What’s Exciting in Mobile Marketing? – Augmented Reality

December 31, 2009 1 comment

In this final installment of a multi-part post, we wrap-up a look at three technologies in particular that will have a potentially huge impact on mobile marketing, whether used independently, or in various combinations: mobile barcodes & tagging, location based advertising (LBA), and augmented reality (AR).  This third and final post will focus on augmented reality (AR). 

Augmented Reality (AR)

How does it work?

If you’ve ever seen football games on TV where scores, statistics, first down lines, and yards-to-go indicators are superimposed over the live action, you’ve already experienced a form of augmented reality.  However, the much more interactive world of mobile and the Web allow augmented reality to be taken to new levels.    

In the mobile world, the cameras in our smart phones allow us to view and take photos of our surrounding indoor or outdoor environments (people, objects, signs, buildings, street corners, etc). Augmented reality technology allows for additional imagery, graphics, symbols, and data to be superimposed over this view to “augment” what you see.  Examples of this augmentation includes maps & directions, descriptions, statistics, and more.

The mobile augmented reality content is currently delivered through a variety of different methods, including individual smart phone applications, tools, and mobile browser plug-ins. 

What capabilities does it provide to marketers?

The scope of capabilities and possible applications for mobile augmented reality is truly immense.  In his PersonalizeMedia blog, author Gary Hayes does the best job I’ve seen so far of identifying the types of, and potential business models for, augmented reality:

Nearly all of the models outlined above hold a strong potential for marketers, particularly in a mobile environment.    

Great, but does it have legs?

Yes, definitely!  I believe mobile in particular is an ideally suited platform for the use of augmented reality,  as it comes the closest to approximating how we naturally encounter people, places, and things in the real world.     

The potential applications for mobile augmented reality are further enhanced by how it can be used in varying combinations with other versatile mobile technologies such as GPS, mobile barcoding & tagging, and location based advertising (LBA).

In terms of revenue potential, a recent study by marketing intelligence company ABI Research states that “new handheld platforms will transform the Augmented Reality ecosystem”, forecasting revenue associated with Augmented Reality will grow from around $6 million in 2008 to more than $350 million in 2014, with the bulk of the increase occuring during the latter portion of that time frame.

This prediction of a growth “curve” makes sense to me.  As smart phones continue to evolve into ever more powerful mobile computing devices with a true convergence of capabilities, the prediction here is that the number of tools, apps, plug-ins, browsers, and content providers that support mobile augmented reality will dramatically increase over the coming 1 – 2 years.  Beyond this period of maturation, I believe that revenue generation will really begin to take off. 

Want to learn more?

There are a ton of great online resources and articles on augmented reality and its use in mobile marketing.  In fact, the real challenge in identifying additional suggested reading was knowing when to stop!  Though the focus of this particular blog post was the use of augmented reality for mobile marketing purposes, I’ve included links that cover its use in the web world as well.  Each delves further into the types, models, and potential uses of augmented reality:

Mobile augmented reality builds deep consumer engagement 

16 Top augmented reality business models

10 Awesome uses of augmented reality marketing

Location-based ads come to augmented reality in the US

IKEA uses augmented reality to engage shoppers’ imagination

GPS based augmented reality

There are also some very cool demonstrations of augmented reality apps of all types on YouTube

Got feedback?

This wraps up my first series on what’s exciting in mobile marketing, but based on the explosion of growth in mobile technologies, you can bet it won’t be the last.  It is certain that we’ll be visiting this topic again in the near future.  In the meantime, I’m always interested in hearing your questions, comments, and points of view. Please let me know what you think!

– Jim S.


What’s Exciting in Mobile Marketing? – Location Based Advertising (LBA)

November 29, 2009 2 comments

In this multi-part post, we continue to take a look at three technologies in particular that will have a potentially huge impact on mobile marketing, whether used independently, or in various combinations: mobile barcodes & tagging, Location Based Advertising (LBA), and augmented reality.  This second post will focus on Location Based Advertising (LBA). 

Location Based Advertising

How does it work?

