Tag Archives: MS Tags

Porsche’s Un-Porsche-Like Microsoft Tag

Dear Porsche:

I just saw your ad in Fast Company. This one. You know, the one with the cool Microsoft Tag in the upper right-hand corner.

Porsche Microsoft Tag ad

I almost missed it. But I won’t hit you with best practices for these things. Being cute with them is neither here nor there. That’s not what this letter is about.

I have to tell you – I’ve been watching these things over the last year and a half and I’ve seen some good ones and I’ve seen some bad ones. Not really codes. The content behind the codes. The thing that makes a complete experience.

Generally, I like these codes. I think they’re really effective at driving a deeper brand engagement with your current and/or potential customers. And easy. That’s the great thing about them. Snap a picture, get a cool experience. On your own personal screen. Wherever you are.

But I’m getting to the point to where I only like the idea of the codes. Because the execution of the experience has been disappointing. Not a big deal. There are far more things to be genuinely disappointed about.

But you see, I’m a marketer, too. So, I appreciate good brand experiences. And that leads me to your ad.

I see one of these codes on a Porsche ad and I automatically think that I’m going to get a Porsche-like experience. Luxury product, luxury experience, yes?


Very un-Porsche-like.

A 15 second video showing the “World’s Coolest School Bus” is a yellow Porsche? That’s it?

Rarely do I say that I’ve wasted 15 seconds on anything. But this is the feeling you left me with. I know, I’ll probably never be able to buy one of your products (and quite honestly, will any of your true targets ever scan a tag like this?), so my opinion probably doesn’t matter much at all.

But for what your brand stands for, I would expect to get a killer 15 seconds. Instead, I got a dud.

Using enabling technology like this can be fun and experimental, but I also think there’s such a thing as “on brand.” Regardless of the fun and experiments. I mean, Porsche should be Porsche-like in everything. Shouldn’t you?

Disappointingly yours,



Friday’s 4-1-1, The Case of the Mysterious QR Codes Style

There are two things I know to be true right at this moment: 1) I have slacked severely at keeping up with this Friday 4-1-1 series and 2) QR codes are everywhere. And they’re mysterious. Because they don’t include any instructions alongside them. They’re just there. So, I thought it was perfectly appropriate to marry the two to resurrect my Friday’s 4-1-1.

1. Starbucks hides a gem behind their mysterious QR code – while waiting for my coffee one morning, I glanced over to my left and saw a QR code sticker haphazardly slapped on a Frappuccino ad.

Starbucks QR Code SRCH

When I scanned it, I was sent to a digital scavenger hunt game called SRCH. After playing around with it for a little bit, it’s an awesome experience. You’re given a series of clues that you need to solve and at the end, you could win a number of different prizes. The clues are served up as videos, scrambled words, riddles, and photos. It’s a gem of an experience that seemingly can only be discovered through this unmarked, mysterious QR code, slapped onto this ad like an afterthought.

2. Bubby’s hides a coupon behind their mysterious QR code – I recently had the pleasure of eating a great farm-to-table restaurant in NYC called Bubby’s. On my way out the door after dinner, I looked down and saw a flyer with a QR code up in the left-hand corner. Completely unmarked.

Bubby's QR Code

When I scanned the code, I was directed to a coupon to get a free appetizer or 2-for-1 cocktails during their midnight brunch. What a find. Too bad, I didn’t know what was waiting for me behind the code, since there was no context on the flyer. But is it too bad? I’m starting to feel like I want to scan these codes, just to see what kind of gems I can find. But then, when I do, I get a dud like this…

3. NYC Realtor hides housing details behind their QR code – specifically, housing details that I find when directed to a Google search page. Boring.

Realtor QR Code

This is what I’d expect to see behind a QR code like this, especially one with no instructions or call-to-action. But here’s the interesting thing – after scanning the two above before this one, I was expecting a nice surprise. And when I didn’t get it, I was let down. Down to the point that I don’t want to scan again? Of course not….

4. The Canal Room hides their website behind an MS Tag – standard fare again. At least the site behind the code is optimized for mobile.

Canal Room MS Tag

On the site, you can see everything that the Canal Room has to offer – acts, events, showtimes, etc..And I suppose, in this context, right beside their other web properties, this tag makes perfect sense. This the first time I’ve seen a tag placed right alongside the social extensions for a brand, but I think it’s interesting in the sense that it could become as recognized as the Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace logos.

“Duh” – if QR Codes are just going to be another version of a URL shortener that sends consumers to the brand website, I have serious questions about whether or not they’ll ever catch on. Especially if they’re not accompanied by any instructions, enticements, and/or calls-to-action. I see them everywhere, but I never see anyone scanning them.

