Tag Archives: Mobile

Easy Encourages and Effects Engagement

Easy Encourages and Effects Engagement

I just got an iPhone and it’s awesome. Before this, I had a Droid 2. Before that, I had an HTC something or other and before that, I had a 1st generation Blackberry Storm. All this over the past 5 years.

In a matter of a couple of days, since I’ve had the iPhone, my mobile usage behavior has undergone what I would call a profound change. I’ve always been able to access more with each of my phones, and with each evolution, a little bit more and a little bit easier. It’s been a fairly steady progression since I’ve operated on all-things-other-than-iPhone. But a very rapid progression in the last couple of days. And it’s not necessarily that I’ve done SO much more than I used to; rather, if my behavior thus far (which is different, for sure) is an indication of how I will now operate in the real and virtual world, I know it’s going to be drastically different.

I can sense that the most profound change will be how I connect. With people. With products. With things. I’m not talking about connecting through features like texting (although as a caveat, my mom, a normal Baby Boomer mom – her behavior completely changed when she got her iPhone. She texts now more than ever and even that change, is a profound one when you’re talking about communications.), I’m talking about connecting through features like seamless integration into social networks and all the apps you could ever want and rich content like photo and video. Everything is just so easy.

And here’s the thing about easy – easy is an encourager. Easy makes you want to engage and explore and do things differently. It’s all about ease of use when you’re talking about adopting any sort of emerging technology.

Like any forms of interactive out-of-home.

If those who are creating ads or materials or experiences for out-of-home recognize the profound power of mobile devices – particularly the best mobile devices of today (because they will be the standard for everyone in the not-so-distant-future) – and how easy they make things, and what that could do for deeper engagement, what out-of-home is today will look drastically different in that not-so-distant-future.

(Not) The Year of the QR Code

Last year around this time, I wrote a post about the Holidays saving QR Codes. At the time, I noticed them in about every print piece/holiday circular we received in the mail, and from that standpoint, I was interested in how it would affect these codes – being introduced into homes via these circulars that everyone, especially the “average” consumer is likely to look at. Would it make them (us) familiar with them to know what they were and what they did? Including them and distributing them in holiday circulars seemed like a pretty good idea to accomplish this. So, while I don’t believe that the holidays “saved” QR codes by any stretch of the imagination (more on that below), I do think they were appropriate to include in those pieces and I do think they were on the forefront of QR code mania that has ensued this past year, and from that standpoint, I think they created a level of awareness. Even if it was, “what in the world is that?”

Since then, it’s been interesting to see how QR codes have played out. All throughout the year, I think everyone can agree that QR codes have popped up everywhere. Not only in the mail, but on posters and signs and sides of buildings and everything else. It is certainly not uncommon to see QR codes plastered on many things – big and small – out in the real world.

And now, a year after circulars, as I unpack our Christmas gifts and groceries, I see them making their way into our homes via the products we buy. My son got a guitar for Christmas and look what’s right on front:

QR code on guitar box

And then, switching to groceries, before I put the Granola Bars box up in the pantry, what do I see:

QR code on granola box

All this to say, I don’t think QR codes have an awareness problem anymore.

I think QR codes have a usage problem.

That’s the long and short of it.

A good solid year after being introduced into our everyday lives, in many ways, QR codes are more value-less now than they were a year ago when hardly anyone knew what they were (or that they even existed).

Comscore did a study around QR code usage that they published in August 2011. In it, they found that “6.2% of the total mobile audience scanned a QR code on their mobile device” in a 1-month period. To put this into perspective, a recent Pew study found that 28% use mobile/social location based services (including, but not limited to Foursquare and the like). The net – not a lot of people are scanning/using QR codes.

We could probably talk for days and days about why this is so, but in the end, it boils down to value. No matter what the technology-of-the-day is, if it doesn’t provide value – and now more than ever, immense value – it’s going to be hard to garner mass adoption. Sure, there’s value in learning more about a product with the scan of a code (equivalent to a click of a button), or being able to easily LIKE a brand, or even getting a coupon on the spot, but there’s hardly consistency. And, in the case of QR codes, so much inconsistency and non-value, I believe the perception is that, by and large, they are just “weird looking codes that send you to a website.” So, the intrigue and potential has already lost its intrigue due to a year of poor executions.

Maybe this year, we’ll see that change. And this year, we’ll actually see an evolution of QR code usage. Maybe people will come around. Maybe brands will come around and figure out great ways to use this technology. I still believe it’s one with lots of potential, but if we go through another year of circulars and posters and sides of buildings and product boxes delivering a normal website upon a scan, that will be the time that we can perhaps call them dead.

They’re barely alive as it is.


