Marketing isn’t what it used to be.
Today we’ve got billboards that can ascertain our ages and genders, movie trailers that can change in real time depending on who the viewer is, and mobile apps that can detect what commercial is airing on TV and send viewers related coupons on their phones. And that’s just a start.
There’s no doubt technology is ushering in some fascinating new ways of connecting brands with consumers. In fact, to say technology is rapidly evolving doesn’t even fit anymore.
Disruptive is an adjective more likely to be used today because, honestly, tech exponentially builds on itself, resulting in a veritable sandstorm of innovation.
“There’s definitely a renaissance of marketing technology,” says Andrew Frank, research vice president in Gartner’s media industry group. The Web and the digital revolution, in general, along with mobile have unleashed a lot of things…There’s certainly a lot to keep track of.”
Here is our roundup of 10 of the latest developments in technology that can impact your marketing.
1. Facial Recognition
Giving away free product is a great way to build your brand, right?
Unilever, the company that makes things like Lipton soup and Suave shampoo also makes ice cream and figured it would use some of it to get customers to smile—literally. It worked with the high-tech marketing company SapientNitro in London to make a vending machine called “Share Happy” that uses facial recognition to give people ice cream bars for smiling.
They even designed the box so people can upload their smiling mugs to Facebook, pushing the brand even farther out into the consumer space. When the machine debuted in Lisbon last year, it vended 52,000 ice cream bars in two days with no media support or advertising. That’s about 600 percent more than a regular ice cream machine.
The award-winning box is now on world tour doling out brand recognition as it goes.
“Facial Recognition is being used not only on experiential campaigns but even on digital signage,” says Rob Gonda, global head of emerging technology and innovation for SapientNitro. “For instance, a lot of our installations…detect things like gender, age bracket and start serving more targeted advertising on digital signage and digital displays.”
What’s different today compared to a few years ago, Gonda says, is brands have to be situationally aware and contextually relevant.
“We have evolved from broadcasting messages to [delivering] more digitally precise messages. But actually understanding the context of the situation or the conversation…increases the likelihood of better engagement [between] brands [and] people,” he says.
Gonda says SapientNitro is currently working on interactive displays for retail spaces that use a mashup of rear-projected video, touch, gesture recognition and facial recognition.
And SapientNitro is far from the only company doing it.
According to The Los Angeles Times, The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas is using facial recognition to tailor restaurant and entertainment ads for passersby and big brands like Adidas are installing and testing digital walls with facial recognition in a handful of stores to display age-appropriate shoes to customers.
2. Hyper Targeting
While targeted advertising has been around for a while, today the big thing is to make ads super specific.
When people spend time online—surfing, shopping or commenting on social networks—they leave a digital footprint that huge data mining systems can track. That means advertisers can profile nearly everybody today in terms of preferences, habits and demographics.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ChoiceStream has an ad platform called CRUNCH that uses predictive intelligence—the same technology retailers like Zappos use to suggest shoes to customers. It selects consumers to target based on “hyper-segments” – a high performing cross-section of audiences with two or more attributes applied, meaning ads are delivered to people who are most likely to respond to them.
To illustrate, ChoiceStream COO Eric Bosco says one of the company’s clients is an antivirus software provider and to hyper-target ads for this particular customer, CRUNCH not only looks for people shopping for software but also for those who order pizza online and get online legal self help. The results from that narrowly focused segment end up being five times better than when the company only uses one attribute.
“That type of activity is a proxy for how active these users are on the Internet. They’re probably consuming a lot more online content, and that exposure has the side effect of exposing them to more viruses and risks, and so they’re much more likely to need software to clean their machines,” he says.
The company’s advertising is so highly targeted; in fact, that it has actually has a hard time getting business from advertisers who market things everyone needs.
“We were recently in Minneapolis talking with an ad agency there and their main issue with CRUNCH is that they place ads for butter. Everybody needs butter, so how do you target butter? We excel when things are a little more focused than that,” Bosco says.
3. Eavesdropping Apps
While they’re still mostly in concept stage, Gartner’s Andrew Frank says companies are starting to play around with advertising through new apps that can tell what show you’re watching on TV or listening to on the radio.
He says Yahoo bought a company called IntoNow, which has a fingerprinting technology that can listen to and identify what’s on TV, and let people check in to a show or ad. “Pepsi Max ran a promotion where if you tag their ad when it runs using this app you can get a coupon for some free Pepsi Max,” he says.
