Tag Archives | Branded Experience

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.

Columbia Uses Pandora To Create An Experience

Columbia Pandora Banner

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of music on Pandora, and while their Music Genome Project is great, it’s their advertising that has kept me coming back for more. By working with companies to integrate their ads into the overall experience, Pandora is able to use their advertising format to create value for both the advertisers and the users. One example that really stood out recently was the integration of Columbia, which brings together a banner, backgrounds and playlists to create an entire branded experience.

Experience marketing is a growing trend in recent years, as companies think outside the banner and look beyond traditional media for their next customer, but it’s often costly, time and labor intensive, and usually relies on social media to spread the experience of a select few out to the larger population. What Pandora has managed to do with their advertising is to create an experience that, while not at the scale of a traditional experience marketing campaign, does manage to spread a sponsor’s message to a much larger audience.

The ‘Pandora Experience’ goes like this: When listening to the free version of Pandora on Pandora.com, any user action (such as changing the volume, skipping or rating a track, or changing a station) changes the banner(s). This allows Pandora to ensure that their ‘views’ are actually being viewed, and probably helps boost the numbers when it comes time to negotiate costs. Sponsored banners (vs. remnant ads served through ad networks) usually include a site takeover that changes the background as well, though not all advertisers are using that feature to its full advantage.

When Columbia makes it to the front of the sponsored banner rotation, listeners are presented with a banner that looks like a dashboard interface that has been customized to include their local weather forecast. While banner customization based on IP address has been available for a while now, it’s often inaccurate at best, and usually results in a very rough and forced feeling of customization. On Pandora however, account holders provide a zip code when they register, so the Pandora system can accurately match each user to a location they’ll recognize, even if they happen to be traveling or at work and away from their home base.

With this single piece of user data in hand, Columbia matches the user’s current weather to a piece of clothing in their current collection. Users can then scroll over the rest of the five-day forecast to see what Columbia would recommend for the upcoming weather, or arrow through a larger catalog if they see something they like and want to investigate further. Each type of weather also includes a customized playlist that a user can add to their collection of Stations, and when listening to that custom playlist, the user exclusively sees the Columbia banner and the Columbia-sponsored background that matches the weather. (Or maybe the weather that the user wishes they had, as Columbia also allows users to select a variety of alternative weather options in case they want to brighten up a stormy day with the Sunshine Playlist.)

What’s so great about this medium is that Columbia can use it to transport your mind away from your desk and into a winter wonderland, where you can see the snow and hear the winter music, and then think to yourself, ‘You know, I probably will need a winter jacket for that ski trip I’ve got planned.’ They grab your attention with personal details that you wouldn’t expect an advertiser to present you with, and then use that attention to draw you into an experience that promotes the brand to more than one of your senses.

Columbia’s attention to the detail can also be seen in the way they have designed the banner, with plenty of arrows to direct an interested viewer’s attention to the important areas of information. For starters, every arrow but the ‘Buy Now’ button points away from the product, giving your eye a point to focus on that centers on the product they want to sell you. Then, if your eye works its way down from the forecast through the trail of orange, there are arrows along the way to guide you from the product to the weather to the custom playlist to the ‘Add Playlist’ button. It’s subtle, but there’s some good UI going on in this banner that works well for the intended purpose. If I were to find fault, I’d say that the alternative playlist selection is a little funky, but that’s nitpicking at best, since most users will just want to select the playlist they’re given that matches the weather they’re currently experiencing.

By presenting each user with a single banner at a time, and not overwhelming them with a barrage of advertising, Pandora has created a valuable placement that advertisers should be willing and happy to pay a premium for. At the same time, companies who are going to pay that premium need to be smart about it and think like Columbia to create an experience that adds to the medium and gives users a reason to engage with the advertising.

The Good:

  • Integration creates a full experience that can be shared by a large number of consumers.
  • A small amount of user data goes a long way towards creating a look and feel that is customized without being intrusive.
  • Repeat engagement is dynamic, and the experience changes with the weather.

The Bad:

  • Alternative playlist selection is a rough edge on an otherwise smooth experience.
  • The available backgrounds are a bit… ugly.

The Future:

  • Custom integration within specific channels allows advertisers to cater their message to each user and create a small-scale experience that packs plenty of impact.