Tag Archives: offline to online

Finally, QR Codes Used Right

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

How many times have you scanned a QR code and felt jipped once you discover the content “behind the code?” All too often, I just get directed to the brand’s homepage, and more often than not, a non-mobile-optimized homepage, where I am left to fish around for whatever it was that I thought I would get by scanning. Sure, there are some instances where I get directed to the right page or a coupon or simply just a video, but even then, I am almost always underwhelmed by the entire experience.

When I talk about experience, I’m not really talking about the experience with the technology (although I tend to really gravitate to new, emerging technologies). I’m talking about the brand experience, one that manifests itself from the brand’s story, and is told across various channels, and more and more, through various technologies.

The story is the thing, not the technology.

And unfortunately, I’ve come across so many examples of QR codes, in particular, where there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to using the QR code.

I do think QR codes can be an effective enabling technology. I just don’t think brands/marketers/communicators have quite figured out how to best utilize them to truly drive consumers deeper into the (brand’s) story. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be used just to duplicate an experience that you could otherwise get by simply going to a website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, and/or the like. They should really “unlock” information/content/offers that can’t be accessed in any other way. They should extend the brand’s story in some way. That’s when they’re used “right,” to the fullest of their ability. That’s when they start to add value to the consumer. That’s when consumers will associate them with exclusive information, not just a new way to get driven to a brand’s homepage.

Last night, I saw an effective use of QR codes and it originated, from all places, a TV screen. Before last night, I really saw no value in using a QR code from a digital screen (TV) to another digital screen (mobile). In large part, because I had never seen an effective execution. I think a real strength of QR codes is bridging a non-digital screen (in the real world, like a print piece) to a digital screen (mobile). But last night, I saw one that was effective. And it was effective at extending the brand’s story. The fact that it originated from a digital screen to another digital screen was overshadowed by how it was actually used to unlock exclusive information and drive me deeper into the story.

GoDaddy.com has always done a good job of generating interest in their “story,” even though it is one that has very little tie into the actual benefit of the brand and one that is intended for a very specific audience. But they’ve stuck to their story, and I’m sure the numbers would show they’ve been quite successful because of it. Well, last night, in middle of the football game, I see a QR code in a prominent position on the TV during a GoDaddy commercial.

GoDaddy QR Code

It’s another provocative commercial, of course, one that builds to an incomplete point in the story. You’re left wondering what comes next and the only way you can get it is to scan the QR code on the screen.

So, I did.

And I was directed to a mobile-optimized site where the rest of the story was front and center.

GoDaddy QR Code

So, I watched it and got the rest of the story. The payoff is what you would expect from any of these commercials. It’s kitchy and a bit silly.

But I think, fundamentally, they’re onto a really effective method of storytelling, which is intentionally breaking the story up across different channels and points in time. They want to drive you to the site and they’re using this story to do it. Arguably, quite effectively.

So, could they do this same thing with a URL? Yes. In fact, this is the same commercial that played during the Superbowl. I didn’t see it at the time, but I’m almost certain it did include a URL vs. a QR code.

That’s the lesson here. It’s not about the technology. QR codes can be seen as a more convenient URL. It’s about the story. The story is where the value is. The story is going to create fans. The story is the backbone. When the story is put front and center, technology merely enables a better or worse experience.

So the next time you want to plop a QR code on anything, be it a print piece or a TV commercial, think about the story that you want the consumer to experience and answer this question – is this QR code driving them deeper into that story?

If you’re just merely sending them to your website for “quick access,” then it doesn’t really matter what kind of technology you use. You’ll probably have better success just including the URL.

To see the TV commercial, here you go. To see the “extended” story, here you go.