“Uh-huh” – I think QR Codes are an ideal enabling technology to catch consumers when they’re out and about, in exploring (and shopping) mode, to drive them to take some sort of action. I also believe that they are a great way to drive a deeper brand experience, but as Starbucks and Bubby’s has shown us here, they can be effective at driving purchase decisions. They’re efficient. Even if these are mysterious.

Actually, that could be the key to larger adoption. If they’re synonymous with mystery, would the average consumer scan these things?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Thanks, as always, for reading!

A Lesson in Context, Thanks to QR Codes

Once there was a code on a movie ad. It was lonely. Not accompanied by any sort of identifiable information. No instructions. No call-to-action. No expectation-setting. Not to mention, eye-level with a bug. Just the code. A hidden, lonely code. (Can you find it?)

QR Code on Movie Poster

Then, there was another code on a movie ad. This one not hidden at all. Right in front of your face (waist, really), saying, “hey look at me, guess what you can do here!” This code was not lonely. It was surrounded by all sorts of friendly information. Instructions. Call-to-action. Expectations of special offers. All, with its different colors and fancy style.

MS Tag on Movie Poster

These two codes teach us an important and elementary lesson in context.

Codes like this are intended for interaction. If interaction is your game, you must be clear and prominent to have any chance of meeting the intention. It’s this intention that must be present in the context of whatever you’re trying to drive interaction around. In this case, a code. But what about touch screens? Or check-ins? Or short codes?

There are interactive whoosits and whatsits popping up all around us – on the places and things that we encounter every day. Soon, even all those physical screens outside of our homes and offices will be interactive, too. To have any chance at driving interaction, proper context must have a presence. Without it, assumptions are made. And assumptions, as far as emerging technology goes, will lead the way of the lonely code.


The Case of the QR Code Cutesies

As soon as I write a post on focusing on the basics– like setting clear expectations – when implementing QR Code (or other code-based) initiatives, it’s only natural that would find clear examples supporting the problem.

Take a look at these, all from the same publication:


QR Code example


Microsoft Tag example


QR Code example

Do you know what they have in common? The case of the cutesies. Like so many of the code-based implementations I’ve seen over the last year, they forget about one of the simplest best practices of getting a user to take action: provide a clear AND compelling call-to-action.

It’s like this is sacrificed for the (seemlingly) sake of being cute. Cute design. Colorful. Mysterious. Shapely.


As a consumer, I’m less likely to take action just by the “look” of the code. I want to know what I’m going to get, and more than that, I want to know if there’s anything unique in it for me once I do scan it. These calls-to-action are uninspiring, at best.

“Get Access & Info.”

“Info on Activities.”

And the kicker – absolutely nothing.

Intriguing, guys. Really.

Clear instructions are essential in a call-to-action, especially with emerging technologies. But consumer expectations are to the point where that, alone, is hardly effective. They don’t just want to know “how,” they want to know “why.”

I bet if you got 5 people together who best represent the “average consumer,” showed them these ads, and asked them if they knew what “it” (the code) was, at least half of them would say no. Then, once explained, they might say something like, “why would I do that?” And in this case, the answer would be for “more information” or “our activities” or “just because.” Sounds compelling right?

Does that compel you to take action?

As I said the other day, I think this question is a great filter when implementing any code-based campaign. And it’s simple. If the answer to that question – would this call-to-action compel me to take action? – is no, I’d highly recommend re-thinking a) the actual call-to-action and/or probably most importantly, b) the content “behind the code” (the content you offer up after scanning the code).

Consumers don’t just want to know “how,” they want to know, “why.” Answer them both, and make it clear to the consumer, and you’ll have cracked half of the nut.

How Much Does (QR Code) Size Really Matter?

Common sense, expert opinion, and the most fundamental best practices would tell us, of course it matters – the size of QR codes (especially in public spaces) directly impacts how many people see it, therefore how many people end up scanning it. But I wonder how accurate that really is.

Recently, I saw this huge billboard in the Denver Airport with three large QR codes on it.

QR Code at the Denver Airport

I don’t know how much bigger they can get, particularly in relation to the overall real-estate of the “canvas.”

Then, conversely, I saw another huge print advertisement in a mall here in Dallas with a tiny QR code on it.

American Idol QR Code

That’s it in the bottom left-hand corner. You might have to squint to see it.

Both advertisements were large and placed in high traffic venues, in high traffic areas, so the chances for noticing them on a daily basis is high. But guess how many people I saw scanning either of them?


And that was me.

Now, in fairness, I was only in the vicinity for a few minutes. But in those few minutes, it was as if I was the only one who not only noticed the ad, but was actually interacting with it.