Part of a broader category of Location Based Services (LBS), mobile Location Based Advertising (LBA) takes advantage of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology.  While we have traditionally thought of GPS as a navigation based aid, things have definitely evolved.  A growing number of smart phones now have GPS technology integrated into them, allowing their locations to be precisely tracked by signals sent by the GPS satellites high above the Earth. 

What capabilities does it provide to marketers?

While the science of GPS and Location Based Advertising may not be all that important to us, the capabilities they bring are definitely important.  Marketers and service providers can now make use of the geographical position of smart phones to send very specific, targeted information to their owners.  This information can come in the form of nearby stores & services,  customized ads, offers, coupons, and loyalty-based offerings.  And, as we have seen and heard so many times, the more specific, targeted, and relevant a marketing message can be, the better the results we can expect. 

Great, but does it have legs?

A quick look at the numbers says yes, LBA absolutely has legs.  First, consider the sheer number of mobile devices.  There are roughly 4.6 billion mobile phones out there globally, with an ever-increasing number of them coming with GPS capabilities.  Second is the size of the overarching Location Based Services (LBS) market.  At around 41 million users in 2008, this is expected to grow to nearly 96 million in 2009.  Finally (and perhaps most importantly), there is the revenue picture.  Gartner forecasted in June of 2009 that the global LBS revenue will more than double from just under $1 billion in 2008 to over $2.2 billion in 2009.  You can bet that Location Based Advertising will play a large role in this growth.

The reality is that our smart phones are really becoming powerful handheld computing devices that we’re depending on for a wider variety of daily uses, and are perfectly suited for LBA.  If potential privacy and security concerns can adequately be addressed, the only real question in my mind is how responsive U.S. based consumers will be to LBA and mobile advertising.  However, given that in Spain over three quarters mobile phone owners already receive ads, in France nearly two thirds do and in Japan over half do with relatively high response rates, I believe that the success of LBA in the U.S. is a near certainty.   

Want to learn more?

Admittedly, it was hard to settle on the title of Location Based Advertising (LBA) for this particular post.  While conventional wisdom places LBA within the broader category of Location Based Services (LBS), I’ve consistently been finding that terms like LBA, LBS, mobile marketing, and mobile advertising are often being used interchangably – most likely because this vast set of mobile capabilities is still in its infancy, and there is not a great deal of standardization yet.  Therefore, don’t be thrown by some of the link titles below.  Each of them can help you understand what this technology entails and how it is being used:

2009: The Year of LBS (Location-Based Services)

GPS + Mobile Marketing = Goodness

Mobile GPS Opens Doors to Content, Commerce

New Platform Offers GPS Location-Based Ads

Burger King, Subaru Trial Location-Based Mobile Advertising

Placecast Raises $5 Million for Location-Based Advertising Platform

Got feedback?

I’m always interested in hearing your questions, comments, and points of view. Please let me know what you think!

– Jim S.

What’s Exciting in Mobile Marketing? – Mobile Barcodes & Tagging

November 3, 2009 3 comments
Coachella2In one of my first blog posts, I questioned whether digital marketers were ready to keep up with the rapid adoption of mobile technologies.  After digging deeper into ‘the state of mobile’ over the last couple of months, I’ve become more convinced that we’re up to the challenge.  There is definitely a lot of exciting innovation going on in the world of mobile – particularly by companies that are creatively applying new technologies to provide dynamic marketing solutions.

In this multi-part post, we’ll begin taking a look at three technologies in particular that will have a potentially huge impact on mobile marketing, whether used independently, or in various combinations: mobile barcodes & tagging, Location Based  Advertising (LBA), and augmented reality.  This first post will focus on mobile barcodes and tagging. 


Mobile Barcodes and Tagging

How does it work?

See a code, take a picture, and let the magic happen.  The basic concept of mobile barcodes and tagging is that technology advancements now allow the cameras in our mobile phones to act as barcode readers: 

Mobile Tagging Process

This opens up the potential for applications of all types.  The GoMo News article, “Mobile Barcodes 101”, helps shed some light on this:

“The most common use of mobile barcodes is to request information or a service or content from a Web site. It might be details of a promotion, or a discount voucher via SMS or MMS, or to activate a download such as a ringtone, music track or game, or click to call an IVR or human agent, or buy a travel or concert ticket. The advertiser pays the set-up costs as well as its operator partner on a per-click, download, view, redeemed coupon, ticket sale or call, depending on the campaign.” 