Digital Out-of-Home Demand and Noise – in 7 Parts

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

Part 1

Last week, I read an intriguing article by Garrick Schmitt of Razorfish, titled How Demand for Physical Experiences is Transforming our Physical Spaces. In it, he points out how the entire physical world around us is becoming a screen and that consumers’ expectations have reached a point to where that physical world should be turned on in some form or fashion. This is a viewpoint that I have mostly gotten behind many times on this blog. I say mostly because of those consumer expectations. I’m not sure that, even now, in August 2011, consumers expect the physical spaces around them to be turned on, and even more, transformed into interactive experiences. I don’t know that average consumer capacity is ready for that. What do you think?

Part 2

Guess when that article was written? 2 years ago, in September 2009. Awesome. In my opinion, Schmitt has always been on the forefront of these technology-led experiences in the real world around us. This is case-in-point.

I remember back during that time, it was around the time that I was leading the software development at imc2, for our interactive Out-of-Home solution. I always admired how Schmitt recognized the potential – and future demand – for these types of experiences.

Time is a funny thing, especially in regards to technology adoption. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re talking about here. Consumer demand is directly tied to their comfort level with any particular technology. We’re just now seeing smartphone use creep their way up to the majority. Smartphones have been around for years. But just now, after all these years, the average consumer is not intimidated by them. They know how to work them and, even more, know how they can make their lives better. It also helps that everyone can now afford them. Kinect is another great example. I wonder how comfortable people would have been with the idea of gesture control, at such an immersive level, two years ago?

Part 3

In the article, Schmitt points to “Out-of-Home” examples that are driven by enabling technologies (mobile and RFID) and people themselves (social media).

I think it’s easy to think about touchscreen-this-and-that when you think about the world around us being turned on. But, as shown in the Schmitt article, and in some of the more recent engaging examples, actual public touchscreens are not part of these experiences. The place or the thing is the canvas and the interactivity is controlled outside of it, either through mobile phones or computers.

The effective thing with all of these examples – and the thing that I think we can all learn from – is that consumers want it all, in the most convenient way. What I mean is, consumers want information and connections and whatever else they deem valuable. And they’re always going to be driven by what they’re comfortable with because it’s usually the easiest. They’re used to being on computers, connecting with other people through their social networks. They’re used to navigating to whatever they want on their mobile phones. Are they used to walking up to a touchscreen and interacting with it?

Part 4

Also last week (the same day I read the Schmitt article), I saw that Cinemax deployed an immersive touchscreen experience in the heart of New York City.

As you can see, the experience spans the front of an entire NYC building. It’s obviously noticeable. Consumers are enticed by it. And, by the looks of this video, comfortable enough to go up and play with it.

Having lived and worked in NYC, to get anyone to stop and interact with a storefront, is a feat in and of itself.

Yes, people can also interact with this experience through their mobile phone. But this is largely a public-facing, touchscreen experience. And it doesn’t seem like anyone in the video is a) intimidated or b) unaware of how to use it.

Is this indicative of Anytown USA?

Part 5

QR codes. What can be simpler? In the past year, they’ve gone from nothing to everything, at least in terms of visibility. My wife knows that “those are the things you can scan with your smartphone.”

They’re a great bridge between the real world with the virtual world and quite effective of turning those places/things around us “on.”

They’re everywhere now.

But the question is, despite their simplicity, why am I the only one who I ever see scan them?

Part 6

Simplicity and comfort are not the only two linchpins to this demand that we all know is coming. You can bring up the Minority Report analogies all you want, but this is not a far-fetched representation of our future world. Glorified, perhaps. But not unrealistic.

Two years ago, all of these interactive Out-of-Home activations were novel enough to garner attention. Are we still in that novel stage?

Part 7

Value. That’s really the question, right?

In this constantly-on physical world, what’s going to be noise and what’s going to be valuable?

By virtue, demand always creates noise.

Are consumers ready for all that noise?


Human Behaviors – Not Technology – Help Tell Stories & Drive Action

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

I think we all know the importance of content in the marketing and communications mix. At the core of any experience, I believe, is the brand’s story. And the way that story is told, via the content, is arguably what we all get paid for.