So, I think the size is a relevant question. Because the real questions still remain – Do people even notice QR codes (or Microsoft Tags) when they see them? Do they know what they are? Or know what to do with them?

I still don’t think the average person knows what they are or how to use them, so when they see them, they have no impact. Regardless of their size.

Now prominence is another thing. As a marketer or brand who’s implementing these types of codes, you’re not giving yourself any chance of succeeding when you place a tiny code in the bottom corner of an ad, where only the wheel of a stroller would notice it. Be that as it may, I think brands/marketers have alot of flexibility in size and prominence. As long as it’s big enough and can be seen within a reasonable line of sight, I would say that you’ve covered the size and prominence aspects. But there are bigger issues to solve around these codes.

I think the only way we can get the general person/consumer to become aware and adopt a new behavior (scanning these codes) is to add real value to the codes. “More information,” which seems to the “value” associated with most of the codes I’ve seen in the past year is not enough. There haven’t been many brands who have cracked this nut and as a result, probably not seeing the success they anticipated.

PSFK recently released a “Future of Mobile Tagging Report” and they key takeaways for me were:

1. There is potential in using these codes and even more, the codes becoming commonplace in our world.

2. Content, namely the content “behind the code” (the content that consumers see after they scan the code) is the only way these codes can take hold and succeed. That’s the value. And yes, “value” looks different for everyone. But it’s not about the size or the prominence or the design. (You can see the general sense of “value” when looking at these examples, even if you’re not the target audience. So, I don’t want to use this forum to debate “value.”)

If you haven’t seen the report, check it out. There are some solid examples of the wide range of uses with these codes.

PSFK presents Future Of Mobile Tagging Report

(View more presentations from PSFK.)
Another thing that stuck out to me in these examples were how the expectations (for scanning the code) were made clear from the outset. The pieces included language around the code that informed people what would happen/what they would get if they scanned it. And it wasn’t “more information.” Even when real-estate is limited, it’s essential that expectations – and more clear than not – are set. Enlist a good copywriter and I guarantee they’ll write something that’s clear and concise.
So, all in all, in the end, I think it boils down to an even simpler question – when you’re thinking about implementing any code-based initiative, ask yourself, “would I want to scan this?”
That assumes, then, you’ve reasonably thought through basic elements like size and prominence and expectations. And you’re answering that question based on the “value” – be it content, offer or purchase – that you’re going to get. If you skimp on the value, it doesn’t matter if the code is a size of a building. No one will scan it.

Friday’s 4-1-1, What’s Coors Light Doing Style?

Coors Light Instore Display

I really didn’t know what to make of this when I saw it. I was in a rush and I caught a glimpse of something familiar on my way out the convenience store door (and it wasn’t the girl!) That tag.


The same thing that Bud Light just used?

I mean, I can see the value of using code and/or image recognition on your packaging to drive a deeper experience, but I find it interesting that Coors Light chose to do the same exact thing their biggest competitor – Bud Light – chose to do only a few months ago.

I stood for a split second in disbelief – the others in the store thought I was just staring at the display – then, I took a photo and went on my very way. I thought it was such a blatant rip-off that I didn’t want to snap the tag on the box or have anything to do with Coors Light, but the next time I found myself in a grocery store, I had to stop by the beer and see what it was all about.

Coors Light Snap Tag Box

I got a text message back, directing me to a site, and an option to receive more texts. So, now I’m in their communication stream. We’ll see what happens.

I thought I’d spend today’s Friday 4-1-1 reflecting a little deeper on this experience – because there are solid components here – instead of instantly shutting them off since I’d seen this before.

1. On the surface, all codes are created equal – the one thing that is different between all of the image and code-scanning technologies is whether or not you need a special app on your phone to engage with it. And really, you just need the app to read the image (i.e. Google Goggles) or code (i.e. QR code/MS Tag). They all open the door to the same content. I’ve found these image recognition technologies (SnapTag and JagTag) need a couple more clicks to access the content, but to me, it’s not an inconvenience in the experience. Question for Coors Light is why use the same exact technology (SnapTag) that Bud Light just used? I doubt there was such a huge wave of success from Bud Light’s campaign that they felt they needed to ride it?? I would have picked another one. Because they all do the same thing.

2. Codes are a key to unlocking multi-channel experiences – from the scan, I get instant access to:

  • .com (digital)
  • Facebook, Twitter (social)
  • iPhone game app (mobile)
  • Plus rich content like videos and sharable memes – the Ditka Cold Call to your friends is my favorite.
  • And I’m in their communication stream via text message.

See the power of codes? More and more, marketers are realizing this low-cost technology can enable deeper brand experiences. And big brands like this don’t need to create special content for these extended experiences. They just need to drive people there.

