More” kiosk)? Well, they really didn’t work out – they weren’t the right boots. So, the past couple of weeks have been “mission-on” again to find the right boots. She/we’ve searched offline and online at virtually every store to find these boots, and finally, at our local Kohl’s, we found what seemed to be a solid substitute – the perfect combination of style, color, versatility, and something that can’t be overlooked insofar as women’s shoes go – price. As was the case at JC Penney, while my wife found boots, I found another example of Interactive Out-of-Home (IOOH) – the Kohl’s Kiosk.

This was some kiosk, if you ask me. They seem to be getting better and better, the more I see. My first impression was positive, but I had to put it up against the scorecard to get the full picture. So, let’s take a look.

Purpose – the common purpose for all of these in-store kiosks is to obviously drive the consumer to purchase. Those are the table stakes – you want to put a kiosk like this in a store – how is going to help the store drive sales? Once that question is answered, I think it’s important to also understand if & how the kiosks are making the shopping experience easier for the consumer and in any way, making the life of the store employee better. It stands to reason that if the kiosk accomplishes those goals, they’re going to drive a fair amount of sales. So, it is here – both in making the consumer’s experience easier and the employee’s life better. These kiosks are a price-checker, in-store catalog, and check-out machine all in one. What else do you need, other than human-to-human contact? This is an element that shouldn’t be overlooked, but I think now more than ever, consumers are more purposeful shoppers vs. casual shoppers. They know what they want and don’t need a lot of help & interaction when they’re in this mindset. All they really need is the Kohl’s Kiosk.

Drama – I think these are fabricated and located just right. They’re not obnoxious in their form, but they’re prominent and noticeable. They don’t block any major traffic areas, but they’re convenient to access via those major traffic areas. In our local Kohl’s, I saw 2 of these kiosks (1 in the shoe department, 1 near the frames), and they were both next to/facing the isle, and whether or not you were looking, you were bound to notice them. The smart thing in their form – they occupy space from floor to ceiling, all of the interaction points are well-placed (touchscreen at eye/torso level and price-scanning/check-out at waist level), and include multiple awareness points (high above the clothes and fixtures, there is a 4-sided “Kohl’s Kiosk” sign and again, at eye level, there is a looping animation with a clear “Touch Screen” indicator/call-to-action). Everything about the form and placement seems to be well thought-out and purposeful.

Usability – blah. I understand that these kiosks need to access the real-time database and as a result, are going to run a little bit slower than I’d like. This is probably not an issue to the average consumer. All in all, considering the vast inventory, it wasn’t bad at all. I just hate seeing the arrow & hourglass. They modified this experience from their website experience, namely to adjust to the touchscreen form. The buttons were big enough and spaced out nicely. The information was presented in a clear, easy-to-use way, and the navigation was intuitive (no different than a good web experience). I also liked the fact that they had a global navigation menu docked to the bottom of the screen that allows the user to access any of the main categories in a click.

Interactivity – this was a single user, single touch experience and for the most part, the touchscreen was responsive. The true value in this kiosk, for me, comes in the form of the other interactive elements, aside from its touchscreen. Consumers have the ability to take any piece of merchandise with a UPC tag and scan it. In return, they’ll see the price, the quantity, and where in-store it’s located. In addition, to take it one step further, if the consumer wants to pay out via credit/debit card straight from the kiosk, they have that ability to do that, too. Important to note – this means that these systems must tie to the store’s POS system, which means there is a level of complexity and integration to the solution, which means this was not an afterthought. Impressive.

Information – A+ on all of the product information and access to the in-store and online merchandise. If you want it at Kohl’s, you can get it through this kiosk. But I’m still not seeing a consistent social integration through these. There are many ways to approach this, from being able to access the brand’s social presences, to allowing the consumer to “like” a particular product, to letting them “share this” to their own social communities after purchasing a product, to consumer/social reviews. I hope to see more of this type of content in future iterations of these in-store experiences.

