The Rules of Engagement

Roger Matus
Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Roger Matus is executive vice president of Nellymoser, Inc., a company that specializes in mobile engagement. Matus shares with the Microsoft Tag blog the importance of engagement and how Tag can be successfully employed in a mobile campaign. Before reading Matus’ post, please chew on these stats that demonstrate why mobile engagement is so critical:

  • The average user spends 50 minutes a day on their smartphone.
  • Mobile web is expected to surpass desktop Internet usage by 2015.
  • Smartphone ownership is up 60% from last year.

Smartphones and tablets are fundamentally changing the way advertisers and marketers engage with a consumer. For the first time in history, we can reach individuals at the time, the place and within the context in which potential buyers can be most readily influenced. Action codes, such as Microsoft Tag, are the trigger.

All marketers have used time, place or context to develop effective ads. Restaurants use images of mouthwatering food at meal times. Signs that are placed near stores often provide relevant directions to find the store. Google Adwords and Microsoft adCenter can show relevant ads within the context of specific searches.

What is new is that we can combine all three at the same time to create a compelling interaction. Let’s take the case of a recent campaign for the retailer White House Black Market and InStyle magazine.

work kit image

InStyle, one of the nation’s top 100 magazines, joined forces with White House Black Market, a nationwide chain of more than 300 women’s specialty stores owned by Chico’s, to cross-promote its new “Ultimate Work-Kit.” The kit included various clothing articles that could be mixed and matched to build an “essential” wardrobe for the office.

White House Black Market advertised the Work Kit within the pages of InStyle. At the store, shelf talkers, hangers and other materials prominently displayed the InStyle logo and a Microsoft Tag that could be scanned by a smartphone was prominently shown.

Let’s consider what we know. If a person is reading InStyle, they are engaged in women’s fashion, care about the InStyle point-of-view and can be encouraged by InStyle editors to learn more about a product at the time they are reading the magazine.

Similarly, in a store, a person may well be considering a specific item.  At that moment, a person is likely to be very interested in seeing how that item would look on a person and receiving advice about what other items complement the clothing under consideration. Information from a knowledgeable source is likely to be welcome.  

The mobile experience, implemented by Nellymoser, considers these elements. InStyle’s editors provided videos with styling tips as well as instructions about how to combine the pieces in the work kit. Magazine readers could see the clothing mixed and matched in ways that could not be duplicated in a single page ad.  Store shoppers were provided with compelling information at the time of purchase with ideas for additional items to purchase. These store visitors also learn more about the editors at InStyle through the videos.

work kit mobile site image

To make the experience more engaging, many options were shown. The mobile photo gallery enabled further engagement with high-quality photos of the items in the kit. A simple swipe with a finger moves forward and back between the images in a manner similar to many in-phone applications.  

Users were also encouraged to share their selected looks via Facebook and Twitter, which gives shoppers an opportunity to tell friends about the Work Kit or to get advice from them. Additional capabilities include a mobile sign-up form for special offers and a link to the online White House Black Market store.

The campaign was successful because it followed some basic rules of mobile engagement around time, place and context:

  1. Provide Utility: Be aware of the environment (context) in which the campaign is being used and what the needs of the user at the time. Is it in a store? Is it looking at a billboard? Is it in a magazine? Each is a different environment.
  2. Inform: Provide useful information or activities related to the time, place and context. In the earlier example, shopping advice while in the store can be very engaging.
  3. Entertain: Tell an interesting story or create an interesting environment for the smartphone user to explore. Stories and environments encourage engagement by involving the smartphone user in a process that takes time to complete.

So, how do you create mobile engagement for your brand?  

There are really two elements to focus upon: (1) What are the campaign objectives?  (2) How do you meet the objective considering time, place and context?

Campaign Objectives

At Nellymoser, we have worked with hundreds of mobile advertisers. We find that the most successful mobile advertising engagements are when the advertiser focuses on at least one of the following objectives:

  1. Branding
  2. Product Demonstrations
  3. Data Capture (name, email, etc.)
  4. Commerce (purchase or discount offer)

Branding: For most companies, the purpose of a branding campaign is to create a warm feeling about the company and to get the consumer more involved with the brand. The weakness of branding campaigns is that they provide the least utility for the smartphone user. Entertainment and information become critical.