Welcome the code. I just would have picked another one.

3. Do consumers care? – Consumers want value and ease. These codes have the potential to provide value by unlocking deeper content, be it more brand content or coupons, and some of them are easier to use than others. These SnapTags don’t require a smartphone or an app, they just require an awareness and desire from the consumer to interact with them. So, you can’t get any easier than it already is. I would just love to know how successful these are. Anyone know the “snap rate” for the Bud Light or Coors Light campaigns?

I would still recommend tags in addition to/replacement of URLs in a lot of cases because they provide instant access to the content, typically with only one click. It’s really more about consumer adoption at this point.

4. OOH has a definite place in the ecosystem – and more than that, has a definite place in code-based campaign ecosystems. And the OOH component doesn’t have to be “digital.” As we see here, with this static in-store display, they’re stopping consumers and making them aware. I think anyone who’s considering implementing a campaign like this should take note of the simple solutions used here. You can’t get any more lowfi, but in my opinion, it’s incredibly effective .

“Uh-huh” – so, if 2 major beer makers are using technologies like this, will all the others? I think it’s only a good thing – whether or not I agree with Coors Light’s choice – for these sorts of technologies that such big brands are using them. They enable a more focused, purposeful OOH component, and I think agencies will have more and more opportunities to show off creative executions in bringing these technologies to life. What we’ll see, I think, is a different way of thinking about “traditional OOH.”

“Duh” – I just don’t get the decision here. In fairness, I’m not involved in any of the brand/agency conversations, but you’d think someone would have raised this and really questioned using the same code technology. I think, more than anything, this shows how wide-open this space (code/image scanning) is, with no clear leader. And consumers haven’t tipped to one technology over another. There’s still a lot of experimentation going on.

At the heart, this is another good example of a multi-channel brand experience (and a pretty deep one at that). And for me, it all started with an OOH component.

It shows how important it is to stop people when they’re out and about and engage them in some way. Here it was through the image-scanning technology.

I just would have picked another one.

Friday’s 4-1-1, Code/Image Scanning Technologies Resource Style

This is the final part in a multi-part series this week on Mobile Scanning Technologies. I think these types of technologies are powerful in the “new” OOH because they bridge the offline (real-world) with the online (virtual world). And the “new” OOH, to me, is all about connecting others with the places and things around them AND each other.

For the 2nd time in this Friday-series, I’m late. I’m sorry for that. My wife is leaving for a 2-day trip today and I’ll be playing Mr. Mom, so last night was all about the two of us preparing for completely different weekends. The only time I could really find to write is in the quiet hours of early morning. So, here we are.

While I certainly haven’t covered everything about code/image scanning technologies this week, I hope that I have covered some main topics that you find helpful – there was exploring their value, there were a couple of recent examples, and then there was looking ahead to what the future my look like for them. The only big thing I think I missed were some best practices of using and implementing these types of technologies into campaigns. I have documented best practices from my POV before, though, and if you’d like to see them, check this out. In the end, I hope you have enough information to know what they are/what they do/how to use them (from a user’s standpoint) and things to think about/practical execution guidance (from an implementor’s standpoint). There is lots of information out there on the interwebs about these technologies so all you really have to do is pull up your handy Google page and go to town. To make things easier for you, I thought it would be helpful to share some of my favorite places to get this type of information in this week’s Friday’s 4-1-1. Without further adieu, here it is, Resource style.

1. Socialwayne.com – I briefly met the author of this blog, Wayne Sutton, at SXSW last year (he was on the Chevy Roadtrip that I was working on), and I’ve followed him ever since. He’s put a lot of thought and focus on QR codes this year and always has insightful posts about them. He creates and doesn’t just talk, which I appreciate greatly. His latest post on these technologies is called, “10 new QR Code generators with analytics to bridge the mobile social online worlds and increase consumer engagement” – the title truly says it all and it’s worth checking out.

2. 2dbarcodestrategy.com – I don’t know how I feel about the author because I don’t see much engagement from him on the blog and/or on his Twitter channel, but he’s a machine in showing examples and providing some good thought behind 2D codes. His blog is laser focused – it’s only about 2D codes and he posts almost every day. If only he would engage with his audience.

3. pongrblog.com – I virtually met these guys earlier this year and once I found out about them, had to check them out. They started out as a pure image-recognition technology and now they’ve turned it into a image-recognition, social, mobile game. It’s very interesting. You can see all about them here.

4. Microsofttag Twitter feed – I’m a huge fan of MS Tags and think they’re the type of 2D code to use in place of QR Codes – there’s only 1 code & reader, they work on every phone, they look better, and overall, have consistently worked for me. In terms of the information they share, I find their Twitter feed to be active, engaging, and informative (they aren’t active bloggers.)