In today’s always-on, hyper-connected world, it’s easy – as marketers and communicators – to focus too much on specific channels than the story and what form it should take on those channels. This is a hard challenge to overcome because new channels and new technologies within those channels surface and evolve on a daily basis. “New” media makes it easy to distract us from what will really make those channels/technology effective – the story.

I think all of this new, shiny stuff also clouds basic human behavior, which has been around and has evolved way before any of this. Those core behaviors often guide me as I’m thinking about how to bring to life and tell a brand’s story across any channel that we might have the opportunity to use. So, while this might not be a complete list – I’m no sociologist – it’s been a helpful guide to me.

  1. People want to have a say – with anything, people feel more comfortable and trusting of a decision that they’ve had some impact on. We don’t like being told things and “this is the way it is.” The open web and new technology has actually exacerbated this behavior to the point to where people are enabled to give their opinions, weigh in and help shape more decisions, more quickly. It’s taken empowerment to a new level. A brand’s story belongs to the brand, but the shape it takes along the way, and the experiences (offline and online) it creates/enables, is constantly changing. A brand simply asking their customers what they think about something goes a long way.
  2. People expect personal – I don’t know about you, but I ignore anything – be it an email, direct mail, or anything else – that doesn’t have my first name on it. If it’s not addressed to ME, I don’t want to spend the time with it. Social channels – Facebook, Twitter, even email – are personal, by nature. When brands/companies don’t leverage this personalization, they miss opportunities.
  3. People want to be in the know – I think we are driven by knowledge of any kind, whether it’s about a place to eat, a new product or service, or the best babysitter in the neighborhood (personally, this is GOLD to me!). We want to have this knowledge, and often times, we want this knowledge before anyone else has it. All of these new technologies, especially those enabled through personal screens like mobile, provide an opportunity to deliver exclusive content over and over.
  4. People like sharing – just as we like to know, and before anyone else does, we also like to share with others. Forget about any specific channel – just plain old word-of-mouth – we like to tell others about that new place to eat, that new pair of shoes, or that babysitter in the neighborhood. Sharing is core to any effective story(telling).
  5. People support what they love – everyone has their passions. People are driven by them. And my passions are not the same as yours. Anyone seen haul videos? Why anyone would want to watch someone’s clothing haul, I don’t know. That’s just not my thing. Obviously, it’s many others. People love what they love and they get behind what they love. This is a powerful opportunity.

The great opportunity that we have with all of these channels and new technology is more appropriate and targeted platforms to tell that story. This, to me, is the beauty and the (still) unrealized potential of Out-of-Home and digital signage. More and more, we’re starting to see mobile as an extremely effective channel – through all of the different technologies – to communicate to consumers on their terms, when they’re out and about, on-the-go.

Whether your main focus is creating content/telling a brand’s story via digital signage, social media, advertising or anything else, don’t forget about fundamental human behavior. It’s what drives action and interaction, not the technology.


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?

Solid (QR Code) Extension for a Solid Brand

Although one of my New Year’s resolutions was to cool it on the QR code posts, I saw something in the most recent edition of Wired that caught my eye.

Tag Heuer QR code ad

Tag Heuer dipping their toes in the QR code water. My first reaction was a little bit surprised. This was the first time I’d seen a luxury brand utilize this type of technology. So, of course, I snapped the code and was taken to their mobile site:

There, I found a solid mobile-enabled/optimized experience, complete with image galleries, specs, videos, social & e-commerce hooks, as well as an option to stay updated via email.

No holes.

The interesting thing here was my expectation, both in the offline and the online worlds. In the offline world (the magazine ad), I didn’t expect a brand like Tag Heuer to use this type of technology. They have a loyal customer base, the brand speaks for itself, and since it isn’t exactly an impulse-shopping brand (for the majority of consumers), it doesn’t seem like they need to worry about connecting with people through this on-the-go, convenient technology.

