Tag Archives | Apple

Shazam Could Replace The QR Code

QR Code Death

Admit it: The QR Code is never going to catch on with mainstream users. (Hell, it’s barely getting used by advertisers, and we’ll try anything once.) Asking people to download and use a 3rd party app so they can scan a code to get mysterious content related to an ad is a bit much, and until Apple decides to include a QR code scanning app with every iPhone, they’re just not going to get used by more than a fringe minority of the mobile audience.

That said, the reason advertisers want QR codes to take off is clear: We live in an increasingly mobile world, and with campaigns spreading across multiple mediums, there needs to be an easy way to connect analog content with digital content so we can create a more interactive and immersive experience.

While NFC holds promise as a potential solution, it requires broad adoption by phone manufacturers, and there’s little indication we’ll see that any time soon.

So is it time to face the facts and admit that it will never be easy to connect ads to a mobile experience?

Not exactly.

Shazam

Enter, Shazam.

Shazam debuted as an app that recognizes the audio from music and reports back on what song is currently playing. The technology has since been repurposed by companies like Old Navy, General Mills and News Corp. to recognize commercials, allowing viewers to tag the audio of a spot and receive additional content from the brand.

If you haven’t experienced one of these enhanced ads, check out this Pillsbury Crescents commercial which returns recipes to users who Shazam the ad when prompted:

While this works well in a controlled environment like the living room, there’s no reason the same technology can’t be used in other places to connect ads to a mobile device.

See where I’m going with this?

Calvin Klein recently teamed up with Shazam to create in-store sound installations, and proved that the process can be used for more than just tagging TV.

The interaction is simple: When a customer is near the branded podium, they open the Shazam app and scan the song that’s playing through the speaker. In return, they receive exclusive content like in-store promotions, a complimentary download of an exclusive song, and a Calvin Klein holiday wallpaper for their mobile device.

According to David Jones, VP of Marketing at Shazam:

Calvin Klein is an iconic fashion brand known across the globe, and Shazam is incredibly excited to work with them on their new holiday campaign and in-store sound installations. Shazam’s partnership with Calvin Klein marks the first in-store-only program utilizing Shazam, and demonstrates how retailers can take advantage of Shazam’s discovery service to help build an enriching, interactive experience with shoppers this holiday season.

While I like what this campaign represents, I think it’s just a small step in the direction of what could be a major competitor to QR codes and NFC.

Calvin Klein Shazam

Imagine out of home campaigns that use small speakers to play audio that’s beyond the reach of human hearing, but can be picked up by the phone to connect the ad with a mobile experience. The audio could be customized by region to offer location based ads, or the app could simply tap into the phone’s GPS capabilities for the same effect.

Now imagine an outdoor scavenger hunt that uses custom Shazam tags to ensure that users are where they say they are, and delivers rewards in exchange for seeking out the branded experience. Or how about a sweepstakes that uses the audio tag to tell the phone if the user is a winner. Or a bus stop ad that entertains with a song while also allowing the brand to quickly connect on a deeper level when users activate their Shazam app.

These are just a few examples of what’s possible with the technology, and I’m sure we’ll see others as advertisers start brainstorming, but the idea is that it’s as simple as adding a speaker to an existing ad, and letting Shazam handle the rest.

So why is Shazam different from what we’re asking people to do to interact with QR codes?

While the process is similar, the key to Shazam’s potential success is the 165 million users they have already acquired through their music tagging service. Unlike QR codes, which require apps that have no purpose but to scan QR codes, Shazam has already established value to the user, and people are familiar with the process of using Shazam to tag content for additional information. It’s a short jump from the existing behavior to the new behavior, and millions of users are already primed to make that jump.

The Shazam logo can become synonymous with additional content, and that content doesn’t limit brands to the data that can fit in a shortened and codified URL.

Since we’ve already seen big brands test out Shazam for tagging TV, and initial reports are that they’re happy with the results and looking to do more, I wouldn’t be surprised to see those same brands follow Calvin Kleins’ lead in the next few months by testing the waters of out of home tagging. Assuming both advertisers and users get value out of those initial interactions, the behavior should stick, and we will finally have a technology that millions of people can use to extend the ad experience to their mobile device.

Acceptable Ads Are Good For Everyone

Battle by Ran Yaniv Hartstein

There’s a war being waged in the world of online advertising: On one side, advertisers desperately trying to get their product in front of as many readers as possible; on the other, readers desperately trying to ignore ads and get to the content they’re looking for.

In this war, the readers have many weapons:

  • Instapaper and Read It Later strip out a site’s content and present it in an easy to read way, free from ads.
  • Apple’s Safari browser includes a new feature called Reader, which lets you view content “in a clean, uncluttered space free from blinking, annoying ads”.
  • Adblock Plus is the most popular add-on for Firefox, with more than 143 million downloads to date. The service not only removes ads, it also prevents tracking, blocks Flash, and even changes scripts and stylesheets on the fly, all to let users “retain control of the internet and change the way that you view the web”.

Obviously these tools indicate that there’s a large gap between what readers want from a website, and what advertisers want from readers.

However, in a somewhat surprising move, Adblock Plus recently announced that it will allow what it calls “acceptable ads” to be shown by default.

So why the change? Are advertisers winning the war?

Not exactly, but we’re starting to see signs that a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached.

