Tag Archives: Macy’s

Believe in Macy’s Augmented Reality *Magical* Experience

Macy's Christmas Story

For anyone creating or thinking about creating an experience with any sort of enabling technology, look no further than Macy’s. With their new Believe-o-Magic Augmented Reality experience, they show us that when you use new technologies like this:

1. Don’t let the entire experience hinge on this technology

2. Do what you can to extend something that already exists

3. Anything that creates an emotional tie between people and/or people and a brand has a pretty good chance of use and success.

Macy’s hits at the heart of a deep cornerstone of Christmas – every little boy and girl’s belief in Santa Claus and the magic wrapped up in the whole wonder. And this year, they’re doing it through emerging technology. Beautiful.

I have written about Macy’s a few times before, primarily because of their Behind the Scenes QR Code campaign. I really liked what they did with that campaign in terms of using all their channels to raise awareness and promote the actual program. Their broadcast spots supported it, their social media efforts supported it, even their in-store supported it. It was a seemingly well-thought out campaign as opposed to so many that we see that seem like afterthoughts.

So, it made me smile when I saw their foray into another enabling technology – this time, Augmented Reality.

Fundamentally, I really like what they’re doing with this letters-to-Santa program. They’ve had a mailbox to Santa for the past few years, at least. It is a ritual for our family to go to Macy’s and let the kids write their letters to Santa. Our kids love it. (And oh by the way, they do make a donation to Make-a-Wish for every letter received up to $1 million. Say what you will about that, I think it’s a nice tie-in.)

At this time of the year, this is the thing that separates Macy’s from the other department stores at this time of the year. This is the reason that we go to Macy’s before any others. So, this is just a solid program without any of the fancy technology.

But it’s here, in this fancy technology that makes ME want to go and be a part of the experience myself. This year, they’ve created a Believe-o-Magic (great name, btw) mobile application that allows you to pose with characters from a Christmas narrative that they created, take a picture, make a virtual Christmas card, and send out to whoever you want, including those in your social network.

Now, I’ll be very interested to see if Macy’s audience (parents, more middle-class than not, who knows what their familiarity with emerging technologies like this is??) is the right audience for Augmented Reality, but what I love about it is this – they are now deepening the experience. Without ruining it. The experience is already special, just in the fact that kids can write letters to Santa and put them in a big, red mailbox. Add an enabling technology on top of it and you have an a) richer experience and b) one that creates a more interesting piece of social content.

This experience does not require this app or technology to exist. That’s a great thing. Take note, and as much as you can help, when you create an experience that uses any sort of emerging technology, don’t let the experience live and die with that technology. It should just be an extension, one that deepens and extends the experience.

Last week, I sat in on a session with Michael Tobin (VP, eCommerce Integration) of Macy’s and I walked away knowing that they are very in tune with connecting with consumers, on their terms, through whatever technology is best for them. They’re not afraid to experiment with these new technologies, but they’re measured and thoughtful about how they use them, too. In my opinion (based on their QR code campaign and now this), they’re very good at thinking strategically about implementing them.

This is another thing we can learn from them – how can you tie this new technology to programs that already exist? It’s (relatively) easy to create an Augmented Reality something-or-other. It’s an entirely different thing to use the technology to make something that already exists better.

It doesn’t seem like Macy’s does something just to do it. I think that’s a hard temptation to fight in today’s world, with all of this new technology around. It just screams for people to play with it and often times, spend big money doing it. But with a measured approach, you might just create believers in all sense of the word.


The Content & Experience Behind Macy’s Backstage Pass

Macys Backstage Pass

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

So, needless to say, content is kinda important.

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

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

Thank goodness.

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

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

1. How engaging is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I take away from that is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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?