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15 posts from November 2005

Interactive Ads Make Visiting Store Fun


A new advertising billboard system is now getting wider exposure with Sam Goody stores. Dynamic images are projected on the floors and walls. When customers walk into the image it reacts and changes. Everyone seems charmed. Fad or valuable environmental advertising experience? I think it will depend on how patient people will be to stay and let a complete story play out.

CNET Interactive billboards you can walk around in by Alorie Gilbert

[The Sam Goody music retail] chain announced this week that it has agreed to install interactive displays at 100 stores--the largest deal to date--to attract shoppers nationwide. The technology, which combines advertising with gaming and entertainment, is part of the chain's effort to recast its stores as entertainment lifestyle centers, where people will want to linger, sample music and ring tones, and burn CDs. "This technology, we think, is a natural of extension of that," said Laurie Bauer, a spokeswoman for Musicland Group, Sam Goody's parent company.

The systems, developed by Reactrix Systems in Redwood City, Calif., use infrared sensors and highly specialized software to respond to people's gestures and movements. In one setup, for instance, placing a foot on what appears to be a calm body of water will instantly trigger "waves" that move out from the foot, creating the effect of walking on water. "It's a crowd magnet," Reactrix spokesman Chris Knight said. "It's a way to spice up stores and keep people coming back."

Reuters and Diet Coke Deliver Good News


This new campaign from Diet Coke falls under my category of "useful marketing." Since the campaign has just launched, it's too early to tell if people will really latch onto it, but it's a terrific idea. You can actually sign up to have 'lighter note' Reuters news sent to your cell phone by Diet Coke. I like that better than inspirational quotes.

iMedia Connection: Anatomy of an RSS Breakthrough.

When Diet Coke came to Reuters they were, "interested in doing some type of campaign on a news site that would reach the kind of audience that Reuters has to offer," said Bernard. However, "they were a little hesitant to be around news that wasn't fantastic." RSS solves the problem For Diet Coke, Reuters devised a way to match the "softer news" they were already collecting with the product's image.

Using an RSS feed, these news stories were served into Diet Coke display ads across the internet. Beneath the message, "On a Lighter Note brought to you by Diet Coke," internet users could read headlines like, "Cereal may be best breakfast for the waistline," or "Inspired by wheelbarrow, BIC sells 100 billionth pen." After clicking on one of the headlines, users would find themselves within at a Diet Coke-branded page.

"Basically, this content is already on our available roster, it's a matter of pulling it into one area and creating a user experience," said Bernard. "But we did something really cool and different… which was allowing an advertiser to use that content within their own ad unit to create an interesting type of campaign."

Esquire Extends the Brand into Physical Space


To the left is a view from one of the Esquire apartments in New York. In the past, magazines that cover home design have decorated aparments, but Esquire does a great job of creating a complete brand experience. View the entire apartment through photos by Yale Wagner.

NY Times: Esquire Gets a Temporary Bachelor Pad by Katharine Q. Seelye

Many magazines have branding ventures, among them Time's Person of the Year, the Vanity Fair party at the Oscars and Glamour's Women of the Year.

Now Esquire is trying to brand real estate. The men's magazine has taken over an apartment in the Gwathmey-Siegel undulating building at Astor Place in downtown Manhattan for six months. The apartment has an estimated market value of $12.5 million, but Esquire is paying no rent. How did they swing this deal? By promising maximum publicity to everyone involved.

Esquire handed the keys to various designers and let them furnish individual rooms in their signature styles, using the products, furniture and accessories of the magazine's advertisers.

Then it opened up the apartment to invitation-only charity events, which means about 5,000 affluent people are drifting through the rooms, eyeing the goods and the apartment. The advertisers get exposure in a high-end setting. The building, where there are empty apartments, gets potential buyers parading through. And Esquire gets a commitment from the advertisers to buy ads in the magazine over the next year.

If all this sounds excessive to you, you are probably on the verge of extinction.

Connect to Site Visitors with Little Stories


Storytelling continues to boom as a marketing technique. In the article excerpted belows, Joseph Carrabis of Next Stage explains how to use a story to turn your web site visitors from tourists into locals. The whole article is well worth reading. I've only reprinted about half the rules.

iMedia Connection: Usability Studies 101: A Little Story by Joseph Carrabis

The research project I mentioned above studied how a number of people from a variety of backgrounds responded to various attention getting and attention keeping techniques, all with the hope of touching people that magical three times in order to get them to remember the brand and associate it with a product line.

