Beam Me Up, Scotty!

Imagine walking by a store in your local mall and getting an alert on your phone offering you an exclusive coupon or free gift for that very store. Imagine entering that store and having your phone remind you of which items might be in your online shopping cart, or inform you of how many more points you need to reach your next reward. What about a technology that allows you to view custom videos, just by hovering your phone over certain points in the store?

Beacon technology has been lauded as the way of the future for the past few years. But the future is now. Beacons use Bluetooth low energy to seek out specific, integrated apps and send relevant messages to shoppers’ smartphones as they pass by, all with the goal of driving traffic and sales.

Big beauty retailer Sephora will have the beacon technology in all its stores by fall. The company has been diligently working away at these high tech marketing ideas in its Innovation Lab in San Francisco. This facility tapped the collective creativity of our 14,000 employees nationwide to grow the next generation of leaders and elevate Sephora’s digital future.

American Airlines ran a test of the beacon technology at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport last year. Those with the app received notifications on waiting times at security gates, boarding times, food and beverage locations closest to the consumer, etc.

American Eagle uses its beacons to offer rewards points and coupons to anyone who takes an item of clothing into the dressing room to try on. Granted, this is a bit invasive, but who can refuse a free coupon at the point of sale?

Perhaps the best use of beacons though is at museums. Those who have integrated the technology, like the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D. C. allows users to receive self-guided tours right on their smart phones, while the museum receives information on how long visitors spent in certain areas of the museum.

The future seems to be upon us and beacons and other mobile technology only looks to grow. What other mobile-based technologies could retailers use to enhance the shopping experience?


The most Internetest of all!!

I don’t think I really understood the power of YouTube and video marketing until way after the rest of the population. It wasn’t until about 8 or 9 years ago that I, in fact, used YouTube for the first time. Of course, I had heard all the buzz about the site, but I didn’t really understand how or why people would use YouTube as a marketing tool.

Then one bright and sunny morning, I wanted a fried egg. Now I know you probably aren’t making the connection there, so let me explain. I’m not ashamed to admit that up until a few years ago, I knew nothing about cooking. If it couldn’t be microwaved or heated up in the oven, I wasn’t making it. One morning I had a craving for a fried egg, yet no idea how to even begin making one. Low and behold, I realized I could google it. And what showed up in my search results, about 1000 videos on how to make a fried egg. I watched one and voila… craving was fulfilled, but I digress.

What really struck me though is how late I was to the party. Thousands and thousands of people had uploaded videos on how to cook an egg! If “that” simple task was getting so many hits, imagine the possibilities of something that people really wanted to learn or find out about.

I guess you could say YouTube is pretty much the social media channel of choice for videos. All the major brands have their own YouTube channel and pretty much any viral video you see if available on YouTube. This one platform has time and again created videos that continually receive millions of views and almost dictate the social conversations in which we choose to participate.

Sometimes it’s hard to fathom what the next viral sensation will be… you need to use humor, or ingenuity, or the unusual and unique. Think about some of the most viral videos you remember in recent years…………what comes to mind? How about the Keyboard Cat? Charlie bit my finger? The Harlem Shake? Each one of those became a viral video for a different reason and some I’m not sure why, in all honesty.

As brands attempt to come up with the next viral video, they have sometimes gone to great lengths to entertain and break away from tradition. Case in point…..the airline industry. Many have revamped their safety videos to include song and dance or another entertaining hook. (i.e. Virgin Airlines). However, I think one airline has recently taken the cake on the best safety video – Delta Airlines.

Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, Delta leveraged the already popular Internet sensations and memes and incorporated them into their most recent video, 23 of them to be exact, including all of the ones mentioned above. What I love about this idea is that it hits so many consumers. With the combined total views of all those videos, there is probably at least one that every passenger has seen or heard of. In addition, the video is entertaining as you wait to see what other strange, quirky event will happen. The video was uploaded just over a month ago and already has more than 8.5 million views! They created the most internetest safety video of all safety videos………

Check it out for yourself below? Did Delta miss any memes? Do you think Delta took the easy road by just copying a bunch of other videos?


Also known as Agile….but every time I see that word, I can’t help but think of that scene from “A Christmas Story.”

Anyhow, agile marketing has come onto the scene with a vengeance as of late and if your brand is not participating in this form of marketing, then you are really missing the boat. One of the best examples I can think of to illustrate picture-perfect agile marketing is Oreo’s Super Bowl 2013 Dunk in the Dark tweet following the black out during the game.