Personalization – no real personalization to speak of through the kiosks, but they have an incredible opportunity to do something special via a loyalty program or simply through their credit cards. The card-scanning mechanism is already in place. With a couple of back-end hooks, they could make this a unique experience for their most loyal customers.

Hands-down, this is the most versatile in-store kiosk I’ve seen this year. I think it should be a model for retailers who are considering one of these in their store. I anticipate seeing more social integration in the coming year. An interesting thought that hit me this morning – I’ve seen and reviewed experiences like this in stores like Walmart, Target, JC Penney, and Kohl’s – staples in middle-class America shopping. Exposing these consumers to technology like this and getting them comfortable with it not only shows confidence in what they consumer will do/interact with, it is also gives us hope that this could be something that is adopted by the masses sooner rather than later.

Have you seen any of these kiosks? What were your impressions? Would love to hear them!

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!

Friday’s 4-1-1, Introspection Style

I’m now on my way back home after an intense couple of days at CETW.  Conferences are hard, especially if you have day jobs, which almost everyone does.  Unfortunately, time doesn’t stand still when you’re in the four walls of that convention center.  The machine keeps going.

The conference was good.  These guys put on a quality show and they’ve been good to me (as has the DSE!).  I met more real smart people this time who have been in the industry for a long time – Lyle Bunn, Bradley Walker, David Drain, Ken Goldberg (finally), Dusty Lutz and Bob Martin (the latter were both on my session panel) to name a few.  These guys are true industry leaders and they have a wealth of experience and knowledge from which to learn.  Saw my pal, Dave H. from Preset, couldn’t ever hook up with my pal, David W. from Preset, and missed my pal, Paul from Preset.  Pat – where are you, man?  From a relationship standpoint, it was another fantastic experience.  There’s nothing like face-to-face interaction, despite the power of Twitter.

I felt like I struck a nice balance between attending sessions and spending time with the exhibitors on the showroom floor.  For the first time, I feel like I was able to be productive with the exhibitors, thanks to my OOH model.  For someone like me, who gets overwhelmed with so many players and so many different components (to bring a network to life), simple models like this help me break information down to the point I can actually do something with it.  Getting back to what I said last week about providing value, it was important for me to do more with my posts from this conference than I’ve previously done.  So, the model enabled me to get down to the real nut of what those exhibitors offer and start highlighting some of them in a new series called “Supplier Spotlight.”  Also, the way I’ve recapped the sessions has always felt a little off for me.  More than anything, it’s been an exercise in recording and posting.  But now I’ve added a short section at the end of each recap that synthesizes a couple of key points that I took away from the session.  I’ve already started receiving some good feedback on that addition, which means we’re on the right track.

But then, there was my panel, “Strategy First:  Incorporating Digital/Interactive OOH into Your Campaign Strategy.”  In my opinion, it was an #epicfail.  So, today’s 4-1-1 is all about reflecting on the session, and recognizing what I believe to be the downfalls, and on the flipside, the opportunities that we can take away from it.

1.  What I wanted to talk about and what this audience wanted to hear were 2 totally different things – there are many digital signage network operators (meaning, those who run an entire network of screens) at this show who are looking for tips, advice, guidance, and a sound “strategy” (I feel like this is becoming a lame word now) on how to fill their screens with good content and advertisements (the two are married.)  They don’t want to hear my talking about how everything’s a screen.  They want to hear about their screen and how to make it better so they can make money.  Thank goodness I had Bob Martin on the panel from RMG because he provided great information to this audience.  Everyone else on the panel, and our thoughts, muddied the water more than anything.

2.  The panel’s diversity was a barrier and did not work well for this discussion – as I said, Bob provided the most relevant POV for this particular audience.  I don’t know that I would recommend having so many panelists (total of 4) for any session because time flies and we all have a lot to say.  So, cutting the actual size of the panel down would have helped, but more than anything, if we were to bring different POVs from different agencies again, I think the session needs to be framed as something that is “new” and “experiential” and not geared to digital signage networks.  It’s more about the “cool” things you can do outside of the home.  If that were that were the expectation of our session, I feel like we would have delivered much more value.