“Uh-huh” – early on in the life of this blog (and periodically throughout), I introduced a term – “enabling technologies.” Basically, these technologies, to me, enable an otherwise static display or article to become interactive. In this case, both of these technologies – code scanning and image scanning – are enabling technologies. Without them, the experience couldn’t be had. My view of “OOH” includes two different types of technologies – 1) display technologies (that just make something “digital” – 1 way) and 2) enabling technologies (that make something “interactive” – 2 way) and moving forward, this concept will be even more critical to the direction I want to go next year.

“Duh” – there are many more resources that I’ve found helpful throughout the year. There are smart people out there who explore these very things and unfortunately, I’ve only listed 4 above. I’m giving myself the “duh” this week because I’m sure to have left off some great peeps.

So there it is kids, the wife is up and is about to leave and the timing is perfect. Here’s to a stress-free weekend. (BTW – the kids are still asleep so this is probably about the closest to “stress-free” that I’ll get.) :)

2 Examples of Using Code/Image Scanning Technologies

This is Part 2 in a multi-part series this week on Mobile Scanning Technologies. I think these types of technologies are powerful in the “new” OOH because they bridge the offline (real-world) with the online (virtual world). And the “new” OOH, to me, is all about connecting others with the places and things around them AND each other.

What’s their true value?

Yesterday, I posed this fundamental question I’m often faced with when exploring two powerful enabling technologies – code & image recognition.

Today, I’m going to share a couple examples I found in the latest edition of Wired. As if I was setting up the comparison myself, there they were, 2 different car companies, using 2 different types of technologies, in the same publication. In terms of industry and target, I couldn’t ask for a much closer sample from which to compare.

Ford is no stranger to the interactive print ad space, having used Microsoft Tags (code recognition) for the better part of the year. Now, GM, (specifically Buick) is in the game, bringing their own ads to life via Google Goggles (image recognition). As a deeper exploration of yesterday, the question here is, “do they deliver value?” And more, “is one more effective than the other in doing so?”

When looking at these types of experiences, there are 2 components that are critical to their success and effectiveness:

1. The point from which the interaction originates – in this case, the printed advertisement (offline)

2. The destination where consumers are driven (online)

Both are factors in how “valuable” the technologies are in the brand experience.

Right off the bat, I notice a benefit that addresses the main question yesterday – “why not use a URL instead of the code?” In the Ford ad, they use both. This is smart and a solid approach. The code takes you to an Edge-specific site and the URL takes you to a Ford-specific site. By including both, they’re a) able to offer up two different paths and b) something that can’t be overlooked, they’re not confusing the consumer by including two different URLs and/or two different codes. They each have a purpose.

This is on top of the sheer value of making an otherwise non-interactive piece of collateral interactive. From a consumer’s standpoint, if they’re in the right mindset, this technology enables a unique, immersive experience from something that’s never generated an “experience.” And that’s a key differentiator here – the experience – you just don’t have the same experience typing in a URL on your mobile phone as you do scanning a code or an image. I would argue that in this day and age of consumption and connectedness, experiences are more and more important for brands to create. Those experiences can be created in many different ways, and one of them is through technologies like this.

After the code/image is scanned, it’s important to pay off the experience with compelling content. This doesn’t mean that the content needs to be flashy or moving, it just needs to provide value.

Ford Edge Mobile Site, Buick Regal Mobile Site

While the Ford Edge site offers more content, I would say both of these brands do a good job of providing the right content. “More” does not necessarily equate to “right,” but “right” equates to “valuable.” Regardless of where the consumer is in the purchase funnel, both of these sites give them enough information to get further down the path.

For awareness – the sites give them basic information.

For consideration – the sites give them access to a deeper level of information.

For purchase – the sites give them the ability to connect with dealers.

The debate can be had to whether or not Ford’s “more” content is more valuable than Buick’s scaled-back content, but the important thing to recognize here is that there is content for everyone. When looking at these two examples through this lense, I walk away with an important insight – it’s OK to present fewer options of content, just as long as they’re the right options. And the brand’s objectives will dictate that.

So, I think that both of these brands bring value in their respective experiences. I don’t think that one does a better job than the other in using these technologies. Ford has had more time to test this type of technology and content with their audience(s). But both provide a level of utility through a unique experience that wouldn’t otherwise be had.

So I ask, what’s NOT valuable about that?


(Disclaimer – GM is one of our clients, but I had nothing to do with the Buick piece featured here.)