A classic example of a branding campaign that delivered on entertainment and information was from G-Shock watches. The magazine ad in Details showed American actor Ryan Rottman wearing a G-Shock watch. A mobile video was created to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the ad. It was both informative and entertaining in that it showed a rarely seen view of how a magazine ad is created with specific information about how this ad was created. During the course of the video, the consumer became more involved with the brand as more views and details of the watch were shown.

G Force image

Product Demonstrations: The old axiom is that “seeing is believing.” Product demonstrations deliver by enhancing understanding. The White House Black Market campaign is a perfect example. It shows the product and provides useful information from a reliable source.

Product demonstrations do not need to be so comprehensive or expensive to make. Timberland created a demonstration of a new boot product that starred the product manager explaining the value of her product. By using the product manager, the user was also given a behind the scenes look at the product and a human connection was created. The product manager’s strong feelings of the value of her product became evident.

The Timberland production did not require expensive sets or filming. Rather, it was the human connection and the passion that provided useful information and entertainment.

Timberland image

Data Capture: Data Capture remains one of the most widely important uses for a mobile campaign. The most successful campaigns offer value in return for submitting the data. For example, sweepstakes and coupons receive high levels of participation.

Commerce: The newest use for action codes is e-commerce. Some companies are providing direct links to ordering web pages that are optimized for mobile use.

The latest trend is for the use of hotspotting. In the recent advertisement for K-Swiss, mobile hotspots allow the visitor to select different parts of the shoe to explore. Each spot is connected to a compelling, informative and entertaining video about that part of the show. With multiple hot spots, the user is encouraged to invest time and engage with the product.

The page is linked to the e-commerce store which enables users to act immediately to purchase.


K Swiss image

The Complete Experience

When designing the campaign, the time, place and context begins with the printed material itself. It provides the reason why a person should take out his smartphone and scan the action code.

The action code is the 21st century “call-to-action.” The Marketing Dictionary calls the call-to-action one of the most important concepts in marketing and promotion. Simply put, after you've established that you have something of value to offer and that you're the perfect choice to deliver it, you want to ask your prospect to take the next step. You deliver a call to action.

In the 20th century, a call-to-action would contain phrases such as “Call 1-800-xxx-xxxx to receive yyyyy.”  There was a verb, information on what to do and a promise of value.

We need to do the same in the 21st century. Instead of “call,” the appropriate verb may be “scan.” The 800 number is replaced by a code and, until scanning is as ubiquitous as a phone, some instructions as to how to scan. And, if course, the promise of what is to be received after the scan.

Incomplete calls to action, such as a Microsoft Tag without a promise, is less motivating and will usually produce poorer results.

With the right offer value in the promise, your smartphone user will be delivered to the mobile campaign. This is a critical moment to continue the engagement. This first page should directly relate to the advertisement and the promise in order to continue the engagement. Those who link to a generic mobile site, or even worse, a web site, achieve poorer results. These numbers are shown in visitors who stop at the first page.

The mobile experience for the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is particularly well done. The look and feel of the home page is tightly tied to the magazine itself, while not being a direct copy. There are many compelling activities with the opportunities for social media and e-commerce through Barnes and Noble.

SI swimsuit issue image

Summing it Up

Start with your business objectives and select the campaign to match. Consider the time, place and context of the user’s interaction with the printed action code and the mobile device. Provide value, information and entertain for best results. Be sure to deliver a complete experience that links the printed experience with the mobile experience.

What do you think about using Tag to create mobile engagement in advertising? Let us know with your comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Recent Comments
  • Bret daCosta

    09/19/2011 , 4:40 PM
    Roger, this is probably the best article I have read on the subject. I think you have a fantastic grasp on the technology and of course content is King! Thank you. d www.extreme2d.com


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