Tag Archives | Customized

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.

IKEA To Embrace Change And Decorate Oval Office For Obama

IKEA Embrace Change Oval Office

Everyone is trying to capitalize on Obama-mania, but IKEA’s Oval Office – Embrace Change campaign may be the best attempt yet.

The microsite features a pixel art Oval Office and various pieces of IKEA furniture that you can use to create your ideal Oval Office, and each piece links to real version in the IKEA store, and can be customized with the same materials and options as the real item. Then you simply place, rotate and arrange the Oval Office as you see fit to create your very own version of Obama’s new home. Once you’re done, you can use the site’s built-in Send to Friend functionality to share your room with others, or you can even send it off to the White House and make your voice heard. Three winning designs will even receive a $1,500 Giftcard to make their dream Oval Office come to life.

IKEA Union Station

In addition to the microsite, IKEA is making its presence known during Inauguration Week with a mock IKEA-ized Oval Office built in Washington DC’s Union Station as well as their College Park and Woodbridge stores, and a mock motorcade that will tour through the city with various pieces of IKEA furniture strapped to the roof to simulate the Obamas moving in. Visitors to the Oval Office in the Union Station can sit in the (mock) most powerful chair in the world, and can even sign a guestbook welcoming the Obamas that will be delivered to the First Family once they’re settled in. Of course, should the Obamas or the newly appointed White House designer Michael Smith decide to go with any of IKEA’s suggestions, they’ve offered to furnish any room in the White House with IKEA furniture free of charge.

Though the site has a few shortcomings, the overall idea is a good one, and it’s a quick and fun way to interact with IKEA’s catalog in a very unique way. Now we just have to wait and see if Barack and Michelle take America up on any of their suggestions.

The Good:

  • Pixel art Oval Office turns IKEA shopping into a game.
  • Send to Friend and Send to White House functionality increase the virality of the campaign.
  • Sweepstakes rewards longer and more involved participation.
  • Mock Oval Offices and Motorcade extend the campaign offline and into the eyes of a new and broad audience.

The Bad:

  • Automatically resizing a user’s browser window is intrusive and annoying.
  • Lack of a grid, clear boarders and a wide range of options make the virtual Oval Office difficult to navigate.
  • Vague Send to White House functionality makes the option less intuitive.
  • No Social Bookmarking buttons or Social Networking extensions to further increase the virality of the campaign.

The Future:

  • Mini games and quick hit campaigns capitalize on hot trends and allow users to interact with a company’s catalog in a fun and intuitive way.

IKEA Oval Office – Embrace Change

Skinit Helps HP Attract New Customers

HP Skinit

Though more branded and less exclusive than Tabbloid, HP’s customized Skinit portal is another example of their ‘added value application’ approach to advertising.

Skinit is a service that allows you to personalize just about any tech device with a ‘skin that reflects your tastes and passions’. HP’s Skinit site allows their users to personalize their HP computers, iPAQs or notebooks with custom skins, but HP was also careful to add other, non-HP products as well, making it a one-stop shop for all of your skinning needs.

Stumbled across the HP Skinit site, but don’t have an HP product to skin?

Not a problem. You can order up ‘generic’ sizes for 12, 15 and 17-inch laptops, slap a skin on your Zune, or even cover your iPhone without ever leaving the site.

Need a skin for your HP laptop, but also want to cover your Sidekick while you’re at it?

Again, HP’s got you covered. Whether you’re using HP, T-Mobile, or even Apple to live your digital life, HP will gladly serve as your digital life provider, because they know that being the ‘cool’ company pays dividends down the road.

It’s All About Perception

HP knows that if they can provide you with a good user experience that serves your needs and doesn’t scream their branding at you the entire time, you’re more likely to look at HP products as an option when the next buying decision rolls around.

In addition, Skinit allows HP to partner with other ‘cool’ companies, such as MTV, the American Breast Cancer Foundation, and even colleges, sports teams and the military to create designs that fit everyone’s own personal style.

HP Skinit Custom Skin

Plus, if you’re the type that likes to take personalization to the next level, then HP’s Skinit will even allow you to upload your own photos and skin any products with a look all your own. It’s your digital life to the nth degree, and HP wants to be there with you along the way.

Don’t Forget Extension

In addition to the direct benefits of having a Skinit portal, HP is also able to use Skinit to tie in other advertising campaigns that they’re running for a more holistic approach to the consumer.

One example of this is their HP Holiday Cheer campaign, which they launched on Twitter with the following message:

HP Holiday Cheer

Just a few short hours later, and thanks in large part to the Skinit giveaway, they had more than their desired amount of Twitter followers, and the @HPHolidayCheer campaign was off and running.

Had they limited their Skinit store to just HP products, they would not have been able to entice anyone other than existing HP customers with the offer of a free skin, but by opening up to any and all users, HP can reach out to non-customers too and expose them to the HP brand in a very non-advertisey way. Suddenly, users start noticing that HP is behind all the ‘cool’ programs that they’ve been using lately like Tabbloid and Skinit, and they form positive impressions of HP before even purchasing a product.

Sure, there’s always risk involved when you run a campaign that other companies can get exposure from, but if your messaging is clear and you provide enough value to the community in general, the overall ‘goodness’ of the campaign will show through, and if nothing else, your brand will get a positive boost with a strength that few other advertising techniques can deliver.

The Good:

  • Non-branded products allow non-customers to participate.
  • Provides an additional tool for other campaigns.
  • Great branding opportunity by being the ‘cool’ company.

The Bad:

  • Message can get diluted by competition.
  • Non-HP product options are still too hidden, and should be highlighted.

The Future:

  • Added Value Applications allow companies to interact with customers and non-customers alike, growing their brand and providing value to the larger community.