Great, but does it have legs?

I think that mobile barcodes and tagging represent a great new addition to the marketer’s toolbox.  Their use is limited only by one’s imagination and creativity.  They can physically be placed in a number of different environments, including online on websites, emails, and social media platforms; and in print in magazines, newspapers, posters, and signs.  They can allow people to connect to all types of information, including websites, videos, games, tickets, and more.  And they are still in their infancy, so there’s still the novelty effect in their favor.  My take is that we will be seeing the use of mobile barcodes and tagging explode in marketing and ad campaigns over the coming months.

Want to learn more?

What exactly are mobile barcodes?  What do they look like?  How are they different from the codes we see on merchandise tags at stores? Who have been the early adopters of this technology?  How are they successfully being used here in the U.S. for marketing campaigns, and why has our adoption been slower?  And, what in the world are QR codes, BeeTaggs, and JagTags? I’ve collected a series of links below to help answer these questions and others that you may have.

Follow these links for extra info on mobile barcodes and tagging, ranging from basic definitions to powerful examples of this technology at work:

Mobile Tagging

Mobile Barcodes 101

Marketers Give Mobile Barcodes Another Go

Nike Breaks Mobile Barcode Campaign at Mountain Dew Event

Personalized 2D Barcodes Suit Marketing Campaigns

Fox Uses JagTag Mobile Barcodes to Promote X-Men DVD Release

Got feedback?

I’m trying a bit different format on this series of posts regarding “What’s exciting in mobile marketing”. Please let me know what you think!

– Jim S.

Do we jump into SEO and SEM too soon?

October 5, 2009 4 comments


The value of web site search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) is indisputable.  It has been proven time and time again that businesses can realize a greater ROI with web sites that are well optimized and marketed than ones that are not.  As marketers, we have more great resources available to us than ever before to help our clients achieve SEO and SEM success, in the form of web sites, software, tools, blogs, books, associations, and solution providers. 

Admittedly, given all of its benefits, it is a sin to not consider SEO and SEM at all.  However, in our zeal to wring the most value out of our clients’ web sites, are we often guilty of going too far the other way and jumping right into SEO and SEM activities too soon?  Should we be trying harder to first understand our clients’ overall business objectives, target markets and customer demographics?  It seems that if we do a good job of this up front, it will not only help us make our SEO/SEM efforts for our clients even more effective, it will help us to determine how much investment we should really be putting into SEO/SEM for them, period.

To me, some very basic “who”, ”what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, and “how” types of questions are the best way to get this type of dialog started.  Here are just a few examples of the types of questions we should be asking clients for their consideration: 



Who is typically looking for your company’s product or service?  Who is it that you really want to reach?  Are these the same or different audiences?


What is your desired outcome when potential customers find you?  To sell them something immediately?  To qualify their needs in a consultative manner?  To service them?  To educate and/or entertain them?  


Where are your potential customers located?  Where are you located?  Does location even matter with your particular business and desired clientele?  


When will people be looking for you?  Will it be seasonal or year round?  At particular points in the sales cycle or purchasing funnel?  When they have an immediate problem, or when they have a long-term RFP?


Why do people need your product or service?  As a commodity?  Necessity?  Luxury?  Why might potential customers likely choose you over your competitors?  


How do potential customers most often encounter your business?  Via the web and social media?  Through print ads?  At live events, conferences, or meetings?  Via signage on your store, trucks, or delivery vehicles?


The above list of questions is by no means exhaustive, but it gives you an idea on how a client’s answers can dramatically affect the scope, direction, and volume of your SEO and SEM efforts for them.  If you can suggest other additional important question, or better yet, point out an existing comprehensive source of these “pre” SEO and SEM considerations, please share the wealth!

In the meantime, do you agree that we sometimes jump into SEO and SEM too soon?  Or are we actually doing OK in understanding our clients’ businesses, target markets and customer demographics first?  Should we look at amending, or perhaps revamping, the SEO and SEM qualification process?    

