Category Archives: Strategy

Shape Magazine Tries Alternate Reality But Fails to Engage

Today’s post explores what has sometimes been called the future of mobile engagement, alternate reality (AR). While still in it’s infancy due to the complexity of implementing and the need for yet another app on the consumer’s part, some commercial efforts are out there. Below we experience a very rough implementation and learn how not to use AR.

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Not long ago I was visiting my sister and picked up one of her fitness magazines, the September issue of Shape. I decided to thumb through it to see if there was much use of QR codes or even the ill-fated Microsoft Tag. There were a few QR codes, which I scanned of course, but there was also this on page 10:

image: Layar CTA

Interesting! I happened to be familiar with Layar, the developer of Alternate Reality (AR) technology, from some research my students had done a year or so ago. In a nutshell, AR uses a phone’s camera and other sensors to layer (no pun intended) a digital experience on top of an otherwise physical environment. I was going to have to download their app so I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick endeavor but I never would have thought the whole thing took as long as it did.

First, I had to get the app so I headed to Google Play, tapped in “layar” (it would have been handy to have a QR code in the magazine for this) and downloaded the app. Once downloaded I opened the app which forced me to swipe my way past 4 promotional pages to get to the Start Now! button. The time required for all this was starting to add up. With the app open I did as instructed and scanned page 10. After quite a bit of fiddling with how much of the image to include in the viewfinder the images in the viewfinder began to glow with a blue outline. It continued to glow for quite awhile (tick-tock, tick-tock) when a rotating gear showed on the screen. I don’t know what it is or what it means but it was rotating on my screen for a very, very long time.

image: Layar Shape Animation Layar Loading Image

Just as my patience was getting short the spinning gears gave way to a little blue button inviting me to “Click for More Details”.

image: Layar Button Animation

What? No fancy 3D graphics or cool animation of the model? All this for a frigging button??

And details on what? I scanned the entire 2-page spread, what exactly am I to get details on? Confused, I tap the blue button and the Layar app presents me with a selection of women’s clothing from Macy’s. None of which appeared to be the items worn by the model in the magazine.

image: Layar - Shape - Macy's Page

Perhaps the sports-bra thingy was the same but it was a different color and on a different model – this one brunette rather than blond. The pants and shoes on the model in the magazine were nowhere to be found. Where are those details??

At this point I was several minutes into this little experiment and my sister had wandered off having been ignored the entire time.

FAIL.

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What could have saved this campaign?

Overall this was a ridiculous exercise in technology that did nothing that a QR code couldn’t do. The point of AR is to create a more engaging experience. That’s the payoff. I’m not sure who was really driving this experiment, Layar or Macy’s, but here’s what needed to happen.

1) Use a QR code. If all you want to do is present people with an opportunity to shop then use a technique that people are likely to be familiar with and for which they are already equipped. Readers of Shape probably know how to scan a QR code and it is certainly more likely they have a QR scanning app than a Layar app.

2) If asking people to download a new app, familiarize themselves with it, and learn to use it in order to “Snap and Shop” there had better be a dazzling payoff. Layar or whomever handled the technology side of this needed to animate the page in some way. For example, they could have had pop-out bubbles that pointed to each clothing item and gave details on that item. Tapping the bubble could then take you to that item on the Macy’s page.

3) Finally, the landing page needed to have only the items featured on the page I scanned. What else would have caused me to scan the page to shop? Mobile is about impulse so it needs to be quick and simple to satisfy the desire someone might have to wear what the model in the magazine is wearing. Sure, let me keep shopping if I want to but keep the page focused on the items featured. Then, use the same model in the shopping experience as used in the magazine to create even more continuity.

My In-The-Moment Fail with KUOW FM

image: KUOW logo

This morning I was up early and making breakfast for the boys before shuttling them off to school (daycare, really, but we call it school). They were eating and for the moment they were pretty quiet. In that moment of rare and relative silence I thought it might be nice to turn on Morning Edition on the local NPR station. I stopped for a second to think about that because we don’t have a radio in the house. Looking at my phone I decided to try the local station’s web site, KUOW.org, because I’m pretty sure they have a mobile app for listening to the station. So I tapped the url into my phone’s ever-present Google search bar on the phone’s home screen. Why I didn’t open the phone’s browser directly and type in the URL, which I know,  I’m not quite sure.

What I got was search results and KUOW was the first result, as expected:

image: KUOW Search Result

I then simply tapped the link to KUOW News and Information – the top search result – and was taken to their NON-mobile web site! What?? I was a confused as well as frustrated because I thought they had a mobile site.

image: KUOW Site

Grr.. Well, I was here so I zoomed in, panned around and didn’t see any sort of promotion for the mobile app. I did see a “Listen Now” link on the top of the page and tried that but the only options were to use iTunes, Real Player (!!?), or Windows. Out of time, I bailed out and just enjoyed the quiet kitchen.