The Battle of the Interactive Print Ads

Sports IllustratedThumbing through the latest Sports Illustrated (print edition), I came across 4 different ads that included some sort of enabling technology – technology that enables a static experience to become interactive. 2 of the ads used QR Codes, 1 of the ads used a Microsoft Tag, and the other used Google Goggles. They’re all based on the same premise – bridging the offline (real-world) with the online (virtual world) – but technically, the technology is a little different – QR Codes and MS Tags are 2D Barcodes and Google Goggles is an image-recognition technology. It’s the difference between the information/content being stored in the code vs. in images in the ad. For all intents and purposes, I consider them both effective technologies in merging offline (non-digital) with online (digital).  Interestingly, though, I think image recognition technology like Google Goggles would enable a better digital to digital experience. I’ve never understood putting a 2D code on a digital medium to drive to another digital medium. But if I could take a picture of the image on the originating digital medium to drive into another, ideally deeper digital medium/experience, I could see the value. Anyway, it was interesting to see so many different interactive ads in the same place and it allowed me to compare and contrast them in a way that didn’t seem so disparate (like others that I’ve done here).

First, I should point out that I’ve never seen this many interactive print ads in the same publication to date. At the beginning of the year, you would’ve been hard-pressed to have found 1 interactive ad like this in 10 publications. As the year has gone on, it’s not unusual to find 10 publications with 1 interactive ad each (some brands are using these consistently in their print pieces – Ford and Asus, to name two). Over the past couple of months, I’ve noticed a couple in each publication, but never FOUR. I really think this trend is going to continue growing into next year and we’ll see the majority of these ads including some sort of technology like this that enables a deeper, interactive experience with the brand. It’s a no-brainer, in my opinion. However, I do think it’s going to force brands to think about the entire experience rather than just plopping a code onto their print pieces, as it seems is the case more often than not now. The brands who will be successful in using technologies like this are those who put the experience first and let it lead the technology vs. putting the technology first and letting it lead the experience. Overall, when looking at each of these 4 executions, it seems as if the latter is more of the case.

Before I get into dissecting the experiences, I do think it’s important to acknowledge these brands for using these technologies. There are at least 20 other advertisers in this same publication who aren’t using anything other than a URL (if that) to drive consumers deeper into the experience. The catch here, though, is that consumers are smart – when they start using these technologies and scanning codes/images, if they don’t see value on the other end (it can come in many different forms – content, offers, coupons, connections, etc…), they’re going to equate them with being invaluable, and once that happens, it will be hard to change their behavior and get them scanning again.

So, let’s get into it – the biggest consistency was the inconsistency. From the directions that they do/don’t give on the actual print piece to the site they send you to to the content on the site to the extensions beyond the site – none are the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – no two brand experiences should be the same – but I do expect some level of standardization on what I believe to be elementary components of this type of experience.

Let’s start with the ads themselves and two things right off the bat – 1) how prominent is the code/ability to know that the ad is interactive and 2) how clear and useful is the call-to-action/instructions?

The 3 ads that include codes, you can clearly tell that they include something unusual-looking that you can probably do something with. (Unlike Stickybits, I think the form factor of both QR Codes and MS Tags are different enough that consumers stop and actually look to see what they’re all about. They might know that they have to do something with them, but they’re not exactly sure what they are and/or how to use them – this is a start.  They know that they can take an action.) The ad that included Google Goggles, however, made it difficult to see that there was something interactive about it. Google’s Goggles logo is small and within the context of the ad, it gets lost. So, here, advantage to the 2D codes.

But it doesn’t stop there. Perhaps the most important component of using this technology is the instructions. It’s simple people – don’t get cute with instructions. Say what to do and how to do it in the simplest, most clear terms. Don’t make consumers guess at what they’re supposed to do. Tell them exactly. There’s nothing useful about enabling interactivity if the user can’t figure out how to actually interact with it (same can be said for not knowing what to do with touchscreen experiences). I found all 4 of these to miss the mark on instructions, some a little less drastic than the others. Google Goggles was the clear winner here – their instructions were the closest to being simple and clear.

Google Goggles

The only thing they’re missing here is being clear that Goggles is an application. They make the assumption that users will know what “Google Goggles on Android” is, and besides that, they completely ignore iPhone users.  I think it’s best to approach these directions with an ultra-conservative mindset in these early stages – be explicitly clear with them. Approach them like no one knows anything about anything. (Then, don’t make them into a book.)