But, you see, once I engaged, in the online world (where I was directed once I scanned the code), I expected the brand to deliver a top-notch experience, one reflective of their brand. And they did.

Here’s my takeaway – with new technologies emerging in and out of the home every day, consumer expectation is changing just as rapidly. It’s no longer a matter of whether or not brands use technologies like this to connect, it’s a matter of how they use technologies like this to connect.

Tag has a solid handle on their brand and as a result, any channel they use to extend their experience is going to be a benefit because they’re meeting expectations on the how.

What’s the Future of Code/Image Scanning Technologies?

This is Part 3 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.

In the previous two posts in this series, I discussed the value I see in code/image scanning technologies and showed a couple of examples of their effective use. Even though I see their value, I feel like we have a long way to go in mass adoption of these technologies. Saying that, today, I want to look a little bit deeper into the future I see for them.

Technological advancements and consumer behavior are the two nuts at the center of this future, and insofar as mobile goes, they are inextricably linked. Mobile use, in general, has skyrocketed this year, and we’re seeing more and more smartphones in the market. And with smartphones come apps. And with apps come the ability for deeper, unique experiences between brands and consumers and between consumers themselves. All does not hinge on smartphones and apps, but it’s important to know as these technologies grow and become a part of our everyday life, so does the comfort with using them to the fullest ability. The device and what it can do is powerful, and it’s only going to continue getting more powerful.

Now, enter consumer behavior – the problem with code/image scanning technologies right now is that they’re not affecting consumer behavior in the way I feel like they can. Consumers either a) don’t know what they are b) don’t know what they can do and/or c) don’t find the value in them to affect their behavior in a way that will affect mass change. Smartphones are a game changer. Code/image scanning technologies, at least “manual” scanning technologies, are not. Near-field communication (NFC), however, is. And this is really where I see the future of code/image scanning technologies.

If you’re not familiar, last month Google announced that they were going to include NFC capabilities (hardware/software) in their future phones. Nokia and Apple jumped in the ring, too. This, just like apps, is going to unleash a different level of power and comfort for the people who use them, which will soon be everyone. Now, I might be a couple of years off, but just this week, the NFC Forum developed a trademark that will show everyone where NFC can be enabled out in the public (below). So, it’s around the corner, albeit maybe a round corner.

Near Field Communication trademark

One of the primary benefits of NFC, and NFC-enabled devices, is the ability to turn your mobile phone into a payment device. This ability completely changes the way consumers “transact” – how they shop and pay for things. It has the ability to drastically affect consumer behavior. Just the same way that debit cards did years ago. This is the new debit card. Now, imagine that debit card being able to unlock customized brand content in the same way code/image scanning technologies do today. You’ve got it with NFC.

It’s based on the same principle as what we see today – a device scans something, recognizes it, and then serves up content. The only difference with NFC is there is no “manual scan,” only a “manual bump.” With a simple gesture, consumers get the same, potentially-rich experience they get today through opening an app and taking a picture. In my opinion, this makes the experience better, primarily because it’s easier. But once brands and consumers get comfortable with the technology, and as it evolves, the potential for deep, personalized, connected, and importantly, comfortable, experiences is high. And all of that equates to value.

Imagine the experience consumers could get through a place-based screen, delivering place-based content, but only personalized even more via NFC. Talk about mobile being a powerful connector to digital signage. Throughout the year, I’ve heard some in the industry talk about how mobile can feed the digital signage screen (ie – Tweet streams on digital signage) so that the signage is an extension of the mobile experience. NFC changes that paradigm – the digital signage actually feeds the mobile screen so that the mobile is an extension of the digital signage experience.