“The media synchronization that can recognize the audio track of a TV show can also be used on radio so if you’ve got a mobile phone and there’s a radio ad for example, you might be able to use that to distribute a coupon directly from the audio, sort of like an audio QR code directly from the ad to the mobile phone through the microphone,” he says.
4. Augmented Reality
Swiss watchmaker Tissot, used Augmented Reality (AR) outside of Harrods in London to let people “try on” its watches—virtually. They handed out black and white paper wristbands and when someone stood in front of the company’s large LCD screen, a webcam behind it sent the coordinates of the paper watch into an AR system which then displayed video of the person on the screen wearing a 3D virtual version of the watch. The person could even play around with the watch’s touch screen features.
Tissot now uses the high-tech display at events in the States, as well, such as at the MotoGP motorcycling championship at the Laguna Seca raceway in California, where the company is the official timekeeper.
But the space where you’ll be seeing more AR is mobile.
According to this infographic created by the U.K.-based AR developer Hidden Creative, AR is now being used for a wide range of marketing activities—in everything from riveting displays at conferences and for sales pitches to loyalty programs at the Point of Sale. Hidden says 35 AR apps are launched every month.
And some of them look pretty amazing.
Junaio has iOS and Android platforms that brands can use to customize AR for their customers’ needs.
Valpak, for example, has a channel on the Junaio app that launches the smartphone’s camera and GPS to overlay a set of 3D icons in real time showing the available Valpak coupons in the vicinity as the user scans the surroundings, with a radius varying from five feet to 20 miles away.
5. Mobile: Codes and Spot Targeting
Quick Response (QR) codes are the little black-and-white pixilated squares commonly found in print ads, on products, displayed on TV, and even stitched into fabric. If you have a phone with a camera and the right kind of reader app, you can scan a QR code to display text, contact information, or open a Web page.
People are also scanning UPC bar codes—especially the ones found on products you’d find at a grocery or drug store—for product pricing and information.
According to David Javitch, VP of marketing for New York City-based Scanbuy, the company has seen an 800 percent increase since a year ago in the number of barcode or quick response (QR) code scans it processes and is now doing more than one per second.
While Scanbuy currently has 8 million people using its ScanLife app on their phones and has worked with big companies such as The Home Depot and Taco Bell on huge code campaigns, the company is rolling out a platform that will allow regular people and small businesses to create their own QR codes starting at $25 a month.
While pricier than QR codes, StarStar Numbers might be a titch faster from a consumer perspective since it only involves one step. They’re branded vanity mobile numbers that let consumers call a brand’s name. For instance, if you’ve got a craving for Samoas or Thin Mints, you can call (not text) **GSCOOKIES and you’ll instantly receive a text message with a link to a Girl Scout Cookie Locator app.
In addition to smart phones giving consumers near-instant access to marketing or product information and digital content, they also are empowering businesses to do local spot targeting that only serves ads to people near a certain geographic location. For instance, a movie theatre could broadcast show times to only those smart phone users within a mile radius who happen to be doing things like playing Angry Birds, listening to Slacker Radio, or other similar activities.
Millennial Media, a Baltimore-based mobile ad platform, delivers such ads to consumers who are browsing the mobile Web or using apps. The company says advertisers can use a variety of formats such as banner ads, rich media ads or interstitials.
Gartner’s Andrew Frank says the video space is seeing some interesting innovation, particularly in the area of what he calls “dynamic creative” that lets a company or advertiser change video content in real time.
“For example, you might re-edit a movie trailer on the fly depending on whether the viewer is male or female or in the North or in the South,” he says, holding up Tumri and Teracent as examples of ad platforms that can do it.
Cloud-based Flite is another ad platform that allows for real-time editing of ads. It can incorporate real-time content streams such as videos, polls, and other interactive elements into an ad, and even pull in social media content from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube—all of which can be switched up at any time.
For instance, a restaurant having a slow couple of hours could update its display ad with a flash deal that includes a poll and its Twitter stream that mentions the promotion.
Flite's pricing is about $1 CPM (cost per thousand views) but it depends on what you set your ad up to do. Simpler ones are cheaper but ads with customization such as sweepstakes or video galleries are more.
But what if putting things like YouTube in your ads sounds like a great idea, but you don’t have any content?
Near Networks just launched an online video channel platform for local businesses across the country. For $1,499 it will send a professional camera crew to your location and create a 90 to 120 second high definition micro-documentary for your business.
Once the video is done, Near Networks helps its clients create and manage a video channel on YouTube that can be embedded on a Web site, blog or on social media outlets.