3.  I have a clearly different view of OOH/DOOH/IOOH than the majority of the “industry” – I am not a digital signage guy.  Networks and operators and IT make my head want to explode. I’m an experience guy.  I’m focused on engaging consumers, literally outside of the home, through technology in a way that drives connections and meaningful experiences with the brand.  I don’t believe you need actual “screens” to do this because technology has enabled everything around us to become a screen.  I can do a better job of separating the two – DOOH, as in “digital signage” and “networks” and IOOH, as in “experiences away from those specific ‘screens.’”  I tend to mix the two here and it’s an important distinction to make.

4.  DOOH as in “digital signage” and “networks” is a powerful advertising and communications channel – these physical screens can be installed at critical locations along the consumer’s purchase journey.  Coupled with the right content, these networks truly do touch people where they are, when they need it.  On location alone, they can most efficiently target consumers like no other channel, even mobile.  Right now, mobile requires a level of “active” participation to truly target in the right place and the right time.  Just by being there, DOOH/digital signage can passively target efficiently and effectively (that’s a fun sentence!)

“Uh-huh” – I believe in the power of these channels, both “DOOH/digital signage” and the new “OOH.”  I believe both will succeed.  Digital signage networks can make a brand’s advertisements work less for a larger return.  But everything around us will be interactive sooner or later, so we have to prepare for that, too.  It’s important to recognize that the OOH canvas is vast, virtually untapped, and before we know it, will be completely interactive.  We won’t need actual screens to form an OOH network.  Buildings and sidewalks and tables will be a network.  More importantly, as is the case now, consumers will be a network.  These two elements will have a profound impact on the DOOH industry.  I think physical screens can still be an important part of the ecosystem, they just have to become smarter.  They need to work together with all of the other touch points, including consumers with each other, to be that much more meaningful.  This is daunting.  The people who figure this out first will win, and I think we’re still a few years away from crowning the winner.

“Duh” – the right type of agencies and people within those agencies, namely account and media planners, need to be at this conference, talking to these smart, super-experienced people.  If they can’t come to the physical conference right now, they should have access to the content.  This is an easy challenge to solve with today’s technology.  In my opinion, it will be a more difficult proposition to actually get the word out to these particular agency members than it will be to work through the logistics of distributing the content.  Perhaps an invite-only session/roundtable geared specifically for them?  If we crack that nut, I believe opportunities will flow.

Anyway, I have to thank Lawrence and team, again, for their hospitality and kindness.  It’s always great to be around all of these people.  For those of you who weren’t able to be here, I hope these posts helped.  Love to hear your thoughts on any of these, as you have them.  Have a great weekend!

Table Top Media Chosen for PepsiCo’s Incubator Program

Before FH, I worked with a start-up company called Table Top Media as a consultant, of sorts. I was never employed by them, but I had the privilege of working closely with their senior leadership for a few months. Last week, I heard some great news that should help put them on the map and hopefully, get their product in front of people sooner rather than later.

First, just a bit about the company and the product – Table Top Media is a company based here in Dallas that was started by a restaurateur, Jack Baum. They developed a product called the “Ziosk” that was designed to facilitate a more convenient check-out process for patrons in casual dining restaurants. This Ziosk is a small, wireless touchscreen kiosk that sits on each table in the dining room and allows patrons to access their receipt and pay via credit/debit card right there at the table. It’s a smart concept. How many times have you waited at a restaurant for your server to come and swipe your card at the end of your meal? As a father of 3 little ones, when our meal is over, it’s time to leave. Often times, though, we’re held hostage by the restaurant because the server is too busy to get us our check and pay us out IMMEDIATELY after we’ve finished our meal. Ziosk takes that waiting out of the mix.

