Can Google's weight give momentum to QR codes?

I was reading through a post today on the Ad Age Digital Next blog by my colleague Allison Mooney and wanted to share it with you. The post is on Google's support of QR code technology through a program called Favorite Places.

In short, Google is tapping into their local search data to find the top local establishments. They then send them a sticker for their door which has a QR code printed on it and takes the person to that business' listing on Google. It's an interesting way to tie live search data to a physical location and then back to search again.

The trick here, as noted by Allison, is that the QR reader software is an add-on to devices. There are some free versions around, but many people will have to pay for it, not to mention the level of education that needs to happen around this to make it successful.

Here is a quick video overview that Google produced to explain the program:

(Does anyone else find it weird that they used the iPhone throughout the video and not a Google Android device? Oh well.)

If you're interested, here is more information on QR codes from a previous post I did.

So what does this mean? Not much at this point. It's great to have a giant like Google throw their weight into it, but there is a lot of education that needs to happen first. If and when device manufacturers start installing a reader standard on all handsets (Nokia does on some handsets) we can talk more about it as a solid marketing option.

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Text to newsstand

I was flipping through the Economist the other day (because it exhausts me to try to actually read the whole thing) while I was on the plane and came across this insert in the magazine. I found it quite interesting and wanted to get your take.

Economist SMS ad Economist SMS ad part 2

The point of the service is to send a text message to receive alerts when the print publication is hitting newsstands. It's an interesting idea in the promotion of print with digital platforms. Obviously the content strategy is to release at the stands first and then online to keep print subs up.

What do you think of this? Would you sign up? Would you want this service for other printed materials? There are a number of magazines that I read but don't subscribe to for which this is an interesting idea.

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Launched: Papa John's Road Trip augmented reality

Launched is a series that highlights practitioners who are using social media in consumer and B2B campaigns. The goal is to cut out the theory and rhetoric and focus on real world examples of social media in action.

This example is for a Papa John's campaign created by Fleishman-Hillard (my employer) and includes physical events, social media hooks and includes a cool augmented reality example. The campaign is in support of Papa John's 25th anniversary and ties into the Road Trip program. This post looks at the augmented reality application and tie to the broader campaign.

Here is a quick video overview of the technology:

[Feed readers please click through to the post to see the video.]

Marketing takeaways:


  • Good use of technology to tie physical customer interactions back to virtual elements and then through to transaction
  • Measurement through unique coupon codes in the augmented reality environment

If you have a suggestion for a future episode of Launched, drop me an email.

For my complete library of my videos for marketers, click here.


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The Radiohead experiment; a fan's view

Picture 16.pngI am sure that if you read this blog, or other blogs with a similar focus, you've doubtlessly heard about British band Radiohead's new, open pricing experiment. If you have not, here is the overview. There is no price for their new album "In Rainbows". You as a user choose the price that you are willing to pay for the album and there are no limits. If you want it for free, it's yours. If you want to pay $100, they'll take your money.

While this has been covered by every newspaper and blogger from here to Timbiktu, I want to add a slightly different take on things. I want to tell you about my viewpoint as a FAN. I love Radiohead. I've seen them in concert 5+ times (they don't tour a lot) and I own every album they have produced. When this situation came up, I immediately thought about my valuation of their album using past experience and emotional connection to the band.

Radiohead_wallpaper.jpgSo what am I going to pay? $25 (USD). That's more than I've ever payed for a single release album. Why am I paying so much? Here is my thinking. The band has provided me countless hours of enjoyment over the years, set memories to music and given it their all from the CD to the stage. I also know that in the past when I purchase one of their albums, the band gets completely hosed. I remember reading at one point that only about $.50 from each album sale goes to the band members, so this is a chance to make sure they get what they deserve.

I think there are a number of loyal fans that will pay top dollar for this release, but I know there are many who will pay less or take the album for free. (Not sure how it will pan out financially for the band or how they'll be tracked on the charts.) Free isn't necessarily bad though. I guarantee the next time they come to town a lot more people will know who they are and will attend the show, because they'll have their music on their iPod.

Radiohead is a fairly broad-reaching band, but they're not in the mainstream like a U2 or Dave Matthews Band. That would be the ultimate social experiment...can this open pricing model work on a mass, global scale?

This could signal a fundamental shift in the music industry where the content will be the giveaway/promotion as bands make their money touring? What's more profitable, making $.50 a copy or introducing millions of people to your brand?