7. Incentives and Virtual Currency
Gartner’s Andrew Frank says incentivized ads in games such as Farmville, Mafia Wars and Angry Birds tap into a huge audience of social gamers who play every day. “It’s the idea of giving people game credits or virtual goods or other things that they can use in a game in exchange for watching ads or interacting with them or otherwise engaging with the sponsor’s content,” he says.
“Virtual currency,” is what Chicago-based Lab42 calls it.
The year-old start-up not only creates some of the great infographics showing up lately on media outlets such as Mashable or HuffPost Tech, but it also offers an online market research tool that uses social networks to do market research.
You can either create your own survey using the Lab42 dashboard or they’ll do it for you. After selecting your target market, they launch the survey across various social networks and social media partner sites that offer virtual currency in exchange for the respondents’ time and opinion. By reaching out to the desired audience of their client’s target market, the Lab42 research team is able to return results in just a few days, with packages that start at just $500.
Another example: Peer-to-peer promotion.
Calyp is a network that rewards consumers with cash, gifts and discounts for promoting products they like with their friends and networks.
Using either the Calyp mobile app or Calyp.com, an endorser can broadcast a Calyp link—through a text message, blog post or social status update—that features her favorite line of clothing, for example, and let people know there’s a big sale going on. When her friends or followers click on the link, she gets the credit.
Getting your business into the Calyp network will run anywhere from $950 to $25,000 a month, so it’s not cheap. Blue Calypso, the company behind Calyp, says the investment pays off.
Blue Calypso says it has launched more than 400 campaigns, reaching more than 1.15 million mobile and social media consumers with a 325 percent click-through rate and 21 percent intent to purchase.
“We’re not a good fit for a new business,” says Sabrina Dee, Blue Calypso’s CMO. “It’s about using your loyal customers that love you and can speak with an education about your brand because they use your brand—sharing with people that are like-minded about why they would also like it.”
8. Social Analytics
Today there are great analytics tools that help brands engage with customers and potential customers on social networks. Here’s a slide show of the best social CRM programs that features several good ones.
“I believe that one of the most important trends in the market is the increasing participation of consumers/customers on social networks, and the 'big data' problem - and opportunity - it is creating for marketers who can effective analyze and act on that data,” says Chris Selland, CMO for social marketing platform Terametric and expert on the Focus network.
“Traditionally, marketers have focused on analyzing data that is theirs - visitors to our Web site, callers to our call center. But social data lives on social networks - outside the walls of the organization…It does not belong to the company, but the ability to analyze and act effectively on it is key,” he says.
Is your Web site doing the best job it can for you?
EyeTrackShop is different. It’s a Sweden-based digital marketing research firm with offices in New York and Los Angeles that conducts eye-tracking studies to gauge the effectiveness of not only Web site pages but also online ads, banner ads, print ads and packing designs to see if your audience will notice what you want them to. Some of their clients include P&G, Google, SnapFish and Clorox.
You simply send your sample design to EyeTrackShop, along with the demographic you want to test. From there, EyeTrackShop enlists its U.S. database of 6 million users who use their own Web cams to send video to EyeTrackShop, which then uses retina scanners to gauge gaze duration and location.
EyeTrackShop says it returns results in 48 hours, charges $2,500 for one stimuli test and $1,800 for two tests.
Another useful tool you might check out is Gigya, which you can use on your Web site to allow users to login using their preferred social identity.
While you can use something like Facebook for Websites to let people log on using Facebook, if you want to save the development time, Gigya offers what it calls a "Super API" which lets users to log in to your site with over 25 different identity providers such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, AOL, Yahoo and more. The company says you’d be surprised how many people choose to log in with non-Facebook identities.
Gigya also offers a suite of social plugins that can to your site features such as comments, sharing, ratings and reviews, games and chat.
When users log in to your site using their social identities, they grant access to data inside their social apps which Gigya can then collect and store on your behalf. For marketing purposes, this can allow you to not only serve them specific content, but targeted ads as well.
Daily Deal sites are everywhere and whether using them is good for business is a topic Inc. has written about elsewhere.
Signpost, however, does it differently than most. Instead of taking a share of each deal—money that should be going into your pocket—it lets you set up as many deals as you want on its platform and only charges you $99 a month (with the first month free).
Its self-service platform gives merchants complete control over the discount amount, when
each deal is announced, the timeframe in which the deals can be redeemed, and the limit of how many deals can be sold.
Signpost markets the deals businesses create through its Web site, daily newsletter and social media following.
Whew! That’s quite a round up, but no doubt much more could have been mentioned.
What else should be on this list?