I’d love nothing more than to see a range of SEO/SEM providers, business owners, customers, and industry techies chime in on this topic.

– Jim S.

Where are Virtual Events Headed?

September 22, 2009 10 comments


The idea of “virtual events” has actually been with us almost as long as the web itself (well, OK, maybe not all the way back to ARPAnet, but you get the point).  Through the years, online chats, webcasts, webinars, videoconferencing, and podcasts have offered us with options to carry on seminars, meetings, and conversations online.

Today, comprehensive “virtual event” technology platforms support entire conferences, trade shows, private exhibitions, product launches, job fairs, corporate training, and just about any other type of event you would hold in person – conducted online using only a web browser.

These environments are often based on the model of a corporate campus, convention center or exhibit hall replete with booths and sales staffs, an auditorium for breakout sessions, and even a lounge where attendees can ‘chat’ with each other.  The providers of these environments have done a great job at combining several interactive and content delivery elements into one nice neat package. 

Among the largest and most successful virtual event technology platform providers to date include companies like 6Connex (who provided the sample virtual event image above), UnisFair, InXpo, and On24.  Several other large corporations and early adopters on the client side have also begun to develop their own custom in-house virtual event capabilities.

It’s not hard to understand the growing attraction to this technology.  There are a lot of business, social, and economic factors drawing marketers and clients to virtual events.  Just a few of these include:

  • Corporate budget & travel constraints
  • Large geographic distribution of event attendees
  • International events with multilingual content requirements
  • Extending the length of time to reinforce marketing messages
  • The “green” movement (reducing carbon footprint, paper use, etc.)
  • Ability to leverage existing digital content and assets
  • Demand for detailed event metrics to demonstrate ROI

So who are the key influencers that have shaped virtual events as we know them?  And, just as importantly, what impact will these influencers have on the continuing evolution of virtual events?   

My take is that early on, event marketers and their clients have had most of the influence on virtual event platform development.  Most technology platform providers initially set-up events in a “virtual trade show” format, with multiple companies displaying their products and services in booths that resided in exhibit hall environments.  Event marketers and their corporate event marketing clients quickly related to this model because of its familiarity.  They also understood its ability to extend the reach of live events, appeal to new audiences, and more clearly measure event ROO and ROI with detailed web metrics.  Since event marketers have been among the earliest and most prominent adopters of virtual event technology, their influence has spurred a continued refinement of virtual event types, formats, features, interface variety, and content management capabilities, while retaining (for the most part) a foundation of standalone events with a definitive “shelf life”.       

More recently, web and digital marketers, along with their corporate marketing clients, have begun to exert their influence in the virtual event space.  In the interest of creating customer “communities”, they have naturally gravitated to supportive technologies like social media, and are now becoming similarly attracted to virtual events.  Their impact is being seen in the push for integration of social media into virtual events, as well as the idea of more “persistent environments” with a much longer-term existence.  Virtual event technology providers have in turn responded by expanding their offerings to include these features in their platforms.    

Another emerging influence will soon be coming from virtual event attendees.  As they become more experienced and discriminating, they will also become more vocal with their feedback, and will have an increasingly larger impact on the future direction of virtual event evolution.  While the jury is still out on this group, my bet is that accessibility, responsiveness, usability, content, and overall quality of experience will be their hot buttons.

I think this combination of event-centric, community-centric, and user-centric forces shaping the direction of virtual events is healthy.  It will continue to drive technical innovation and ultimately deliver greater business value to the users of virtual events and environments.  What do you think? 

Will virtual events eventually fade off into the sunset, as just another passing fad?  Will they remain as standalone event web sites with a defined “shelf life”?  Will they become permanent virtual business environments?  Could they even become a replacement for the cookie-cutter corporate web sites that we see so often today?  Or, like most evolving technologies, will the best features of virtual events end up somewhere – and everywhere – in between?

– Jim S.

Do we fear measuring Social Media?

September 9, 2009 3 comments

FearI smell fear.  

In spite of overwhelming evidence of its impact on people’s perceptions and opinions, as well as numerous examples of its prowess as an effective marketing tool, it sure seems like there are still too many marketers with a real fear of measuring social media. 