Again, I recognize that this is probably not the near-term future of code/image scanning technologies, but things move fast in the technology world. A disruptive technology like this will have a great impact on consumer behavior, so I believe it is the future for sure. I talk about the “new” OOH where technology enables the places and things around us to be turned “on,” where everything is a screen, and where people are a critical component of the “network.” Things are moving in this direction now and it’s exciting to be a part of it. I would encourage everyone to embrace the technologies that we have now and push them as far as they can be pushed, to keep experimenting, and most of all, to share, share, share. This is a brave new technological world and it keeps getting more and more interesting as the days go by.

What do YOU think? Agree or disagree?

What’s the True Value of Code/Image Scanning Technologies?

This is Part 1 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.

Today, I’m going to focus on two different (yet conceptually same) technologies – code scanning & image scanning. I’ve written about these types of technologies ad nauseum this year.

I can’t tell you how many discussions I have in our office about adoption of these technologies and their true value. I’m on the side of the fence that sees great potential in their ability to drive consumers deeper into brand experiences by bridging the offline with the online. Others are on the side of the fence that asks, “why not just use a URL?”

Here’s my simple response – if it’s the same exact content that you’d send someone to, via the URL or through the code, the code isn’t that valuable. If the code enables consumers to “unlock” special content that couldn’t otherwise be accessed, then the code is extremely valuable. The crux of it to me lies in content. So, my question back is, “what’s the content strategy?”

These codes, just being used for technology’s sake, do very little good. They don’t enable a great experience and more importantly, they don’t offer up value to the consumer. However, when they can deliver content that enables a valuable experience – oh, by the way, in a unique way – then, they can be very powerful. The sheer ability to instantly drive a consumer into an interactive (sometimes, social) experience from an otherwise static advertisement is profound in its power. Problem is, we’ve not seen many brands create the type of experience that makes a profound impact. I’m convinced that it can be done.

What are your thoughts? Which side of the fence are you on?

Stay tuned for more….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bud Light Merges the Real-World (Offline) with the Virtual World (Online)

Recently, I’ve talked a lot about the ability (and power) of mobile + code and/or image recognition technology to bridge the offline with the online and drive consumers deeper into brand experiences. I’ve noticed that brands are increasingly becoming better at telling their story through these technologies, which is critical because, now more than ever, consumers can access those brands through a myriad of channels. There’s a long way to go, for sure – brands need to consider their marketing and communications mix, what channels they’re going to advertise and be present in, what story they’re going to tell & how they’re going to tell it in each of those channels, and more importantly, how/if they’re going to support their story in the “unconventional” channels with what they do in the more “conventional” channels. There’s a brand-story component and an advertising component and the crux is always, how well do they work with each other? Organizations, particularly large ones, are often times fragmented to the point of not knowing what each department (marketing, advertising, PR, customer service, etc…) is doing, much less integrating with each other to make their story and individual campaigns stronger. So, it was a nice surprise when I saw a Bud Light commercial (er, Apollo Creed) call out the ability to “snap” a photo of the box and get immediate access to a clever piece of content – the Bud Light Playbook – all football-season long.

It’s great to see the brand a) incorporating technology like this as a way to touch the consumer while they’re out and about and b) raising consumers’ awareness of this new type of experience via their TV (largest “conventional” media channel) spot. This is obviously a much better way to drive this type of action vs. sticking a code on printed material. I think it’s a great case to learn from, particularly when brands want to place these codes/use this type of technology on their packaging. Consumers are smart, but they need as much awareness of these new entry points as brands can give them.

I was at the store this weekend and although I wasn’t in the market for Bud Light, I had to stop and take a picture of the box so I could get into this experience.

When I found a box that could be “activated” (only found on 12-pack cans), I didn’t have to mess around with it to know what to do. Everything was prominent, clear and actionable. They included imagery of the enticement (the Playbook) front and center, the call-to-action was large enough to notice and read, the “code” was prominent, and the directions were clear.

I don’t know that you could do a better job in executing the basics.

As soon as I texted the picture in, I was led on this adventure which I still can’t determine whether it was annoying or smart. The 1st text I received was to verify my age (smart).