According to Adblock, their goal for the change is to “support websites that rely on advertising but choose to do it in a non-intrusive way”. By giving sites that use non-intrusive advertising an advantage, they hope it will encourage other websites to use non-intrusive advertising as well, which will make the web a better place for everyone. They also acknowledge that “without this feature we run the danger that increasing Adblock Plus usage will make small websites unsustainable”.

To qualify as acceptable, ads must be static (no animation, sound or similar), preferably text only, contain no attention-grabbing images, and use at most one script that will delay page load. Eventually Adblock Plus would also like to require ads that respect a user’s privacy, with mandatory Do Not Track support, but they feel that it’s not yet possible to enforce such a requirement, so they’ve just added it to their list of desired improvements.

The first ads that come to mind as examples of this acceptable format are those from The Deck, Fusion Ads, Carbon Ads, InfluAds, Yoggrt, and Ad Packs by BuySellAds. These ads are generally a single static image with a small line of text, and sites are limited to just one ad per page. Advertisers buy a share of a limited number of impressions, and these impressions are split evenly between the sites participating in the ad network.

The advantage of these types of ad networks is that they’re win-win-win. Advertisers get guaranteed impressions across a variety of pre-screened sites, publishers get guaranteed income and don’t need to clutter up their site design with huge blocks of ads, and readers get to read without the distraction of invasive ads and multi-page articles designed to drive up page views.

According to a survey run by Adblock, “Only 25% of the Adblock Plus users seem to be strictly against any advertising.” adding “The other users replied that they would accept some kinds of advertising to help websites.”

In fact, when Twitterrific removed The Deck ads from the paid version of their app, users actually requested the ability to buy the app to support the developers, but keep the ads so they could find out about new products and services being advertised on the network.

Since these networks have more demand than supply, they can be selective about what products and services they allow to advertise. They become a curator of content, and readers view the ads as added value, in the same way they trust the products and services that their favorite authors recommend. This also benefits the advertisers, since readers are more likely to pay attention to an ad when they know that it will be relevant to their interests. The end result is that costs go up on a per impression basis, since advertisers are paying for a limited resource, and have exclusive rights to a reader’s attention on each page, but response metrics for those ads go up as well, since they overcome banner blindness.

Of course there will continue to be give and take as advertisers, readers and publishers try to find the right balance between the reading experience, and the cost involved in creating that reading experience, but as recent trends in the online ad world have shown, we’re finally taking steps in the right direction of creating a web that works for everyone.

Ambassador Program Turns Customers Into Salespeople

Few companies realize the value of their most passionate customers. They occasionally acknowledge them with frequent buyer programs or other discounts, but it’s rare for a company to really empower their customers to share their passion for the company and its products or services with others.

Most companies rely on salespeople to position the benefits of their products or services to potential customers. Good salespeople do this in a way that excites customers about the possibilities and potential of using what they’re selling, but their ‘passion’ for the product is motivated by the paycheck they get for selling it, not by the product itself.

However, if you give your passionate customers the tools they need to share their passion for your product or service with others, and reward them for doing so, you can create an army of great ‘salespeople’ who will do more for your company than any high paid salesperson ever could.

That’s the beauty of a well executed ambassador program. With a small investment in materials, it becomes a formalized, simplified, and easy to maintain word of mouth marketing campaign that the company itself can participate in.

Bose Curtosey Card

The Bose Courtesy Card set the standard for a well executed ambassador program. Customers who were using (and loving) their Quiet Comfort headphones while flying would get asked about them by other passengers, and instead of disrupting the quiet zone that the headphones created, the customer could simply hand the person a Courtesy Card and let them check out Bose on their own time.

It was simple and easy for the customer to do (not to mention unique and ‘cool’) and it also gave Bose control over the message that potential customers received.

Fishing

If you think of sales as fishing for customers, then Bose provided the bait, and just asked that current customers set the hook. After the initial interaction, potential customers would come to Bose, and all Bose had to do was reel them in.

iPod Silhouette

The hype that Apple generated with their white headphones is well known, and an Ambassador Program is like a whole army of white headphone wearers, but ones who have been given the tools necessary to help convert that initial interest and opportunity into additional sales.

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen many companies follow in the footsteps of Bose, which is why I was intrigued by Foursquare’s announcement of their Ambassador Program.

Foursquare Ambassador Card

Foursquare users love the deals they get from participating venues, but venues can’t provide deals if they don’t know about the service, so Foursquare created the Ambassador Program to help users spread the word. As long as you’re a “creative and excited evangelist”, Foursquare will send you a pack of Foursquare Ambassador Cards that are custom-printed with your name on them for you to hand out to the businesses that you frequent. Assuming that the businesses use the cards to sign up, Foursquare says that “the businesses get details about their foot traffic and loyal customers, and you and your fellow foursquare users will see more Specials at your favorite places.”

With the Ambassador Cards, Foursquare rewards users by crediting them with the creation of the location, and users get additional rewards when their favorite locations sign up and start offering deals and discounts. It’s a win-win, and Foursquare is simply enabling and encouraging their most passionate users do the selling for them.

One of the main reasons businesses get involved in social media is that they want to support the word of mouth marketing that customers are doing online. With a well planned ambassador program, you can get those same benefits offline as well with a small investment in materials and a way to thank those customers who are out there doing your work for you.

Foursquare Ambassador Program