But the Ziosk goes way beyond this specific utility. The platform, itself, (TTM designs and produces the hardware and software) is flexible enough to be turned into a straight-up utility machine, integrating with the restaurant’s POS, complete with interactive menus, ordering capabilities, timed drink/food requests (based on the original order), and loyalty program tie-ins. Or it can be turned into a more experience-type machine, complete with up-to-date news feeds, sports scores, interactive games and entertainment (especially for kids my little ones’ ages, this feature infinitely improves our dining experience), and social features, be it geo-location integration, Facebook and Twitter feeds, or even cross-store, cross-region gaming and communication. Not to mention unique advertising opportunities, both for the restaurant and other 3rd party advertisers/brands. It’s a very cool product – check it out:

The major barrier they face is obviously an operational one – these casual dining restaurants are being forced to think about their workflow differently and opening up more of a gateway to their infrastructure.  It also has server (waiter) implications being that this machine can do many of their functions.  Ironically, it can free them (and the restaurant for that matter) up to do what they need to, like make sure food is good and drinks are filled.

Anyway….the good news – this year, PepsiCo launched a program for start-ups called PepsiCo10, a “incubator program that matches technology, media and communications entrepreneurs with PepsiCo brands for pilot programs” – and last week, announced that Table Top Media was one of the 10 chosen start-ups for the program! This is, no doubt, huge for them. They’ve worked long and hard to get traction and this should give them a platform to show the power and potential of their product.

This is a true IOOH solution and really, a device that makes sense. I’ve seen (and reviewed here) many that don’t, but the Ziosk serves a useful purpose and can add to the dining experience. This is something that I would interact with myself and tell other people about. It deserves a chance and now, thanks to all their hard work and perseverance, they might just be getting the “big one” through this program.

Disclaimer – TTM did not ask me to write this and I am not getting paid to do so.  I am writing this because I believe in their product and I’m always happy to hear and spread good news.

Friday’s 4-1-1, Preset Style

Happy Friday, everyone.  Time for Friday’s 4-1-1.  Many of my readers know the guys at The Preset Group.  Since the beginning of the year, I’ve gotten to know each of them fairly well.  They’ve been very good to me, and all of my experiences with them – collectively and individually – have been more than pleasant.  Real good guys.  Solid minds, too.  This week, I’ve had various interactions with them and they just produce such good content, so I’m going to be an aggregator of sorts.

1.  Sixteen:Nine and rAVe Work New Partnership – Two very bright guys in the digital signage/DOOH space have partnered together to essentially bring us double-great thinking in 1 location.  I’ve sat in quite a few press “quarters” with Dave and we’ve had some good discussions.  I even had the privilege of speaking on a panel with him earlier in the year.  He’s probably the most knowledgable person in the space I’ve met.  And I’ve seen Gary go through one of his presentations.  Dynamic guy.  Knowledgable, too.  This is a powerhouse of knowledge.  I think all who follow each of them just benefited greatly, whether or not they know it right now.  Soon, they will.

2.  Mark Cuban’s Views on the Fan Experience – David Weinfeld wrote a piece earlier in the week about how Mark Cuban views the importance of creating an “experience” (similar to a wedding) for fans at sporting events (in this case, HIS sporting events).  As David points out in this article, digital signage and the physical things around us have great potential in sporting venues.  Cuban gets this, too.  I think the power of mobile, though, (as David and I discussed) is extending the experience beyond the actual venue.  The brand (in this case, let’s say the Mavericks) should recognize that the venue (digital signage or not) and mobile are merely channels to extend their story.  The question is not “which technology do I use to create an experience at a particular place?” but really, “how do I tell my brand’s story at a particular place on a particular piece of technology?”

