There’s no doubt technology is ushering in some fascinating new ways of connecting brands with consumers. In fact, to say technology is rapidly evolving doesn’t even fit anymore.
Disruptive is an adjective more likely to be used today because, honestly, tech exponentially builds on itself, resulting in a veritable sandstorm of innovation.
“There’s definitely a renaissance of marketing technology,” saysAndrew Frank, research vice president in Gartner’s media industry group. The Web and the digital revolution, in general, along with mobile have unleashed a lot of things…There’s certainly a lot to keep track of.”
Here is our roundup of 10 of the latest developments in technology that can impact your marketing.
1. Facial recognition
Giving away free product is a great way to build your brand, right?
Unilever, the company that makes things like Lipton soupand Suave shampoo also makes ice cream and figured it would use some of it to get customers to smile—literally. It worked with the high-tech marketing company SapientNitro in London to make a vending machine called “Share Happy” that uses facial recognition to give people ice cream bars for smiling.
They even designed the box so people can upload their smiling mugs to Facebook, pushing the brand even farther out into the consumer space. When the machine debuted in Lisbon last year, it vended 52,000 ice cream bars in two days with no media support or advertising. That’s about 600 percent more than a regular ice cream machine.
The award-winning box is now on world tour doling out brand recognition as it goes.
“Facial Recognition is being used not only on experiential campaigns but even on digital signage,” says Rob Gonda, global head of emerging technology and innovation for SapientNitro. “For instance, a lot of our installations…detect things like gender, age bracket and start serving more targeted advertising on digital signage and digital displays.”
What’s different today compared to a few years ago, Gonda says, is brands have to be situationally aware and contextually relevant.
“We have evolved from broadcasting messages to [delivering] more digitally precise messages. But actually understanding the context of the situation or the conversation…increases the likelihood of better engagement [between] brands [and] people,” he says.
Gonda says SapientNitro is currently working on interactive displays for retail spaces that use a mashup of rear-projected video, touch, gesture recognition and facial recognition.
And SapientNitro is far from the only company doing it.
According to The Los Angeles Times, The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas is using facial recognition to tailor restaurant and entertainment ads for passersby and big brands like Adidas are installing and testing digital walls with facial recognition in a handful of stores to display age-appropriate shoes to customers.
2. Hyper targeting
While targeted advertising has been around for a while, today the big thing is to make ads super specific.
When people spend time online—surfing, shopping or commenting on social networks—they leave a digital footprint that huge data mining systems can track. That means advertisers can profile nearly everybody today in terms of preferences, habits and demographics.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ChoiceStream has an ad platform called CRUNCH that uses predictive intelligence—the same technology retailers like Zappos use to suggest shoes to customers. It selects consumers to target based on “hyper-segments” – a high performing cross-section of audiences with two or more attributes applied, meaning ads are delivered to people who are most likely to respond to them.
To illustrate, ChoiceStream COO Eric Bosco says one of the company’s clients is an antivirus software provider and to hyper-target ads for this particular customer, CRUNCH not only looks for people shopping for software but also for those who order pizza online and get online legal self help. The results from that narrowly focused segment end up being five times better than when the company only uses one attribute.
“That type of activity is a proxy for how active these users are on the Internet. They’re probably consuming a lot more online content, and that exposure has the side effect of exposing them to more viruses and risks, and so they’re much more likely to need software to clean their machines,” he says.
The company’s advertising is so highly targeted; in fact, that it has actually has a hard time getting business from advertisers who market things everyone needs.
“We were recently in Minneapolis talking with an ad agency there and their main issue with CRUNCH is that they place ads for butter. Everybody needs butter, so how do you target butter? We excel when things are a little more focused than that,” Bosco says.
3. Eavesdropping apps
While they’re still mostly in concept stage, Gartner’s Andrew Frank says companies are starting to play around with advertising through new apps that can tell what show you’re watching on TV or listening to on the radio.
He says Yahoo bought a company called IntoNow, which has a fingerprinting technology that can listen to and identify what’s on TV, and let people check in to a show or ad. ” Pepsi Maxran a promotion where if you tag their ad when it runs using this app you can get a coupon for some free Pepsi Max,” he says.
“The media synchronization that can recognize the audio track of a TV show can also be used on radio so if you’ve got a mobile phone and there’s a radio ad for example, you might be able to use that to distribute a coupon directly from the audio, sort of like an audio QR code directly from the ad to the mobile phone through the microphone,” he says.