[UPDATE:] Check out Mack's post with some results and more thinking on this topic.


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Starbucks song of the day and physical artifacts

Starbucks giveawayIf you haven't been to a Starbucks in the last week or so, you may have missed a cool new promotion their doing with iTunes. Each day for a month, Starbucks is giving customers a small card (business card size) away with a new artist on it. On the back of the card is a code to redeem the song in the iTunes Music Store.

This is not only a good continuation of the Apple + Starbucks relationship, but a way to simultaneously drive traffic to the physical store (you can only get them in person) and to iTunes. This plays well with the iPhone and iPod Touch relationship that's already been formed between the two companies and shows Starbucks' continued move into the music retail space.

I love this idea on a couple of levels. Not only is there a big benefit to the end user (around $30 in free music), but it most likely will drive the incremental revenue to Starbucks to cover the expense a number of times over. The program also solidifies the music push to Starbucks customers who (most of which) have not ever purchases a CD or other DVD inside the store and it reinforces the position to people who have. Starbucks is also promoting new artists on a national level, the majority of whom I have not heard of.

The other piece of this that I think has hooks into MANY marketing plans is the idea of a physical artifact that ties the offline to the online. This physical card is easy to hand out at the register, easy to shove into a pocket or purse and just as easy to redeem online. These physical ties to the online world are powerful physical reminders and bridges to take offline customers into the online experience.

microsoftbizcard219border.jpgThis strategy is one of the reasons that I love what Hugh MacLeod does, taking artwork on the back of business cards and using them as digital and physical artifacts (or "social objects" as Hugh calls them). Hugh has grown this into work with Stormhoek winery and Microsoft (pictured here), creating elements that drive users to engage with the brands on- and off-line.

I am not talking about tchotchke. These items have intrinsic value, they are not throw-aways with a web URL.

What could you create today that could take your current customers or visitors to your website or location on the social network? Is it art on the back of your business card? Is it a USB drive with cool content on it? The possibilities are endless.


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Blogging from the Marketing Profs B2B Forum 2007 - Day 1

Picture 12.pngI am in Chicago today attending, shooting video and blogging live from the Marketing Profs B2B Forum 2007. My flight was a bit late getting in so I missed the morning session, but I will be blogging from the keynote from Chip Heath (co-author of Made to Stick) and from the afternoon sessions.

Other bloggers who are in attendance (whom I am aware of) include Todd Andrlik, David Armano, Josh Hallet, Douglas Karr and Ann Handley (who I just met and is nice as can be).

I will update this post as the day unfolds. Stay tuned.

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Chip Heath on stageChip Heath gave a great keynote speech over lunch. He kept it light, followed the book's formula, but he added a touch of humor and extra insights that made this really valuable. If you have not read the book, check out the PDF outline that Cam Beck created for the Marketing Profs Book Club.




Branding panelThe branding panel presented by the folks from Babcock Jenkins was well received and full of visual examples to step people through their thinking. Key messaging for me included these points on message creation:

  1. Find one true sentence
  2. Take baby steps
  3. Use sales and customer interviews
  4. Would you buy it?

These points are some of the basics around message creation for any campaign.



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Marketing campaign shrouded in mystery drives fans online

Who says you have to terrorize an entire city to drive buzz around a marketing campaign? Kudos to John Booth at Crains Cleveland Business for pointing out this article on CNN.com. Cleveland's own, and Nine Inch Nails lead singer, Trent Reznor is rumored to be behind a cryptic marketing campaign which has used USB drives left in restrooms, phone message recordings of songs and rogue web sites to stir up fans.

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Nine Inch Nails' new album 'Year Zero' is due in stores and the band is using a mysterious, grassroots campaign to drive interest. The band isn't saying much at this point, their fans are driving the conversation. The discovery marketing tactics started with a T-shirt which fans realized led to a URL. Once on the site, fans were pointed to other locations, criss-crossing the Web to uncover the next clue.

Some of the site URLs are:

Fans also found cleverly placed USB memory sticks in restrooms at European NIN concerts that contained new, unreleased tracks. The files spread like wildfire though email and peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Yet another T-shirt pointed to a Cleveland phone number that played a recording of one of the tracks.

This goes more to prove that the group understands marketing and their fans. They're trying to reach people in new ways using a mix of promotion, technology and guerilla marketing. Fans get to experience the band's personality, interact in new and more personal ways and get to connect with the band before the general public. No matter what you think of their music, they really get the marketing side and their fans benefit in the end.