3.  What Do You Reach for in the Morning? – Paul does these down-and-dirty surveys on his blog every so often and this week, he wants to find out why people use their mobile phones.  If you haven’t taken it, go over there and do it.  It will take 1 minute of your time.  Literally.  Mobile is definitely a gateway between the offline and online worlds that I so often talk about.  Next up on the survey list should be, now that we know how you use mobile, do you integrate it with other mediums/channels?

4.  The Advertising Slogan Generator – From Paul’s Twitter feed, it is what it says it is (and yes, I know, not the first of its kind).  Enter a word, see your advertising slogan.  I smell an idea perfect for interactive signage, both at the aforementioned sports venue or in a densely populated environment – transit, wait – whatever.  Text your word in, see your slogan on the big screen.  Simple idea.  Engaging.  Multiple extensions, including commerce.  How hard was that?

“Uh-huh” – Bad Digital Signage Projects Hurt Us All – Dear All DOOH Decision Makers (Advertisers and Agencies) – Don’t Suck.  I say this tongue-in-cheek, but seriously, count the number of DOOH/IOOH installations that have made sense vs. the ones that haven’t.  Overwhelmingly weighted on the haven’t-made-sense side.

“Duh” –  See above.  Case in point for a head scratcher.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday’s 4-1-1, Mobile-Style

It’s Friday and time for the 2nd Friday 4-1-1 series.  This installation is all about mobile, particularly the specific enabling technologies associated with mobile that have an opportunity to make brand interaction richer & deeper when coupled with OOH/DOOH/IOOH.  If you’re a new reader, I think there is a difference between what makes “digital” Out of Home and “interactive” Out of Home – “digital” is made possible through display technology, “interactive” is made possible through enabling technologies.  These technologies enable deeper interaction with a brand and its OOH/DOOH installation.  You can think of it like this:

Enabling technology (and there are many of them) + OOH/DOOH = IOOH (Interactive Out of Home)

Display technology + OOH = DOOH

My premise is “Digital” Out of Home cannot be made interactive without any of these enabling technologies.  So, today, I’ll focus on 3 mobile enabling technologies – augmented reality, geo-location, and of course, QR codes.  Here’s the 4-1-1:

1.  Facebook Places Propels SCVNGR to 100,000 Downloads in 48 Hours – reality check, first of all – the “general” consumer doesn’t use geo-location apps like FourSquare, much less a new app like SCVNGR.  The penetration numbers for “digital” users who use geo-location apps are low (~4% according to Forrester).  However, I believe there is loads of potential for geo-location apps like FourSquare, Gowalla, FB Places, and SCVNGR (and the others).  These apps really enable a feature that I believe is core to a brand’s success in the new “Out of Home” space – reaching consumers where they are (out of home) and driving deep(er) engagement with the brand.  There are few brands who have really figured out how best to do this, but there are many who are experimenting.  As far as SCVNGR goes, their platform is really based on the idea of a Scavenger Hunt – users go around to different places (called “Treks”), when there, they have to complete a challenge, get rewarded via points, and then ultimately get rewarded with badges.  For brands, this platform is significant because it’s a built-out mobile platform, specifically intended to provide challenge-based scavenger hunt game-play experiences.  Yes, you can pretty much do the same thing with FourSquare (you have to work through FourSquare) and Gowalla (users themselves can set up “trips”), but they weren’t built for this very thing (neither of them are based on “challenges”).  In my opinion, it’s a better way to reward consumers who are loyal enough to your brand to go through a challenge-based scavenger hunt (again, outside of their home) vs. just checking in repeatedly at a single place.

2.  Four Seasons Joins Geo-Social Gold Rush With California Campaign – I’ve put together a number of campaigns with Gowalla – it’s not the Austin-based connection that I am high on with them, it’s really the experience they provide vs. FourSquare.  (In fairness, if I could put together any geo-location-based campaign, regardless of budget/time constraints, I would probably look at using both of them, but Gowalla is easier/more accommodating to work with.  FourSquare has sheer numbers, Gowalla has a more engaging experience, particularly on the brand side, in my opinion.)  So, it was nice to read about a brand like Four Seasons hopping on the geo-location bandwagon.  Again, this is yet another example of a brand driving engagement with consumers while they’re out and about, going through their normal day-to-day activities.  Who would have ever thought that just by “checking in” some place through your mobile phone, you could get rewarded with a hotel-stay voucher.