When We’ll Really Get to “Interactive” Out-of-Home

In order for us to really get to the point of interacting with the places and things around us, 2 things need to happen:

1. The technology has to be there. We’re getting closer and closer every day where those things that were previously not “on” are so now.

2. People have to be comfortable using it on that scale. On any given regular day, how many times do you see someone interacting with a poster or a billboard or a kiosk? Unless it’s an ATM, I don’t. Despite how far we’ve come in a short amount of time (read: mobile), we’re still uncomfortable with any new technology, particularly when it’s out in public spaces.

But we’re not far off.

Look no further than this:

McDonalds digital playground

The digital playground. For the generation growing up right now. Their world is shaped by technology. If they’re not carrying it around by the time they’re 8, they have it at their fingertips. In schools. At homes. On playgrounds.

In short order, the technology will be there. Also in short order, the comfort, familiarity, and even more, expectation will be that of a world turned “on” by those who live, work and play in it everyday.

If you have children or just observe, look at what they’re doing sometime, especially out in the public. Chances are, you’ll see some sort of technology at their fingertips. Like it or not, this is the world they know. Like it or not, this is the world they will expect. And like it or not, this is the world that technology will give them.

Soon. Very soon.


How Not to Make a Digital Sign Interactive

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you’re going to make a sign (digital or not) interactive, it must be accessible. That is to say, if it could do something like cause someone to get in an accident while driving, it’s probably not the best thing to do.

Imagine a huge sign marking the presence of an Outlet Mall. One of those signs that run all of the different advertisements from all of the different stores and can be seen from a good ½ mile away. It might as well be the mall’s personal billboard.

Well, now imagine a QR code on that sign. Even better, imagine trying to interact with that sign via the QR code and your mobile phone while driving by.

Needless to say, I was surprised to see it as we passed it. In fact, I don’t know that *surprise* accurately describes my reaction. It was more like, WTF?

While this is not the best picture, it’s all I could take. You’ll just have to believe me that there is a huge QR code taking up that sign.

QR code on digital sign

It seemed to be on screen for ~10 seconds, which is another important lesson.  Since people are clamoring to snap this QR code on this huge screen outside of an Outlet Mall, why don’t you hurry the process up a little bit more by giving them a short 10 seconds – at the most – to get their phone out, take over driving with their knee, launch their QR code reader, put the phone up in the right position so the QR code is centered in the screen, snap the code, realize what it is it’s taking them to, and resume driving. Oh yeah, if the content behind the code is valuable enough, why not exit from the freeway, too.

I don’t know what part of this whole experience is a good idea.

See, just because you can make something interactive doesn’t mean you should. Context – in the form of placement – is everything. In this case, if they wanted to deepen the experience in any way via mobile, why not put a short code on the sign? At least that’s an action that doesn’t require immediacy.

Better yet, why not put, “we’ve got great deals here and we want you to be safe, so why don’t you just stop on by and we’ll show you.” I guarantee you that that will be more effective than the QR code that they have running now.

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.


Morning Musings – Complicated Connections

We are swimming in new ways to connect and beyond that, what it all actually means.

Social. Mobile. Out of Home. Digital Out of Home. Connections. Experience.

This is a complicated world that we operate in, no doubt. As brand, marketers and communicators, this world is constantly changing. As consumers, we’re unlocking new ways to connect each day, ways that we did not know were there yesterday. This sort of evolution and discovery occurs every single day.

It’s as if the Pandora’s Box of technology has opened to the point of no closure.

On one hand, it’s exciting. On another hand, it’s maddening. It’s a bombard of variables to navigate and manipulate, all in an effort to get (or deliver) the right message at the right time to do the right thing. That’s what we all want, right?

“Screens” of old are just that – old. They’re ubiquitous. They’re a commodity. Even the one in our pocket. They’re only mechanisms of delivery and engagement, but it’s in this combination where the value comes in. Delivery + engagement should = value. I know that we all define “value” differently. For each consumer, it’s different. And for each shopping scenario, it’s different. Education, entertainment, discounts, points. All good “value propositions,” but all unique, not necessarily based on points in time in the shopping journey, but based on the individual.

The individual is the biggest variable that we have now. Their familiarity with technology, their use of it, their access to it, their view of what it enables them to do, their expectations of what it can and should do. It’s easy to automatically pin all these different technologies as the primary variable in ways to connect, but it’s not. It’s the consumer.

Each one of us, as consumers, now have the ability to reach out to someone, often times a group of distant someones, immediately and create, comment on, and/or consume content. This power has shifted what value is to each of us and, even more, elevated our expectations, in terms of what it takes and means to engage with brands.

As all this relates to the “screens” outside of our homes, be them physical screens or screens made out of the places and things around us – the game changer of the world that we live in is not the technology that enables all of these “screens” to be activated, it is in what they deliver and how people can engage with it. Messages/content just pushed is noise. It’s reason to ignore that particular “screen.” What can’t be ignored is something to actively engage in, something that delivers value to that person at that point in time. That’s the thing to figure out.