Coming in a close 2nd is Lane Furniture and their MS Tag. One of the clear differentiators, to me, between MS Tags and QR Codes is Microsoft’s proprietary technology to scan and read their codes. There’s only 1 type of reader, only 1 place to get it and anyone can use it. This combination makes instructions easy. I don’t think anyone using MS Tags should stray from the, “Get the free app for your phone at http://gettag.mobi.” Simple, clear, and short. Where these guys go a little astray is in their other instructions – “Snap this icon to snag a coupon…”

Lane Microsoft Tag

“Snap?” “Snag?” “Icon?” Talk about colloquialisms. Why use fancy words when normal words will do? “Take a picture of the code for a coupon…” sounds much more clear and to the point, don’t you think?

The other two – OnStar and Axe – failed miserably on the instructions. OnStar takes the casual language to the next level, to the point of being utterly confusing.

OnStar QR code

“Just snap this QR code with your phone. If it doesn’t have a QR reader, there are lots of free apps to download.” I think the basic concept in anything, particularly instructions, is making it seem simple and not complicated. “Lots of” anything automatically implies that there are more than a couple. If there are more than a couple, I might very well get overwhelmed, and if I don’t even know what exactly a QR code and/or reader is, I might not even know where to start. I think this is a case of wanting to be cute and not having a word editor that says, “we need to cut everything in half.”

Axe, on the other hand, needs a few more words. “Scan this code to watch the video.”

Axe QR code

For the experienced and savvy, this is beautiful. Only problem is that there is an ultra-minute fraction of consumers who are both experienced and savvy with QR Codes. I would bet that here, they’re likely just to use the URL to get to the video instead of scanning the code – that would be a great piece of data to see – when presented with 2 options like this, what do consumers tend to do? What do you want them to do?  Yes, go to the website, but why put the QR Code on the ad in the first place unless you want them to scan it?

I’m also of the mindset that this sort of technology can become extremely beneficial if it’s the gateway to something (content or offer) exclusive, only to be seen/accessed through this channel. If anyone can see the same content just by going to the website, I think it devalues the experience.

So, now that we’re on content, let’s turn our attention to that which makes or breaks these experiences – the actual content behind the code/image. All of these 4 brands utilized video in their experience. Makes a lot of sense since video viewing on mobile is a) good and b) expected. I think it’s about the type of video that separates these experiences more than anything. And here, Axe is the winner. The first video you see is an edgy, just-what-you’d-expect-from-Axe video.

I don’t think we’re here yet, but before too long, we’ll be talking about how “on brand” these experiences are.  It’s not enough to have this type of technology or video content, it’s going to become about how in line with the brand these experiences are. This sort of content from Axe is definitely “on brand.”

While the others – G2, OnStar, and Lane – included relevant video, there was nothing special about their content.  In OnStar’s & Lane’s case, I found the videos to be long, boring, and overall, not compelling.

The actual site from which these videos originated from, and the experience through the code to get to the videos was another point of differentiation. On the positive side, they all sent me to a mobile version of a particular website, be it the product website or a YouTube channel. So, I didn’t have to futz around with navigating through a normal website experience on my mobile phone. That said, the only experience I found to be substantial and complete was the G2 experience. It’s the same experience that I highlighted through another ad last week.

In addition to the video, there are:

  • Product features
  • Consumer reviews & forums (social component)
  • Sharability
  • Email signup
  • Store locator
  • Purchase options

It’s really as complete of an experience you can expect.

The OnStar and Axe experiences, on the other hand, were not complete and honestly, pretty underwhelming. They both took me to a YouTube page where the experiences were similar.

The only difference was that through Axe, they asked me to “Subscribe” to the channel first. It was kind of annoying, but from a brand’s standpoint, I think it’s a smart thing to do. It’s a different form of data collection and through the subscription, the consumer experience with the brand doesn’t stop after this particular experience. Every time a video gets uploaded to the channel, all of the subscribers receive a notification and in turn, go watch the video, and you’re they’re that much deeper in the brand’s experience. I think they could have done so much more, though (at the very least, included more of a clear social – other channels – extension).

Lane’s experience included the ability to sign-up for a coupon (which is always a great enticement) via email and aside from the vague (in this case, absent) opt-in language, enables consumers to receive updates and information from Lane beyond this experience.

There are 2 other things about this particular experience that I appreciated:

  1. The ability to find a store close to me. This is a simple utility that offers another channel (the right one, mind you) to drive consumers into the store.
  2. A mobile experience that is only a sub-set of their normal .com website. Consumers don’t need everything a brand offers on their website through their mobile device. Just the right things. Lane has done a good job here.

I think it’s appropriate to say at this point, if you’ve made it this far in the post, THANKS. It’s the longest post ever. I didn’t want to break it up into 2 different posts because the opportunity to view (and review) this many experiences in the same setting hasn’t come along before and I didn’t want to separate any part of my thoughts.

