Can beauty and elegance win over a clear call to action?
Creating dynamic content from static media has been a challenge to marketers for a long time. From print materials to packaging, record sleeves to coke cans; ensuring that you are communicating relevant messaging to your audience at a relevant time is never easy. Not least when those carefully crafted assets you put out there hang around and resurface just when you are trying to push your shiny new message. Obviously, targeted TV, radio and web advertising all have the beauty of being time specific but a great deal of the media we spend time, energy and money on, from branding to direct mail, is born into the world and sits there as a static asset.Bringing your assets to life
Originally adding phone numbers to campaigns can allow some sense of the dynamic to be added to a print campaign, which allows you to include a call to action (CTA) and also to update your target with the latest content. URLs have completely changed the landscape of the static advert as did SMS shortcodes and the now ubiquitous QRs but all of these required a pre-planned execution. You can't go back and stick a QR code on every asset you have ever produced, on every logo you have ever placed or every campaign you have ever run. How can you bring this wealth of assets you already have out there in the real world to life with compelling and relevant messaging and content?The beauty of image recognition
The silver bullet here is image recognition (IR). Once this technology was bleeding edge, and still it produces gasps of amazement at its elegance and intelligence. If a QR is the clumsy, ugly geek ruining your beautiful ad then image recognition is the captain of the football team, all precision, style and power -- bringing the static to life. With pioneers like Aurasma bringing image recognition into the mainstream it is clear that 2012 will see a surge towards this kind of campaign. Marks and Spencer's, Lucozade and Holiday Inn have all used the technology in different ways recently to activate bespoke campaigns and yet they are still following the same pattern, perhaps missing some of the potential of the medium. If you produce an advert designed to be activated by IR you might get a beautiful execution, you might increase engagement but you are still only activating campaigns specific assets. You are doing what you could easily do with a QR code. The real beauty of IR is that it can activate any asset, and can do so with assets that already exist in the world.
As we saw with the Fiat campaign in Italy, when they image recognised standard road traffic signs, it doesn't just have to be your own assets you activate. If you get your consumer motivation right you can activate any static asset from an app from street signs to cookery books, from record sleeves to competitor's products -- just don't get caught doing it with the Olympic rings.Challenges
The real challenges are context, execution and CTA. Context and excecution are dealt with by image recognition. Used within an app means that not only can you recognise a piece of static material but you can recognise where the user is standing when they scan the object, what time of day it is, even what the weather is and , if they give you permission, a whole host of parameters from Facebook and Twitter. This allows you to deliver a truly social-local and mobile experience with rich and relevant content simply from your logo or other static asset.
When we built our first image recognition app, three years ago, we designed it to recognise a tour poster, a CD cover and a Spotify screen, all to unlock hidden content behind each. The technology was expensive and a little clumsy, forcing you to take a photo of the object. Now, with the tech freely available on the market it is a seamless and beautiful experience with your phone's camera watching for the images it needs in real time. Scan me!
So, the sticking point here is CTA. QRs, ugly though they are, scream at you 'SCAN ME!'. The elegant older brother, IR is more enigmatic. The CTA has to be based around the consumer wanting something from you as a brand, they have to know that when they scan that O2 logo they will unlock a relevant 'Priority Moment', that the Monster Energy logo will unlock insane motocross stunts and tickets in their area -- in short that there is something in it for them and I don't just mean for any consumer but for them personally, socially and locally. QRs offend me in their appearance, and often in their execution (QR on a poster deep on the London Underground anyone?) but they do deliver what they say on the tin. They are an effective way of taking someone to a mobile website or launching an experience but for me, creativity and beauty will win the day and IR holds the secret to both.Seth Jackson is the MD for [PIAS] Media