3.  Toys “R” Us Unveils Multichannel Mobiel CRM Tactics – here’s my QR code example this week.  Only problem with this is that it’s launching in Hong Kong only.  At least right now.  Solid concept though – targeted at their loyalty card holders, those loyal consumers can unlock exclusive content through these “R” (what Toys R Us is calling them) codes and from the sounds of it, with each scan, can earn more “loyalty” points, which is of benefit to them with real-world merchandise.  QR codes are commonplace in that part of the world, so I suspect this is going to be widely used.  Hopefully, the campaign will make its way here and even more hopefully, US consumers will actually know what to do when they see this weird code in front of them.

4.  Augmented Reality Campaign for Lustucru Pasta in 500 Supermarkets – pasta + a martian + tomatoes + Augmented Reality = AWESOME.  Forget about checking into places, whoever thought they could play a game with a martian just by purchasing a box of pasta?  Augmented Reality has come so far in a few short months.  Now, instead of needing a black-bound box that serves as a marker and a webcam, all you need is an AR application on your mobile phone.  It’s really unbelievable.  For this, though, I guess the question is, “does this drive more sales?”  Don’t know.  After I play the game, would I want to play it again?  Does it build?  Is there anything deeper?  If so, it could be the reason that I’d want to continue buying this pasta when I need pasta.  If not, on the surface, it’s a good engagement, but what does it do to achieve longer-terms goals?  It makes me smile, though.  Check it out:

“Uh-huh” – Reggie Bush hit the Holy Grail by combining geo-location (FourSquare) with social media (Twitter/Facebook) and the real-world (with StickyBits).  This is the perfect combination of driving Reggie Bush-brand engagement through the use of various mediums/channels, including a strong OOH play.  Basically, Reggie used FourSquare like a scavenger-hunt service (should have used SCVNGR!) so that fans could find autographed footballs around the city of New Orleans in anticipation of last night’s opening NFL game.  They could then attach messages to StickyBits for Reggie.  Great cross-channel program.

Before I get into this week’s “Duh,” I’ll say this – I think that “OOH” as a media channel has changed drastically in the past few years.  My definition of “OOH” is “anything that the user doesn’t have to own to have an experience with.”  In these cases, a user needs a mobile phone, but the point in which that experience originates is always OOH and from something that they don’t need to own – checking in at a location doesn’t require you to own the location, using a QR code doesn’t require you to own the QR code, and even playing a game from a box of pasta doesn’t require you to necessarily own the box of pasta.  Lines are certainly more grey than they used to be in terms of “OOH” and it’s in this grey area that I believe lives the 11th Screen.

Now, my “Duh” – it’s not an example this week, it’s a piece of advice based on a few experiences that I’ve had this week.  Slow down.  Life and work move very fast and most often, we make decisions in split seconds.  Those decisions can have a profound impact on other people and your own work (substitute “life” with “work” if you want to).  There is nothing wrong with slowing down, taking a deep breath, having a think on it, and then moving forward.

I hope you guys have a great weekend.  Would love to hear anything you’ve got to say about any of this.  Just shout!

My First Friday 4-1-1

In an effort to write more regularly, I’m going to implement something that every other blogger on the planet does – a regular series.  It’s called the Friday 4-1-1.  And here’s how it breaks down:

Each week, on Friday, I’ll highlight 4 stories/events/implementations that I’ve seen during that week and give my impressions.  On top of that, I’ll highlight the best “uh-huh” (rockin’) thing I’ve seen and the worst “duh” (what were they thinking?) thing I’ve seen.  And we’ll see how it works.  So, here we go.