Bud Light Snap Code

The 2nd text was when the true brand experience, in terms of content, started. The options were plentiful – watch this week’s “play”, see more plays, see recipes, tailgating tips, or “Behind Enemy Lines” trailers. And, if I wanted, link directly to the Facebook page. (First impression – smart).

Bud Light Snap Code 2nd Text

I thought this was excellent in terms of the brand’s story – they clearly have a lot of content to offer in this experience. However, I felt like there were so many options that I might lose out on some of the content. I watched the video first and was completely underwhelmed. It rendered horribly on my phone and seemed to start & stop abruptly. There was no “wrapper” at the beginning and end of the video – when it stopped, it just stopped, and popped me back out to my text message. I watched it again, just to see if I missed anything. I didn’t. I commend them on making these videos unique – in style (graphical), in tone, and in content – but I found the combination to verge on silly and void of value. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop my brand experience here, so I texted in “A” for more plays.

Bud Light Snap Code Text 3

And what do you think I got? Even MORE options – 3 individual plays and then an option for even more plays. (Annoying, now.) So, I closed my eyes and picked one. And I got back another underwhelming video and just two, simple options – go to Facebook or back to the dreaded multi-option menu. (Less annoying.)

Bud Light Scan Code Text 4

It was at this point that I shut my phone down because I had enough of the mobile experience. It didn’t prove to be valuable to me (in fairness, I wasn’t anywhere near a grill or a football game or any environment this seems intended for) and I was down the path so far that I didn’t know what would be required of me to go back and experience other, non-play-video content. So, I just stopped. I figured I could get a better experience in front of my computer. Sure enough, that was the case.

When I got home, I opened up my trusty computer and went straight to the Bud Light Facebook page. Since I wasn’t a fan, the default for me was the Playbook tab. (In executing initiatives for clients, this is something standard that we do, too – default to the campaign-specific tab until someone “Likes” the brand. At that point, the default page is the Wall.) Right there, front and center, was another image of the code and more call-to-action/instructions. Now, I felt like the experience was back to being smart – seeing this front and center creates another level of awareness that the boxes are interactive and reinforces the ability to get the brand on-the-go. It’s also another opportunity to show how easy it really is.

Bud Light Facebook HOME page

Quite possibly my favorite element of this page is the ability to see all of the videos that I felt like I missed whenever I took a certain path through the mobile experience. Seeing more videos didn’t change my opinion of them, but it gave me satisfaction in the fact that I now knew the entire “playlist” and wasn’t missing out on any content.

The rest of the page and the different types of content is good. There’s coaches “tips” (for tailgating and grilling) and tailgating/game-watching recipes and an interactive poll – all different types with different levels of interactivity. There really seems to be something for everyone, regardless of the amount of time someone has to spend with the brand at any given time.

In my opinion, the best part about this whole experience, from an outsider’s point of view, and it’s really smart – it’s all centered around a content strategy that releases new content every week. The content well is continuously being filled, if you will. This is an element of the campaign that truly enables a deeper experience with the brand because a) it keeps content fresh and b) the consumer can receive the “fresh” content through multiple channels. They don’t need to be in front of their computer to keep up with the brand. They just need to be part of the experience and it doesn’t matter if they’re in their home or not. In fact, this particular campaign seems to be primarily targeted to those hard-core football fans who would take many Bud Lights out to the game and tailgate, and it’s there, at the game, outside of their home, that they engage with the brand and this content.

Content is key. Simple as that.

This is just another example of how technology enables an otherwise static, 1-way push-message THING (a box) to become an interactive, 2-way communication VEHICLE.  It’s an illustration of the “new” OOH that I talk about – more and more, we’re seeing the places and things around us having the ability to be “turned on.” And what this does, not only in reaching consumers where they are, when they want it, how they want it, it changes the game in a profound way because it moves something that has always been used to create awareness to something that can now be used to create engagement. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

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.