All that said…drumroll please….I think the winner here is G2 and Google Goggles. But this is what I’d expect out of them. It’s their phone and their enabling technology. I’d be surprised and disappointed if it were anything less than this type of experience. The others ranked this way for me:

2. Lane – their offline (on-page) call-to-action was clearer than the other 2 and their online (on-phone) experience was more valuable and simpler.

3. Axe – their experience was the most “on brand” but I expect more out of Axe, all the way around.

4. OnStar – just think they need to spend a little bit more time thinking through the entire experience and paying off their awesome service in a unique way – they can do some interesting things through these enabling technologies, given the capabilities of their own technology.

Again, it made me happy to see so many in one place. I think there is much potential in this sort of technology. Most importantly, it allows for something that would have otherwise NOT been interactive or a 2-way engagement to be so. It’s opens up an entirely new communication channel. But as we can see here, most everyone has a long way to go to make a complete, compelling, valuable experience through this type of engagement.

So, now that I have belabored this in more ways than one, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think???

Creating Engagement through Google Goggles

As I’ve said before here, I think technology has enabled what was once static to become interactive, particularly as it relates to the “OOH” channel, which up until recently has been a static, “offline” advertising and communications channel.  On one hand, you have the digital display technology that enables those static ads to become digitized and as a result, more dynamic, relevant, and meaningful (digital signage).  Those digital “screens” have become more efficient advertising channels for brands, and can even help push consumers along the purchase journey, depending on their placement in a particular environment.  I don’t talk much about that kind of OOH here.  In the coming year, I want to put more of a focus on it here, but that aspect of OOH has never excited me to the point that the other aspect has.  Which is the other hand – on the other hand, you have various enabling technologies that enable those static ads to become interactive, and as a result, actually engaging.  It’s the difference between a 1-way push message (the former) and a 2-way push/pull communication (the latter).  One is passive.  The other is active.  It’s the active that really excites me.  So, I’m always looking for examples that do just that – take what was once passive and make active through these enabling technologies.

I’ve noticed many of these examples this year through print ads.  Whether it be QR codes or MS Tags, brands have really started experimenting with this type of engagement.  By no means has it taken off, but it’s an easy technology to include from a production standpoint, so I suspect to see the trend continue to grow slowly in the coming year.  I think we still have a ways to go to reach critical mass, but the consumers who actually recognize these codes and take a picture of them have the opportunity to engage with the brand in a way that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I came across another such technology in this month’s Wired – Google Goggles.  I learned about Google Goggles earlier in the year, and as an Android smartphone owner, it was one of the first apps I downloaded.  But I haven’t ever had success with it until now.  HTC “enabled” their most recent ad with Google Goggles.

Google Goggles

Google Goggles

If you’re not familiar with Google Goggles, it’s an image recognition technology that enables you, as a user, to snap a photo of a variety of things – landmarks, logos, print ads to name a few – and then learn more about them through mobile web without “searching.”  As with other image reading technologies (like the aforementioned codes), it’s designed to be a convenient way to get information you want about anything in the real world.  They’re an ideal technology to bridge the offline (real world) with the online (virtual world).

This particular experience was a good one.  HTC, supported by their friends at Google (it runs the Android platform), really thought through this and actually maximized the full potential of creating a deeper experience.  Once the picture is scanned, you’re taken to the G2 mobile site (yes, it is a mobile site) where you can:

  • view multiple angles of the phone (awareness)
  • learn about all of its features, mostly through copy – there’s 1 video that takes you to YouTube – not a great experience (awareness)
  • see news releases (awareness)
  • see reviews – as of tonight, there are no reviews on the site (awareness)
  • see Twitter feed (awareness)
  • see G2 Forums (awareness/consideration)
  • share with your social communities (awareness/consideration)
  • BUY – via your phone, in the most convenient store, and/or later (consideration/conversion)

They have designed this experience to mirror an effective e-commerce site and aside from the Microsoft mobile site I recently experienced, this is the best I’ve seen through any technology like this.

Before I posted this tonight, I came across a Tweet that led me to an article in Fast Company – “What Google Goggles Will Do for the Ad Industry.”  The video really says it all.

Agree with everything everyone said here, but I don’t think the only answer is Google Goggles.  Like I said, up until now, I haven’t had a good experience with the application.  It’s had a hard time reading the “real world item” and I’ve found QR codes/MS Tags to be more responsive, and ultimately convenient.  The one thing about Google Goggles is that it is designed to enable to “wordless search” via image recognition – what happens if you’re a brand and someone takes a photo of your product and through Goggles is taken to a Google search where right there in the first listing is a bad review?  It seems like there are elements of the openness of this that could work against the brand instead of for them.  What do you guys think?  Have you used Google Goggles?  I would love to hear about your experience, if so.