1. Interactive Technology to Enhance Museum Experience – an affiliate museum of the Smithsonian, The Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture in Washington state, is piloting a “Passport to Discovery” project that sounds a lot like the myLOC passport system (set up in the Library of Congress).  Solid idea – make the user’s experience smarter each time they visit, based on their actions/interactions from the last visit, but my question is – how much of a pain is it to keep track of a passport-like tchotchke?  I would either lose it, forget it, or be annoyed that I have to sift through my catch-all drawer every time I need it.  Tie this into the one thing that people keep track of and don’t leave home without – their mobile phone – and you have something.

2. Google Introduces Branded Map Icons – simple – brands can now “brand” their locations into Google maps.  For OOH/DOOH/IOOH, brands can benefit in a major way.  They not only benefit from the brand recognition when Google maps is integrated into a digital/interactive sign, they benefit from the native functionality that allows users to automatically click-through to details about the brand.  I’m big on driving deeper brand experiences through all mediums, particularly OOH/DOOH/IOOH, and this is an example of an API unlocking that feature.  This feature has been available before now, but for a brand, there is a big difference from their location being tagged by a grey dot and being tagged by their logo, especially on an interactive sign, when you want to make it as enticing as possible.  Of course, this feature is only available to paying brands (using this as a form of advertising).  :)

3. Eye Expands Mobile Marketing at Malls, Sans “Big Brother” Effect – this is cool, but I just wonder for the end-consumer, if they make any distinction with geo-location ads.  The average consumer probably thinks it’s still creepy, regardless of “how” it’s done.  EYE and Ace Marketing & Promotions are working a system based on phone proximity, nothing GPS-related.  Here’s where I think digital/interactive signage (I don’t even think you’d need a “digital” sign) serves an ideal purpose – the sign is the bridge between the smart-but-creepy ad and the not-knowing-and-wary consumer.  Imagine in a mall, you walk up to a sign that lets you know what to expect on your phone – in terms of store advertisements – just because you’re “in the area.”  Viola, without doing anything other than being in that place, you’re pleasantly delighted when you look at your phone and see that Gap is having a sale on jeans.  You don’t walk away creeped out.  We need as much of this “non-creepy” interaction/advertising as possible right now – it will only help in the acceptance of digital/interactive signs (that have the potential to be very smart).

4.  Seahawks Utilize iPad Kiosks for Fan Registration – first, I can’t wait for football to begin next Thursday.  Second, anytime interactive technology and football are mentioned in the same sentence, my ears perk up.  So, I was delighted to read about the Seattle Seahawks building kiosks with iPads to “register over 20,000 fans” at their training camp this summer.  Sounds like they were also able to allow the fans to experience some premier content, which I would fully expect on devices like that.  I think this is a great, relatively cost-effective solution to explore when wanting an interactive out-of-home solution.  Take a $800 sophisticated piece of hardware & software, build a nice unit around it and you have yourself a feature-rich, well-functioning IOOH solution.

“Uh-huh” – I give this the “uh-huh” head nod each time I see it.  Imagine what could be done with this interactive film – The Wilderness Downtown – in an out-of-home setting?  Not only would the current iteration be sticky enough for people to stop, interact, and gather around, it sure would be cool to integrate the point where people are interacting with it and the point where they ultimately go (their hometown house).  That idea goes against what I said earlier about the “creepiness” factor, but it would be cool.

“Duh” – I don’t know if this is the right word for this category.  Nor do I know if it’s a “what were they thinking” category.  I just know it’s opposite of the cool, “uh-huh” category.  But this week’s installment of the un-cool comes in the form of QR codes.  And not one specific implementation.  Just as an overall solution.  I saw this one and this one, not to mention this one in a magazine I was reading:

Now, look, there’s not another enabling technology that I’ve written about more than QR codes, but the more I learn, read, see, not to mention actually work with QR codes and other mobile technologies, the more I question whether or not the average consumer knows what the heck to do with them.  It’s all about the audience – the JFK/Twitter example will probably get more interaction because Twitter, in and of itself, does not attract the “average” consumer, but I just might be at the point of QR code over saturation.  Good to see so many examples this year, but are they working?  Jury is still way out.