What we discovered works best is a simple animation that tells people a story. This shouldn't come as a surprise as pretty much the same results have come from similar studies in cultural anthropology and knowledge management. Here are the rules that apply:

  • Initial visitors need to be slowed down just enough to pay attention to the story without realizing they're doing so.
  • The story must be short enough so that it doesn't interfere with the visitors' continued navigation through the site.
  • The purpose of the story is to get the visitor branded.
  • The way to brand visitors is by getting them to associate something you (the site owner) do or offer with whom and what you are....

Groceries Find Someone to Lead them through the Haystack


Sorry for the mixed metaphor but whenever my friends used to complain about the grocery collecting their personal information, I always laughed and said the store would never figure out how to use the overwhelming amount of data they collected. Well, apparently Kroger finally found someone who can. Dunhumby got the start in the U.K. working for Tesco, as I noted earlier.

Cincinnati Business Courier: Kroger's card sharks by Laura Baverman

Dunnhumby's U.S. headquarters was established in Cincinnati after it won the Kroger contract in 2002. The joint venture agreement started in 2003, and the company began to occupy and fill a floor in Al Neyer Inc.'s renovated building downtown.

"Most businesses have grown by acquiring companies or cutting costs. When you've exhausted those, then you have to look at how to serve your existing customers better. That's what we do," said Hay. Dunnhumby has three goals for its clients: improve the shopping experience, use consumer understanding to shape communication opportunities and engage employees.

"We're a learning organization. As we learn about our customers and their organizations, we develop what we do and how we do it," Hay said. The company maintains a database of every Kroger Plus card transaction. It evaluates the price and assortment of products and the promotional strategies such as direct mail and the company Web site. A team creates the marketing and advertising materials.

Dunnhumby also helps enhance the effectiveness of Kroger employees and upper management and oversees the development of employee rewards strategy.

Letting the Gold Emerge from the Content


We spend so much time trying to anticipate what people will like that we sometimes forget to notice what they like. At Lifetime, Lisa Black didn't make that mistake.

NY Times: The Grandchildren of 'The Golden Girls' by Julie Bosman

After nearly 200,000 people registered for a "Golden Girls" online newsletter, the network realized that the fan base was skewing younger, said Lisa Black, vice president of business and marketing development at Lifetime. A large portion of the respondents were in high school or college and visited the Web site,, with surprising regularity, she said. "We thought based on who the fans are, and the fact that they're technologically savvy, to really leverage the desire they have for any new content with these ladies," Ms. Black said. "We really designed it with our fan base in mind." ... the "Lifetime Video Lounge," features "Golden Girls" clips and a series of testimonial vignettes from fans of the show.

Paula Thornton Explains Zipcar Success

PosterpaulaZipcar customer Paula Thornton is uniquely qualified to explain their success. She is a leading proponent of “experience design,” the creation of business models which are driven by disciplined focus on fulfilling the expectations of the customer, not the expectations of the employees, suppliers and competitors. Paula explains that the business premise of Zipcar is not ‘we rent cars,’ but ‘sometimes some people need to borrow a car,’ and the goal at Zipcar is to help people enjoy borrowing a car whenever they need to do so.

Paula says, “Zipcar has a truly organic business model that evolves in response to customers. Zipcar builds feedback loops and uses them heavily. Even little things are constantly being updated, making people more likely to share small concerns and suggestions. Since part of my job is making sure web sites are easy to use, I can see that several improvements have been made on the site since I’ve been there last—they’ve even added a discussion group. Their newsletter leverages these updates as “relationship collateral” so customers can see their input counts.”  Zipcar2_1

Zipcar stays close to its customers with marketing activities that bind the community together. Although they currently operate in only a few cities, you can sign up on the web site to be notified when they expand into your area. Parties, gifts and coupons from area merchants are an established part of the customer experience, eagerly sought out by customers in the monthly newsletter for each city. Their business model leverages the strong sense of community by demanding that people refill the gas tank and return the car clean, so costs are reduced for all. 

Paula recently went to work at Texas Instruments to help them improve their web site and extend their e-commerce business into new territory. She is glad to see demand for ‘experience designers’ grow as companies realize that all the different parts of the business either add to or detract from the customer experience. She believes that someone has to assume a strategic role within the company to anticipate how operational changes will affect the customer, as well as the ability of the employees to do their job in serving the customer. 

Want to keep up with the ‘experience design’ movement and see how it could benefit your company? Join the email discussion group Paula nurtures at Yahoo Groups: