2.15.2011

Magazine X uses Microsoft Tag

The latest edition of Magazine X, a nationally distributed and well-known publication with a 200 plus page count, recently hit the newsstands with four Microsoft Tags featured throughout. Three of the four Tags seem to be placed by the magazine's publisher and the fourth seems to be placed by a major advertiser in the magazine.

When the Tags are scanned, the reader of the magazine is brought to one of two different sets of content. The first set of content consists of a mobile web page that offers a mobile optimized video (i.e., not a YouTube video) and the opportunity to download a free mobile app. The second set of content consists of a picture gallery with mobile optimized videos, mobile optimized product commercials, a reader vote and the same free mobile app. (Note about the mobile app, even though the publication advertises and a corporate press release announces that the app will work on Android phones, the reality is that, at present, the app only works on iPhones.) It is also worth mentioning that, throughout the campaign, there is the ability for the reader of the publication to share content via social networks.

While this campaign has a lot going for it with respect to creativity, content and execution, the one question I have is, where's the real value being delivered? What's going to motivate the reader to keep reading/buying the publication past this edition? Nothing, as far as I can tell. So, what's the publisher's real objective here and how does the reader benefit?

In the past, we have witnessed/experienced 2D campaigns that offer combinations of great creative, great execution and great value to the consumer, and those campaigns that offer much less. In relation to this specific 2D campaign, I am more of the mind that "much less" was delivered, which causes me to fail the campaign on the litmus test. Would you draw the same conclusion? How about if I told you that Magazine X was really the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue? What then?

My belief is that a fair number of people are going to say I'm crazy or out of touch for failing this campaign, even though the popularity of the magazine is going to propel the awareness, acceptance, comfort and use of 2D codes among individuals, as well as companies. While all that might be true, and certainly fantastic for the 2D industry at large, a campaign is a campaign and my take on it is simply different than most, because I am trying to look at it and react to it from a pure strategic marketing perspective, not from a "group of models dressed in bikinis sitting on the beach" perspective.

And, speaking of marketing strategy, up until now JAGTAG had supplied codes to the Swimsuit Issue, so I wonder if anything can be inferred by this move to Tag.

Let the debate begin.

2D Barcode Litmus Test: FAIL

9 comments:

  1. a. I tried a couple of devices/browser configurations that could not play the video. Android and iOS were fine. But, it would be good to know whether other devices are supported? Or, is this a "semi optimized" video that will leave most mobile users unhappy (Android/iOS combined are less than 25% of total mobile market)?

    Noting, last year's JagTag Sports Illustrated video was optimized for thousands of devices and was returned to the User via MMS.

    b. I found it bizarre that the images on the voting pages could not be sized up? It was impossible to tell one model from another.

    c. A year ago, the JagTag campaign was the #1 highest scan(like) campaign. I recollect is was a single video, returned via MMS. I'm sure JagTag would have loved a repeat customer.

    What to infer? JagTag's strength is in returning a single MMS video. Yes, they can do more, but, I think they got pigeonholed (or, did this to themselves). Plus, delivering 17 videos gets more complex (as above, I think they are failing on that front this year).

    And, frankly mobile marketers and brands don't care about non-smartphone Users anymore, except for inexpensive SMS campaigns.

    The real question is, will this year result in more engagements? If they did 100,000 last year with JagTag, what will MS Tag deliver this year (in an entirely different mobile eco-system)?

    I suppose that just tapping into the College/Male with iPhone market will give them a lot of traction. But, will they have abandoned their core print market of Males 40+ who have older Nokia and Blackberry devices?

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  2. Ronald DexterFebruary 16, 2011

    Interesting piece. I've been reading this blog for quite a while and agree that the primary failure of most campaigns is the omission of clear instructions on use and offer. Space issues in print may explain this but there is no excuse for the real problem in the majority of 2D campaigns to date - the failure to offer any semblance of value to the scanner.

    In far too many instances we see the big brand pop a code on the page that leads inexplicably to the big brands BIG .com home page. What I as consumers receive is a sub-optimal experience that makes the next 2D publishers job that much harder getting my valuable attention.

    What's interesting here Roger...is that you admit to the value of the experience relative to the audience that it reaches. Sorry - scantly clad ladies to post-pubescent men is my idea of a well targeted concept.

    What you also do is add in a new layer of responsibility on the marketer (new to 2D that is)- namely to create compelling content that advances my love for the SI brand and my desire to buy future issues. So now, it's incumbent upon us marketers and by association, the 2D company (whether it be MSTag or QR or JagTag) to create campaigns that further long term value AKA loyalty.