So, there you have it.  My first Friday 4-1-1.  What do you think?

Out & About: DFW Airport’s Touch Screen

I recently travelled to/from Detroit and saw various IOOH experiences in both airports (Detroit & DFW).  I’m always trying to catch standby on earlier flights out of Detroit so I have yet to stop and capture those IOOH experiences.  I’ve seen two different ones there and every time I’ve gone by each of them (since last October), no one is interacting with them.  I keep telling myself that next time I’m here, I’m going to capture them.  Next time.

When I got back to Dallas, I passed these touchscreen experiences in the baggage claim area.  I’ve passed these thousands of times and just like Detroit, I haven’t ever seen anyone interact with them.  So I decided this night, I would give them a run and see what they had to offer.

Some good, some bad.  Let’s break it down.

Purpose – clearly, the purpose is to help travelers find “things to do” in the DFW area – Accomodations, Dining, Transportation, Shopping, and City Attractions.  I think this is a good idea, but I wish each category had more content.  From the standpoint of accomplishing its purpose, I’d say it halfway did because it shows me things to do, but it doesn’t show me everything I can do.  It suffers from a lack of deep content.

Drama – well, as you can see by the entire, wall-length unit, there’s no missing the fact that this is the place to find information about the area.  The screens within the unit get lost, but I do like the fact that there is a big, static map.  That, in and of itself, could attract visitors, then they’d see the touchscreen.  Once they see that, even though it’s up in the top corner, there’s a blinking red call-to-action enticing (doesn’t it scream enticing) people to “Select a Category.”

Usability – this is a web-based experience and the paths throughout the experience were linear.  There is only one way to go until you dead-end and even then, you only have a few options (Learn More, Print, etc..).  It’s simple.  This type of experience is good for the everyday visitor/user.  If anyone ever interacted with this thing, I have to believe they could navigate where they wanted to go pretty easily.

Interactivity – this was touch-based only (single-touch) and was very responsive.  Once I got into the experience, I wish everything (like the map) was “clickable” but for the most part, this reacted exactly as I would expect.

Information – this is where I feel the experience really fell down.  If this is to enable visitors to find the things to do in DF, it doesn’t completely deliver.  It certainly doesn’t deliver on the best things to do in DFW (which would be a great category).  As you can see, the first hotel area that I selected didn’t have any listings.  This isn’t right.  I’m not completely familiar with airport/city partnerships, but the DFW metropolitan area has multiple websites from which to pull the information for this experience – any of them would make this experience richer than it is.  The one nice surprise was on one of the “Transportation” printouts.  Using this kiosk, I am able to redeem the printout for $2.00 off on my return trip.  In theory, this is a good way to get repeat service, but they are missing a huge opportunity for business by not advertising this deal in this experience.  I wouldn’t have known that I could get this discount if I didn’t randomly select this particular path.  (It would also be a great way to get people to interact with the entire experience – other companies could offer the same thing.)

Personalization – this discount ticket was the extent of personalization in this experience.  It’s a step in the right direction, but as a user, if I don’t know that this offer is waiting for me, I’m likely not going to ever see it.

As a bonus, I stopped by a kiosk at the end of the “Welcome to DFW” unit to see what it had to offer, and as you can see, it’s different content.  I question whether or not they need to be different or if they could just be lumped into the same experience.  From an experience standpoint, it could easily be integrated and not hamper the current experience.

All told, interactive touchscreens with this sort of information in airports are a great idea.  But the execution here is lacking on a number of fronts.  Pull me to it, attract me, give me an impression of the city by this experience, and make me want to find out this sort of information through this channel vs. something like my mobile phone.  Yes?