Technical Solutions to Connect Offline and Online Marketing

November 30th, 20121:32 pm


Technical Solutions to Connect Offline and Online Marketing

Stefan Becker
Creative Director
Interactive Concepter

“Multichannel customer journey.”

“Digital extensions.”

“Interactive campaigns.”

Marketing buzzwords heard and seen on several panels and “best of” cases. Connecting offline and online marketing channels is mostly limited by technical possibilities, which are changing and developing much faster then most companies can react to, and definitely faster than customers can learn how to use them. But there is a need in marketing to use innovative techniques; to involve users, to interact with people, to connect touch-points, to generate buzz, and to offer the right channels and tools for a changing media usage.

Here is a short summary of recent technical solutions that connect online and offline media, and a forecast for the near future.

What Happened Until Today?

QR Code
The QR code made it already into a lot of campaigns. “Invented in Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in 1994 to track vehicles during the manufacturing process” (Wikipedia), this way of connecting the two worlds became more and more popular with the increasing amount of smartphones able to read a code. Nowadays opinions and statistics vary a lot regarding its current usage and future potential. There are some success-stories, though, like the Heinz on-pack QR code integration.

Tracey Parsons, spokeswoman for H.J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, PA said, “Based on the great response we received from the PlantBottle QR code – more than 1 million scans – we found this to be an effective way to drive awareness and excitement in restaurants, where the special QR code bottles can be found.”

But is the QR code just at the beginning, or almost dead because other solutions are on the way? Nobody can tell for sure. There have been some pretty creative cases though. Two examples are the Emart Shadow QR code:

Or the Tesco subway supermarket idea:

The audience using QR codes is still relatively small—apart from Asia, where QR Codes are a part of daily life. I think the big breakthrough could be a pre-installed QR reader on most phones and one of the most essential criteria of the success of digital innovations: the distribution of soft- and hardware and educating people on how to use it. An important aspect to have in mind while creating such concepts.

Augmented Reality
The next big thing and hype coming up was augmented reality, creating much more possibility than with QR codes. Next to generating a lead to a landing page or content (whether via mobile or computer), the dimension of added augmented content to offline media came with it. In 2008, I did one of the first augmented reality print-ads to introduce the new MINI Convertible, where on a landing page people could scan one of the teaser print ads with their webcam and a 3-D model of the car appeared on the ad.

The technique and the almost magical experience were new to most people at this time. That´s why it generated big buzz and free media. Maybe the plain reach by people experiencing such an interactive application isn´t that huge. But the people telling, reading about and watching it was. Augmented reality was and is developing very fast. Many mobile, web and kiosk solutions have been created the last few years. A great example is the Disney project in New York´s Times Square in 2011:

Gesture and Face Tracking
Next to using a marker, a certain design or GPS data for tracking, gesture and face tracking, such as the launch of Kinect, brought this way of interaction to a wide audience. An example is the 2011 Red Bull Formula Face— a browser racing game with facial steering via webcam. No special hardware was needed.

RFID and Sound Recognition
I am sure there are many more ways to connect online and offline, but I would like to mention RFID and music recognition as two more examples. One great case for RFID usage is the StarHub Online Music Store project:

Popular software for sound recognition is Shazam. This company is increasing its presence in TV ads more and more. Currently the eBay campaign is connected via music tracking and this interview with CEO Andrew Fisheris shows, for example, the Pepsi Super Bowl case:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

The Close Future

One new technical solution is the input device Leap launching in 2013. Watching the first tests, the expectations are high. As far as I know, there has been no soft- or hardware so far having such a sensitive gesture tracking to track individual fingers. I am sure there will be great marketing cases coming up soon— mainly in kiosk systems for out-of-home marketing, POS, events etc.

Face Recognition
Another feature we now know from the science fiction movie “Minority Report” is the concept of individualized ads based on face recognition. In the movie, the system recognizes the person passing the screen and shows personal ads. Redpepper Lab has recently shown a similar marketing vision offering personalized coupons called Facedeals:

Thought Controlled Computing
Already mentioned in a former article here in the Tomorrow Awards Magazine, thought controlled computing is another way to connect yourself with an online application, screen or software. Maybe the one that furthest in the future, but could we have imagined 10 years ago how we use media today?

The Challenge and Potential in Marketing

The technical solutions and possibilities to connect offline with online are rapidly increasing. But the usage of such innovative solutions in marketing will always need an evaluation regarding reach because the more innovative and new the solution is, the less people mostly have the right hard- or software to experience it.

Another aspect to keep in mind is the complexity needed to explain people what they have to do. But I think there are three scenarios where using technical innovations as a first-mover have a very strong marketing benefit:

  • Your target group are early adopters;
  • You are setting up great storytelling by the innovation and are able to get the big reach by publications and viral spread;
  • You are using a kiosk system to avoid the bottleneck hard-/software, so people can experience it at events, POS etc..

Or all three together. And one more thing that hasn´t changed in advertising ever, and should be considered: it needs a great creative concept! No matter what touch point or device you are using, I think that´s the only rule which will fit for every online or offline channel now and in the future.