OK, I’ll admit that fear is not the only reason.  Far from it, there are several other reasons that we don’t measure. 

Regardless, this lack of measurement is preventing us from demonstrating the real value social media brings, and it may ultimately slow its adoption rate in the corporate marketing world. 

Please understand that I’m not suggesting that we should apply the same method of social media measurement to every situation.  Since marketers bring anything but a “one size fits all” approach to social media use, it would be unwise to apply a single approach or finite set of metrics to its measurement. 

What I am suggesting is that as professional marketers, we carry a responsibility to demonstrate the value of any tools we use, including social media.  While we may need to look at each situation on a case-by-case basis to determine a specific method of measurement, it is critical for our clients to understand what goes into it, and what they can expect out of it, in order for them to buy in.  Our ability (and willingness) to measure tools like social media is also critical in getting clients to understand our value as marketers.   

Perhaps a different way of looking at things is to ask what we should fear if we don’t measure social media to demonstrate its value.  Some recent examples:

  • In “Social Media Denial”, a recent Web Business  blog post, author Ken Burbary points out that  “…there are many people who either don’t agree, don’t understand or haven’t yet taken the time to learn about social media”.  He also provides an example of a long-time communications professional that clearly doesn’t get it.   
  • In a post called “Have kool-aid drinkers totally screwed the social media space?” from The Viral Garden blog, author Mack Collier laments that we may be part of the problem in inadvertently creating an environment where clients often don’t understand the value that we provide via social media consulting and services.   
  • In his Social Media Explorer blog, author Jason Falls states in a post called “Social Media ROI? Traditional Is Still More Accepted” that we already face an uphill battle, as social media isn’t (yet) valued as highly as other more traditional, but even less measurable, marketing methods. 

Ultimately, my opinion is that when it comes to measuring social media, we still have a window of opportunity to demonstrate its value, with so many great minds, powerful tools, meaningful metrics, and vast resources at our disposal.  However, if we “pass” on this opportunity, whether due to fear or other reasons, that window will close on us quickly. 

So how about it – what do you think?  Do we fear measuring social media? How are you measuring it?  Or, if you aren’t, why not?  I’d love to hear, and would welcome your comments.

– Jim S.

We’re “Goin’ Mobile”, but are we already behind?

September 2, 2009 1 comment

TheWhoSometimes, an important realization can creep up on you slowly.  Other times, it can hit you like a two-by-four.  Last week, let’s just say one hit me like an entire fleet of lumber trucks. 

Our agency had just completed a successful weekend-long live event activation at several cities across the U.S., where we were able to capture several thousand qualified sales leads exclusively via mobile devices. 

Shortly afterward, I attended a presentation by Abhi Ingle, AT&T’s VP of Mobility Application Solutions, entitled “The Future of Wireless”.  On top of a number of other equally provocative statistics, he cited a forecast that one billion new users worldwide will soon be having their first web experience – on a smart phone, as opposed to a PC. 

Finally, the “trifecta” came at the end of the week, when I encountered this little nugget from the Silicon Valley Insider, forecasting that smart phone sales will overtake PC sales by 2011: 


What really hit me was not so much the realization that, in the immortal words of The Who, we’re “Goin’ Mobile” – instead, it’s the realization of how fast we’re going there, and what it means to us as digital marketers.   

We are entering a pivotal period where the rapid shift to the mobile (devices & web) will have a profound impact on our digital marketing strategies and tactics.  Nearly everything that we’ve been used to delivering via the “traditional web” will need to be conceived, designed, and executed in a much different way. 

Make no mistake – since our early mobile digital marketing efforts, which consisted primarily of relatively simple WAP sites, forms, and text/SMS based interaction – we are definitely making progress.  However, advancements in connectivity, hardware, and software applications are rapidly making consumer tastes more sophisticated.  We will need to shift our digital marketing skills and approach even more quickly just to keep pace.

I have a strong feeling (not unlike that of another lumber truck barreling down on me) that we’ll be returning to the topic of mobile soon in this blog.  In the meantime, the question remains: How are YOU “goin’ mobile” in your digital marketing efforts?  And, more importantly, how fast are you going there? 

Please chime in with your comments and thoughts.

– Jim S.