UPDATE: Spike at Brains on Fire has a humorous take on the RIAA's response to this campaign. Left hand, meet right hand.


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I was bluespammed

bluespammed.jpgI was walking through the upper west side in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago when I felt my phone buzz on my hip. I had my hands full with my camera and a venti coffee from Starbucks so I let it go to voicemail. A few blocks later I finished my coffee and grabbed my phone to see who called. To my wonderment I saw a bluetooth connection request from a merchant I had walked past. I even took the picture you see in this post because it caught me so off-guard.

I've posted about bluespamming before, but this is the first time it happened to me. It is a very risky, short-term tactic for companies to engage in and could potentially cause some damage to the brand (unless you're a marketer who doesn't care about your branding). Mobile phones are still very personal for a lot of people. They don't want tele-marketers calling them, rogue text messages or unsolicited bluetooth offers.

I also just came across this post at Helen Keegan's blog which is a great read for marketers thinking about this risky and untested space. In her example, HSBC bank is trying it out in the UK to both of our amazement.

The low cost of this tactic is enticing to many companies and it's only going to get worse I fear. But, this is spam no matter how you dice it. So unless you have the license to send messages to every single phone (like you own the company and the employee phones) you are going to tick people off and damage your reputation.

If you're smart, stay away from this invasive, unrequested form of marketing. If you're innovative, consider (for example) creating an SMS campaign which you promote on a sidewalk ad in front of your store. Tell people that for an immediate X% discount, send a message to your shortcode and show the cashier the reply message. This way you're using technology, but the user is pulling you in.

UPDATE: I read this article on Businessweek.com, via Silicon.com, and the tone of the article paints this as a "mobile ad push". NO! This is spamming. No ifs, ands or buts. Please people. Just say no to unsolicited messaging.


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Ozzy Osbourne looks to re-invent the summer concert

CK has a great post on the Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog about the re-invention of Ozzfest. Ozzfest is a summer concert tour launched by Ozzy Osbourne and his wife Sharon. What's different about it this year? The concert is free to fans, all 25 dates. How Concert 2.0 of them.

This fan-focused structure puts the burden of the event on the sponsors and not on the fans themselves. What a great idea to show the people, who buy the music and the merchandise, how valuable they are to the bands. Can you imagine these dates wouldn't sell out in a heartbeat? All of the merchandise sales and vending will still be in place so they're still making money.

Click here to read more on the Daily Fix Blog.


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Super Ad Sunday is here

goal_small.jpgIt's not that I'm not a football fan, I am. But, I look forward to today (like many others in the marketing community) to see the ads. This year's advertising will be a mixture of user generated ads, from the likes of Doritos and Alka Seltzer, and the typical comedic beer ad shootout.

Ad Week via www.superadfreak.com will be blogging the Super Bowl ads this year. Guest bloggers include Seth Godin, Joseph Jaffe, Tim Arnold, Andy Berlin, Chris Wall and Tom Messner. (I can't wait to get Seth's more pragmatic take to help cut through the hype.)

This is a nice experiment to engage top-level marketing bloggers and get real-time input. It will be interesting to see how the commentary works and what ads come out on top. Interactive marketers need to pay attention to the push to the internet and we all need to look at how/if these commercials drive real business results. More on that from me tomorrow.

For now, check out the SuperAdFreak site for the running commentary and enjoy the game.

Note: This Apple Macintosh ad really started the phenomenon of Super Bowl advertising as its own partitioned competition. Is the next groundbreaking commercial going to launch today?



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Mobile marketing 101: Geographic smart-targeting

This is the first of a two part series on mobile geo-targeting. Geography-based targeting is becoming more realistic as technology improves and consumers become more accepting of marketing messages on their phones. This post explores "smart-targeting" where the marketer knows (based on signup) who their customers are and what content they would like to receive. The marketer then uses the customer's real-time, geographic position to send them messages when they're within range.

To illustrate a smart-targeting campaign I created an example (see below) using my favorite purveyor of coffee. For a campaign like this, users would have signed up online to receive update messages and profile their interests. They also would have gone through the mobile confirmed opt-in process (read more about confirmed opt-ins).