Then figure out how to do it.

And that’s not new.

CETW Keynote #3 – 10 Mobile Social Trends for 2012+

These are my recap notes from the last session of the day, the closing keynote at CETW. Brought to us by David Berkowitz, VP Emerging Media at 360i. I have been following David for a couple of years as well as his agency, 360i. Every year, they put out Playbooks and Trend Reports for mobile and social and a host of others. While I find them to lack a few things, they are comprehensive and represent a voice from 360i in the market, one that I suspect has paid quite a few dividends. I am always interested to see what he/they have to say because I feel like they are on the forefront of emerging technology and not afraid to get their thoughts out there. So, I was very excited to hear David speak and give this presentation. I don’t know that the audience knew what to do with him. And it was the last session of the last day, an unfortunate slot. He was kind enough to share his presentation via slideshare, so here it is:

Here are the 10 trends and a few notes I took with each:

1. Social Fashion – real-time fashion advice

2. Tagging – everyone sees the same things differently so tagging is a way we can make consistent

3. Interactive TV – not necessarily through the TV, but through other channels. Check these apps out, if don’t know/use them already: IntoNow (my personal favorite), Umami, GetGlue

4. Q & A – see Siri.

5. Recommendations – from MY friends. Only relevant-to-me recommendations.

6. Social Context – check this app, Sonar. Kinda creepy, but kinda cool. It shows you those people around you who you have something in common with, be it friends, colleagues, interests, etc.

7. Geo-gaming – like Mafia Wars but in your own real-life neighborhood.

8. Augmented Reality – I like the way he described it. “AR adds a virtual layer over the real world.” Simple, but easy to understand.

9. Near-Field Community – this is about much more than payments. Interacting with objects and places where you are.

10. Facial Recognition

What do you think? Sound about right?

CETW Session #3 – Hybrid Experiences – the Holy Grail for DOOH?

These are notes recapping session #3 that I’ve attended at CETW. Excellent session because of the panelists. Agency and big brand point-of-view that this conference has desperately needed. There are many issues that the proliferation of technology has presented us all with. Operational issues, platform issues, knowledge issues – this world of marketing & communications & providing brand experiences is new, it’s fragmented and it’s happening very quickly. So people are doing what they need to do, figuring it out as they go, putting good thinking around it, but there is no 1 solution yet. This was not a panel about “DOOH,” it was a panel on “omnichannel” experiences.

Speakers – Carrie Chitsey, CEO, 3Seventy, Jeremy Lockhorn, VP, Emerging Media, Razorfish, Michael Tobin, Macy’s

What is your perspective of the hybrid experience and what does it mean to you?

Tobin – there are a couple different lenses that I look through when thinking about “hybrid” experiences – digital experience, physical retail – what are the benefits of both?  Customers and employees are both audiences, too. Take the best of what’s happening online and the advantages of real-life, in-store and combining them.

Most of their early success has been enabling associates. Have not had a lot of success with self-service (customers).

Chitsey – we’re dealing w/ a different type of consumer today. The social ADD consumer. Phone is always w/ them, posting on FB good/bad/ugly about experiences, checking prices, etc.. Mobile bridges the gap between online and in-store. Provide instant reviews from peers, enabling instant rebates and coupons (time-sensitive), etc…

One strategy for one demo will not work. Location, as it relates to brick and mortar stores is really important.

Really have to think about what you’re trying to accomplish via mobile technology before you actually do something on mobile.

Lockhorn – up until 5-6 years ago, we were shackled to the PC. Suddenly, we have this entirely set of new tools that we can use. Seeing radical transformation of the web brought forth across all channels and industries. Tremendous opportunity to find better ways to engage consumers.

Hybrid experiences – mobile/image recognition, augmented reality

Questions around specific mobile technologies:

Tobin – Mobile is the bridge, but what do we owe them on the other side of that bridge? When we take it beyond the utility of the experience, what’s the magic? What do we owe them?

Lockhorn – re: voice activation – this represents a broad trend now, a move towards natural user interface. Remarkable how that expectation has proliferated. People are ignoring keyboard and mouse for touch and when it doesn’t have touch, people won’t interact with it.

Touch and gesture, much more engaging and interactive. Really intuitive.

Tobin – re: Google wallet – benefits of mobile wallets are profound, everything is connected to YOU. It’s not about no-more-carrying-around-credit-cards, it’s all about having the potential to make YOUR experience better over time.

Lockhorn – Mobile has ability to activate print and most everything (if not all) around us

Who do you think is doing great at bringing digital/physical worlds together?