    In truth I think you are absolutely right. These campaigns should look to LTV; should "motivate the reader to keep reading/buying the publication past this edition". I just think we need to keep our eye first on building compelling reasons to scan the code or snap the photo or whatever the trigger. It's cart and horse here. In the end it may be about loyalty to brand but in the short run it needs to be about campaigns that are first actionable and ultimately valuable to the consumer.

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  3. Anonymous: I'm certain scan rates will be much higher than last year just because 1) more smartphones are on the market and 2) more people are now aware of 2D/Tag, but I would like to believe SI has other goals/objectives in mind for this campaign. Question is, what are they?

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  4. Ronald: Thank you. I agree with your comments and analysis...long term value is key, but it seems as though most brands have the short term, if at all, in mind.

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  5. Roger, you wrote:

    "I would like to believe SI has other goals/objectives in mind for this campaign. Question is, what are they?"

    I don't give them that much credit. I think they are "doing mobile" because they simply know they need to have a presence on that medium.

    They have the graphical assets in hand making it pretty simple and cheap to do a mobile variation. Guessing again, but, I think this mobile effort isn't thought of much more than how they perceive managing their Youtube account. It's about eyeballs. Nothing else.

    That said, the "eyeballs" on this are pretty tiny. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED claim that 60,000,000 adults read the SWIMSUIT edition. Even 1,000,000 scans isn't going to rock their world. Last year's 100,000 probably didn't even make it into an inter-office memo.

    Could they be doing more with a mobile campaign around the SWIMSUIT edition (beyond video and voting for thumbnails)?

    Absolutely. But, that would take original thought and understanding that mobile engagement is not the same as the internet.

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  6. I think the one mistake they made that you didn't really point out is the fact that they are using MS Tags. New smartphones are not coming preloaded with MS Tag readers, they are coming with readers that can read QR, DataMatrix, UPC, etc. MS Tags are less known than QR and that will hinder their scans, GUARANTEED!!!

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  7. Hi:
    The mobile optimized video appears to be a QuickTime file, doesn't a YouTube video play on more phones?

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  8. By my non-scientific calculations, I think we'd need to see 500,000-800,000 scans to be on par with the 100,000 interactions from last year, taking into account "mobile usage inflation". Another factor might be that, at least on the copy I was delivered, the tags aren't on the cover, they are in content and are first seen on page 13 so a less high profile placement if taken at face value.

    That said, I think the goals for a publisher to incorporate any type of code into their pages are different from a typical "campaign" driven motivator. The codes provide an interaction that hadn't previously been possible directly out of the pages of the book- you can vote for your rookie of the year. This alone drives engagement, bonds participating readers to both the issue and the models (some that will inevitably be featured in future issues, calendars, videos, across other digital properties, etc) and builds equity in the readership experience with relevant digital integration. It also gets this content onto reader's mobile devices, into social networks, etc which diversifies the production risks and increases potential value for advertisers investing in the SI properties. IMHO, I think this represents another use of codes- enhancement of experience/product by extension to digital interaction. I think that more and more, we'll see product enhancements like how-to videos, ownership manuals, replacement part specs and where-to-buy activated by a simple scan of a code. These destinations will replace monolithic "entire line of SKU" online destinations and be specific to that product. These efforts might need a different litmus test and may best be judged for the value they offer over the entire time you own the product or access the service that offers a quick scan to deliver value that has been traditionally difficult to drive home prior to the popularization of 2-D codes and the ubiquity of highly converged devices.

    This is in no way letting those that utilize the codes to support campaign-based initiatives off the hook. As Roger routinely points out, many of these aren’t bringing the value they need to and should be taken to task for that.

    A thought on MS Tag vs JagTag- on some level, there has to be a financial consideration and, as I understand it, JagTag charges on some form of “consumption” or “performance” whereas MSFT doesn’t currently. If I were faced with paying $1 / scan for 100,000 scans or nothing for 500,000 scans- I know which one I am picking. I would also surmise that even the base-level analytics that are available via the MSTag reader would be hugely informative to take a look at.

    I also tried to scan the cover last year and couldn't get it to work with my Verizon BB Storm. The codes this year readily scanned on a Droid X.

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  9. Anyone else having problems with the videos?

    I believe the one comment is correct, it's some kind of QT file? Doesn't play on many devices (I wouldn't call it "optimized").

    Big campaign, a mobile web strategy, then videos that only play on iOS and Android?

    Someone got sold a bag of worms.

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