FAIL

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What could have saved this campaign?

Before outlining a potential solution I want to point out that KUOW actually does have a mobile app and even has a mobile site, pictured below.

image: KUOW Mobile Site

In fact, the mobile site was EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR. I just wanted to listen to what was playing on-air and the mobile site features that functionality front-and-center.

So what gives? Here’s what’s going on:

1) If you tap “www.kuow.org” directly into your phone’s browser (I use Chrome) their site automatically re-directs you to “m.kuow.org”. This is good. However if you search for ‘KUOW” using Google or Bing on your phone the top search result, which most would choose, points to “www.kuow.org/news”.  But if you go directly to that URL with your phone you don’t get re-directed to the mobile site. In other words, you only get their mobile site if you go to the very top-level of their site, “www.kuow.org”. But the search engines aren’t sending people there! They need to implement re-direction on all their non-mobile pages.

2) Give the mobile app a prominent home on the non-mobile site, preferably near the top of the page and not buried – as it is now – in the pile of footer links way down at the bottom of the page. And use the term “Mobile App” instead of just “Mobile”.

Jack in the Box Serves Up Some Mobile Fails

For awhile now, I’ve been receiving messages on my phone from Jack in the Box. To be honest, they are probably my favorite of all the fast food burger shops – in spite of the fact that I worked there as a kid in high school (Anyone remember when they blew up  clown and changed to Monterey Jack?).

I was mildly excited when I learned that I could join their Secret Society of Cool People where I’d be “privy to top-secret stuff like coupons, new products, and [Jack's] favorite color (Kelly green).” Plus, I like the playful non-corporate language.

Disappointment came a month later.
And again the next month.
And pretty much every time therafter.

Here’s the most recent message, in two parts.

image: Jack In The Box MMS Msg part1image: Jack In The Box MMS Msg part2

The cool thing is they are sending pictures. The not so cool thing is that the pictures look like mini versions of a tray liner.

Here are the last 4 pictures they’ve sent:

(yes, they sent the Chipotle one twice)

My biggest disappointment is that there is never an offer (no coupon). What is the point of these? They are just ads. So after 3 months there has been no real benefit to being in Jack’s Secret Society.

FAIL.

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What could have saved this campaign?

There are a few places to focus to see where the problems lie.

1) Strategy. It’s hard to tell what sort of experience Jack wants us mobile users to have. They appear to be simply using mobile as an advertising media, implying that they only want to put their name and products in front of people. A really, really, bad strategy when using MMS or SMS, which are the most personal of mobile media. Rather, Jack should be true to their original promise of delivering coupons and other Secret Society stuff and providing a special VIP-like experience.

2) Execution. On the heels of a good strategy is the ability to track success. With Jack’s current approach there is little to track other than, perhaps, whether the messages are being delivered but not all mobile operators provide consistent delivery reports. If Jack can start driving store traffic by turning these ads into coupons then the ability to track will require an in-store process and potentially integration with their point-of-sale system; a worthwhile effort IMHO.

 

Feeding America: Who Should Care?

Shopping malls are a popular place this time of year. And it is widely recognized that teenagers often hang out at shopping malls. Add this to the fact that teenagers are far and away the most prolific text-messagers and you have an environment ripe for a mobile marketing effort that uses text-messaging/SMS.

Which is why I wasn’t too surprised when I first read the words on a display ad in a local shopping mall that said:

“HNGR
TXTS,
2.”

Clearly, this was a play on the shorthand used when sending a text message. Right? Actually, it’s not that clear. Intrigued, I really studied the ad (I’m guessing more than a teenager would, or anyone else for that matter). I was looking for the payoff, the something to do, the call-to-action.:

image: Feeding America Full Mall Ad

One thing is clear, this is an ad for an organization looking to feed the hungry.

What’s not clear is what the ad means and more importantly, what can I do about it as I walk through the mall? Let’s look a little closer, perhaps there’s something in the details that clears things up.:

image: Feeding America mall ad closeup

Whaa? I get that there are hungry people. You’ve got my attention with the text-message-like copy.  But now you want me to remember to visit feedingamerica.org to ‘do my part’?  Is there nothing I can do right now? In fact, feedingamerica.org isn’t even designed to be read by a mobile device, sigh.

FAIL.

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What could have saved this campaign?