Once activated, whenever a customer comes within a pre-defined distance from a store they would receive a message from that location based on their preferences. The power here is that the offer is relevant to their interest (coffee drinking and the brand) and it is geo-relevant as well. Each Starbucks location would have the ability to send out similar messages as a subscriber's device is detected with matching interest criteria.


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(Hat tip to David Armano for the inspiration to blog with my information designs, I've got a ways to go before I reach his level.)

There are three primary types of customers who could receive these smart-targeted messages. Green consumers in the diagram are true devotees. They welcome your messages and even get excited to receive them because it makes them feel more like part of your community. Geo-targeting to these users serves as a branding reinforcement and could spark spur-of-the-moment purchases through coupons or new product information.

Consumers in orange are on the edge. They're occasional users of your product or service, but they are close to moving to the red level. Messages to this person need to be more focused on product trial. The more they try and become devoted, the better chance they have of moving back to green.

Red consumers are the most crucial to deal with. They have either a) lost their affinity for you and your products or b) forgotten they signed up in the first place. Every campaign needs to have a mechanism built in to remove these users immediately and put them on a permanent do not message list. Most of the risk (legal, time and money) of any geo-targeting campaign lies in this group.

Other, non-mobile methods of contact should be sent periodically to allow users to adjust their interests or opt-out. Other questions should aim to provide more insight into the level of the customer for campaign message adjustment.

Despite the risks, the power of mobile technology combined with the hyper-relevant message is nearly unmatched in modern marketing. No other combination of resources is as relevant and personal as geo-targeted marketing...if done right. If not conducted correctly geo-targeted campaigns become pure spam, hurt the overall brand and limit acceptance for future mobile efforts. The technology to enable this type of geo-targeting is becoming a reality more and more as new geo-ready phones are released.

Part 2 will focus on always-on, proximity targeting. This is very different from geo-targeting and has its own set of risks and rewards. Check back shortly for that post.

Past Mobile Marketing 101 posts:


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Google gives incentive for using Checkout

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I just saw the message in the image above on the Google home page offering users $10 to use Google Checkout. This is an interesting tactic to increase awareness of Checkout as well as showcase some of Google's key commerce partners.

I am personally torn on using Checkout. I understand the concept and the reason Google is trying to succeed where other giants have failed (read MS Wallet). I do hesitate to use it though as I am comfortable with the vendors I buy through online and this would mean that Google has access to my credit card and address info. That's one of the reasons that MS Wallet failed in the first place. Why would someone use this service over going to Amazon?


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SecondLife's real numbers

There has been a lot of discussion recently in the press and in the offices of DigiKnow as to the real numbers of SecondLife. CNet has a great rundown which I can summarize and save you the read. While Linden Labs (creators of SL) state a user base of over 2 million users, approximately 220,000 are actually active in the system. 42,400 people pay for the premium accounts in SL. Contrast that with World of Warcraft's 7.5 million paid users.

Despite the controversy, SL has promise. The virtual world allows you to create an avatar (a virtual representation of the offline you) and interact with it. This includes meeting other users, chatting with them, buying goods and services, relaxing, etc. Companies are creating offices, holding press conferences and scheduling meet-ups in SL. These could potentially be very valuable marketing opportunities when talking to an audience who is apt to participate.

These virtual worlds are gaining momentum and marketers are jumping on-board. The real key is to make sure that your audience is using these types of games/experiences. Most likely if you're not targeting men in their mid-30s who still live with their parents, you may have to wait for this to catch on a little more.

Just noticed this article on Reuters with one of Gartner's analysts who thinks the SecondLife hype is near it's peak.


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1000 paintings...going fast

Along the same line as the million dollar homepage, this site is selling 1000 paintings. Each painting is an actual number. Pricing is based dynamically on the remaining supply. A cool way to auto tie a price to real supply and demand.
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Coca Cola launches online rewards program

Coke recently launched an online rewards program to capitalize on customer affinity to the brand. The site offers different options from their partners (Delta, Adidas, etc.) to redeem the points you earn.

A lot of big names are jumping on this bandwagon now (NASCAR and Pepsi have been doing it for some time). The key is keeping it relevant and timely. Nobody will remember these sites unless they can interact with them at least once a week (more if possible).  The audience is splintered already online, this will be just another username and password to remember if not done properly.

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Google cross promotes DaVinci Code

Google is promoting the upcoming release of the Dan Brown best-seller 'The DaVinci Code' through a personalized Google Module. The promotion gets the user into the movie by utilizing a series of puzzles and challenges. 
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