Lockhorn (and the other 2) – part of me thinks that no one is doing it well. You know why? It’s hard. There is no fully integrated solution. You have to hack things together.

Chitsey – the biggest barrier is knowledge. Most people don’t know enough about mobile to do anything other than implement a campaign. Thinking strategically is hard because of these pockets of knowledge. How do you use data to do something else beyond the initial execution/campaign? The intellectual models have to change.

Other challenges?

Lockhorn – we’ve all heard about the funnel, right? Very linear process. Not that way anymore. We’ve all seen different “journey” models now. We have our own take on that. We haven’t figured it out, but got a lot of smart thinking behind it. The journey changes from category to category.

Other nuggets:

Chitsey – re: SMS still relevant and here to stay – interactive text messaging is here to stay. What will be gone soon will be this 1-way push messaging via text messaging. We don’t do anything without interactivity.

Tobin – put customer at the forefront of the experience and solution.

Chitsey – who is the new CMO? Look at IBM deck.

All of this technology is great, has lots of potential. But continue asking, especially after you do something with these new technologies – Now what?

A Perfect Use for Near Field Communication in the Real World

People want personal. Especially as it relates to the idea of interacting with the physical world around them on a “screen.” This is a key reason that mobile is so powerful in its potential. It can fairly easily turn any place or thing “on” to where it is interactable. And it is the personal screen of personal screens.

The Museum of London has created an interesting experience through mobile and Near Field Communication. For anyone who’s been in a museum, I think we can all agree that the little write-ups on plaques do not provide us with the information we want about particular pieces of art. Docents are THE source of information, but the average person going to a museum does not do so with a docent. Enter Near Field Communication (NFC).

Stations at various pieces of art are equipped with NFC tags. Want to know more about the piece of art? Just tap your phone to the tag. Information given.

This technology and particular experience does allow for users to get a deeper experience of the museum as a whole (receiving vouchers for the gift shops, purchasing prints, even sharing their experience in their social channels) – which is also interesting and useful – but I love the use of this technology to fulfill a deeper need that people truly have around art in museums.

I think this is a perfect use of this technology and the museum provides the right type of physical objects to interact with. This type of experience, through this technology, instantly elevates the standard museum experience. For that, thumbs way up.

Here’s the thing to watch out for though – people go to museums to look at and experience art. Not information about the art on a mobile phone. I think it would be a travesty to walk into a museum and see everyone with their heads down, eyes glued to their mobile phones. Going full-tilt with something like this has the potential to take the emotion out of the experience, and that’s not what we want.

Enabling technologies like that can enhance our everyday, world experience. We just have to be careful to not let it drive our everyday, world experience.

Awareness Only Spaces for Interactive Everything Potential?

Maybe one of the problems with all spaces and things becoming interactive is the fact that the actual spaces and things are not set up to be interactive. That is, there are many accessibility issues that need to considered and worked through. As an example, this was an ad hanging above an escalator.

Non-accessible QR Code

The only access to the ad and the code was riding the escalator. And even though escalators escalate at a nice, slow pace, they’re moving way too fast to take an action like scanning a QR code. It was a mad scramble to do what I could to take a picture of this, much less launch an app and then scan the code.

I understand that many times, decisions for any OOH campaign at scale can’t alleviate all accessibility issues. This ad might be hanging in an extremely appropriate and accessible place in another environment. When dealing with environments and buying ad space in those varied environments, I imagine there’s a percentage of “dead” ads because of all of the spaces that they’re going to be put in. For every bad placement (one that is not accessible), perhaps there are ten good placements (with no accessibility issues.) As someone who is responsible for budgets, however, that sort of thing makes my head want to explode. I want all of them to be accessible. That’s what I’m paying for.

This is one of the challenges of all things having the ability to become interactive. This problem of accessibility is of no concern if this is a standard ad. Or a standard digital screen. Or a standard billboard. Anything that is just push messaging – it’s all about eyeballs and an ad hanging right above an escalator generates a lot of eyeballs.

But when you try to make that placement work for interactivity, it fails miserably.

So, I guess what I would say is this – if you’re going to spend money to create an interactive “thing,” be it a print ad or a digital screen or a kiosk, do a little bit of digging into the entire media buy. Do what you can to really understand all of the placements. Making something interactive nowadays can’t just be, “let’s plop a code on this or a touchscreen on this and make it interactive.” The spaces that you’re buying could be great for eyeballs, but for anything beyond that, for any action, they’re no good.

It becomes a waste of money and expectations. No way people are going to scan the QR code in this particular ad. If that is a key metric, this advertiser will have a hard time believing in this particular form of interactive, enabling technology, despite its potential. They’ll just go back to the boring ol’ awareness-only, push-messaging, let’s-get-as-many-eyeballs-on-this-as-possible mentality.

And that is not the future.