Feeding America has placed themselves in a bit of a tough spot here. They clearly recognize who is likely to be in shopping malls and seeing their ad; they have copy that is short and easy to grasp for a frequent texter. Lost, however, is the connection between who they are talking to and what they want them to do. First, a teen is likely not paying a nanosecond’s notice to the ad regardless of its familiar vernacular. Even if they did engage with the ad is there even the remotest possibility that they’d  write down the URL in order to ‘do their part’? Nope. These are teenagers. This ad is targeting the wrong people.

It is the parents in the  crowd that the folks at Feeding America really want to talk to. Grab them with a more standard line rather than one that looks like a crypic text-message (sorry, no suggestions here. I’m not a copy writer). Then, give them an easy way to do something right there, whether it’s sending an SMS or scanning a bar code. Once engaged, pull them along into a conversation about the cause and even solicit a mobile donation.

Kingsford Charcoal Burns Up a Matrix Code

I’m a griller. That is, I like to cook food on a grill. A charcoal grill to be specific (gas grill lovers, stand down!). So it should be no surprise that, when given the chance, I buy my charcoal in bulk. In other words, I buy it at Costco.

It’s springtime, so Costco is probably – pardon the pun – burning through the bags of Kingsford – specially packaged in a two 18lb pack just for Costco. Interesting. Kingsford offers a pack of charcoal you can ONLY get through Costco. Shows you the purchasing power of Costco, right?

image: Kingsford Briquettes with 2D code

Not only do I NOT see these ‘Competition’ briquettes anywhere else but I never see Kingsford in 18lb bags (let alone two bags).

Notice, though, the “Value Size” highlight that includes the call to action, “Scan for grilling tips and tricks”.

image: Kingsford 2D Code Call-to-Action

Next to that is a…. barcode? It kind of looks like a QR code but it’s not quite right. Looks different somehow. Having scanned many  barcodes I grab my Android phone and tap to start the i-nigma app, which seems good at scanning most barcodes. The result:

image: Kingsford Briquettes i-nigma scan result

Uh. No good. Ok, how about I try another scanner app, this one from ScanLife.

image:Kingsford Briquettes 2D code Error

Still no good. Ok, how about the ShopSavvy App?: Nope won’t scan.

Ok, um Barcode Scanner?: Huh Uh. Returns just a a number, 05415400001013127.

What about RedLaser? That’s a good app!: Grr.. won’t scan.

QuickMark app?: Same as above, just a number.

The package says go to scan.mobi to get a scanner but why should I? I already have half a dozen of them. And none of them work!

I’m done. FAIL.

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What could have saved this campaign?

The world of 2D barcodes as a marketing tactic is still relatively new. Many marketers, designers, printers and entrepreneurs understand that a 2D code can help drive traffic to a web site, video, or even a contact card. What they don’t understand is the mobile user, who doesn’t have the time or patience to download an app just to scan a barcode when they (rightfully so) have already done that in order to scan some other, similar looking code.

Kingsford (hopefully not at the insistence of our friends at Costco who’s headquarters are  a few miles away) has, for two years running, chosen to use a proprietary 2D barcode system proffered by AT&T Mobile Barcode Services. Like Microsoft Tags, codes created with this service – technically Matrix codes – can only be read by the scanning app offered by the barcode system itself. In this case, AT&T’s Code Scanner.  Who among the barcode scanning, smartphone toting world has an AT&T Code Scanner app? No one.

Kingsford has lacked the guidance that would show them that there is a serious battle among only two players in the 2D barcode world, QR codes and Microsoft Tags and any other proprietary code is the equivalent of dead on arrival.

Simply put, they needed to use a QR code.

5th Avenue Theater’s Mobile Site Fail

This is a guest post from Kim Sklar, a student in the University of Washington’s Masters in Communication in Digial Media (MCDM) program. Here original post can be found here. She recently attempted to use the mobile site of Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater.

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 disclaimer: I only say these things as helpful suggestions and observations because I love the 5th Avenue Theatre…Broadway gods please don’t smite me or take away my season tickets discounts for the criticisms I am about to make. Love, Seat 4D).

Big fan of musical theatre here (did I mention that yet?)…not a big fan of the 5th Avenue’s total lack of mobile savoir faire. Here is a comparison of their regular web site and the mobile web site.

5th Ave's regular web site vs. mobile site

As far as I can tell, the only differences are:

    • the layout
    • there are now three navigation boxes to choose from, instead of six
    • any of the buttons I might have clicked on before (buying tickets for an upcoming show, renewing subscriptions, subscriber benefits) are now gone. Only donate, summer program discounts and info for one show remain…only one of those I’d need from my mobile phone.

Maybe they used a auto-mobile convertor? The real mobil-emma (mobile+dilemma, wait for it, it’s gonna catch on) is that neither set of navigation areas actually direct me to where, as a subscriber, I need to go.  The site takes nearly a minute for all the pictures to load, and the menu button (which is most likely the button that you’ll need to use) is about 3 pixels wide and shoved in the upper left corner of the screen where you can’t actually tap it very easily. I know that season ticket holders are not the only business, however, I do feel like they are the one that would be the main mobile users.

Le sigh. This is a organization that could really benefit for a mobile site redesign.

As a subscriber who often accesses the 5th Avenue’s site at least one a month, I would love to see the mobile platform focus on:

  • Directions, contact info and
  • Parking information (the 5th offeres free parking to season ticket holders, but I can never find out which garages are participating)
  • Show information (dates, start time, cast, description, etc. I’m not looking for HD picture slideshows on my phone).
  • Subscriber perks (restaurant discounts, special events, renewal information)

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What could have saved this campaign?

Well, Kim is right. The 5th Avenue Theater needs a separate mobile site. Their full site contains too many rich graphics for mobile and the content of the full site is not organized around the needs of the mobile theater goer. The theater needs to understand who their mobile customers are and define the experience they want to provide.

It appears their site is attempting a form of ‘responsive design’ or ‘graceful degradation’ – techniques used to alter the way a web site displays based on the device/browser that is accessing the site. Typically, however, these approaches use the same web content (images, copy, etc.) and just use style sheets to change the way the content is displayed by hiding certain things and changing their location on the screen. From purely a display standpoint this can work but it is nearly impossible to use these techniques to affect the  changes in IA (information architecture), content quality and UI (user interface) required for a good mobile user experience.

The 5th Avenue Theater needs a separate mobile web site.

ABC Mobile: Lost In The Mobile Abyss

Like many smartphone users, I like to watch videos on my phone when I have a few minutes of down-time. (There are 200 million mobile video playbacks every day on YouTube.) I’ll even watch full episodes of TV shows if I’m going to be sitting somewhere for awhile, like on the bus or in a waiting room. It was the hope for access to full episodes of The View (just kidding) that had me typing in ABC.com on my computer to see what’s available.

At the ABC website there was a menu link for “Mobile”.  It looked promising, I mean, what other content would ABC be offering via mobile if not video? Clicking the link I was treated to the following page and there it was, Mobile Video On Demand! Nice.

Now, how do I get the vids? I don’t see an iTunes icon or little green Android that would point me to a mobile app. Checking the fine print I see that the service is indeed available on Sprint (my carrier) and, “To find out how to access ABC Mobile Video On Demand by texting ABCTV to 22288.”  Simple enough, right? Nope. Here’s what I got back; a message from Sprint:

“9230: Message failed. Shortcode may have expired or shortcode texting may be blocked on your account. Msg 1051″

What the..? How do I get the VOD? This short code was my only option!

FAIL #1.

I try the other mobile ‘offerings’ with increasing frustration.

Text Alerts:

FAIL #2: No list of shows to get alerts on! I’m offered the opportunity to figure it out for myself.

Live TV:

FAIL #3: No way to get the service, which appears to be only available on my carrier.

This is starting to get silly.  As a last resort and with little real hope, I pick up my phone and tap ABC.com into the browser. Perhaps they have a mobile site that will help me. Nope. It’s their full-site:

image: ABC.com on a phone

actual size

Not pretty, and the video links take me to the full-on video player. I try adding ‘/mobile’ to the URL:

image: ABC.com Mobile

actual size

Ugh. Same thing, a non-mobile site. It doen’t even pinch/zoom very well. In fact, the site crashed my phone’s browser forcing it to close. Neat.

FAIL #4.

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What could have saved this campaign?

There is really only one thing to talk about here. I wasn’t able to actually get any of the content so all I can review is the way ABC Mobile is making their content available (or not available as the case may be).

1) Using a short code is a great way to allow users to discover mobile content but it should work on all carriers you claim the content is available on. In this case the content seems to be available on Sprint but the SOLE access method, a short code, is not.  ABC should remove Sprint from the carrier list or figure out how to get them to provision the short code.

2) When promoting content, in this case alerts and live TV, ALWAYS provide a simple and clear call-t0-action so interested users can actually engage on their device. Marketing 101, really.

3) Create a mobile web site and detect mobile devices that come to your top-level domain. This doesn’t have to be complex. A simple mobile landing page with instructions on how to get mobile content would be better than directing to a non-mobile site with rich content and flash elements.

To summarize, it appears the mobile efforts at ABC Mobile are fragmented, lack coordination and and exhibit little understanding of how to engage a mobile user.