Oreo's Dunk in the Dark Tweet
Oreo’s Dunk in the Dark Tweet

Obviously, this was a huge success for Oreo, but the key point to remember is that this wasn’t a fluke success for Oreo. The brand has been proactive in integrating social media into its marketing communication strategy for years, so when the blackout opportunity presented itself, Oreo was ready. According to Sarah Hofstetter, president of 360i, Oreo didn’t just wake up and join the conversation for the Super Bowl. Oreo has behaved like a digital brand for years, giving it the foundation to easily adapt.

Agile marketing is not only about going viral – it’s about relevant content at just the right time and spot-on reactions to external influences with real-time marketing happening on much smaller dimensions. Marketers today need to feel the pulse of the current conversations and use those popular and relevant topics to make their messages stand out amongst the clutter.

Social media is the agile marketer’s dream. A real-time playing field full of digital savvy users ready to comment on and share any particularly innovative, clever, entertaining or attention grabbing piece of content. In order to capitalize on a trend, a hashtag or any other newsworthy event at a moment’s notice, brands need a marketing team able to respond quickly, creatively and with senior support able to sign-off ideas quickly.

Some of my favorite examples of this are below:

In response to the much hyped ability for the new iPhone 6 to “bend,” Kit Kat tweeted the following:

Kit-Kat Bend/Break Tweet
Kit-Kat Bend/Break Tweet

Was there anyone in the world that wasn’t aware of Kim Kardashian’s pending nuptials to Kanye West? New York Sports Club took advantage of that trending story:

NYSC's Kim/Kanye Wedding Advertisement
NYSC’s Kim/Kanye Wedding Advertisement

Moving across the pond, after same sex marriage was legalized in the UK, Virgin Holidays tweeted this image and achieved an incredible 25% engagement rate across Twitter and Facebook.

Virgin America same sex tweet
Virgin America same sex tweet

Any other great examples that I’m missing? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.

Let’s talk about Web, baby!

Since we’ve been discussing web design the past week, I wanted to take a moment to introduce a trend that I’ve been seeing in the “emerging” media world related to web design. That trend is “microsites,” or a “site that is associated with an organization, but is on a separate domain and has its own navigation, design and content.”

Since we are specifically talking about design, microsites offer advantages to web designers. For a start they provide the site owner with complete control over design. This allows them to tie the microsite in closely with the visual appearance of the marketing material being used on the associated campaign. This kind of flexibility is not something that is normally available if the microsite content was integrated into the main site.”

In addition, microsites offer the ability to focus specifically on the attractiveness of the site, without worrying about headers, footers, site navigation, etc. that can clutter a website. “Getting design and content working closely together (rather than content being dropped into a pre-defined template) is the level of art direction marketeers have come to expect.” With a microsite, “the user is focused purely on the campaign and associated calls to action.”

Another valuable aspect of a microsite is the ability to completely own the content. In social media environments, like Facebook, brands are basically just “renting social media space. Brands will always have more control over owned spaces than rented ones.” You can personalize your information on sites like Facebook, but you can’t design the look and feel of the overall site, which limits brands from really creating a cohesive experience for their consumers. Which is why many brands are leaning towards microsites to create a social environment that is of their own design.

One of my favorite microsites,, was recently launched after a complete re-brand of the Southwest Airlines livery including planes, website, marketing materials, etc. The re-brand focuses on the Southwest Heart image and is included across marketing platforms. The “heart” has always been a key part of the Southwest brand. “One point to that fact is that the airline was founded at Love Field in Dallas or that its stock ticker symbol is NYSE: LUV.” The Southwest Heart website is separate from the website where you would go to book a flight. “This promotional website focuses on the concept of ‘heart’ to correspond with the rebrand.” Indeed, “the bolder colors, streamlined composition, and clever three-colored heart logo [present across the microsite] reflect recent developments at the company.”

Southwest Heart Microsite
Image courtesy of

The microsite “combines video, animation, and social media, pulling in tweets and Instagram posts that display Southwest’s new look and feel by showcasing its people and planes. This site is all about putting the brand’s core values front and center, and the interactivity of the design goes a long way toward making the effort feel authentic. There’s a nice balance of company-produced and consumer-generated media.”

Southwest-Heart Microsite
Image courtesy of
Southwest Heart Microsite
Image courtesy of

What I really love about the microsite is the simple navigation, the large category headings and the interactivity of almost every element. Almost every graphic moves or rotates in some way adding to the excitement of the website. This site doesn’t try to be an airline booking site in addition to a marketing site; it is purely a site based on the brand and the brands commitment to the heart and soul of its people and customers.

Have you seen any other great microsites out there that complement a brand’s larger website?

This is your brain. This is your child’s brain on digital media…

Remember that PSA, with the egg and the frying pan? It was quite effective back in its heyday. Some professionals argue that children’s increasing exposure to digital media has the same effect. “The EPA confirms that computer screens emit low levels of x-ray radiation. While there is no evidence that this radiation results in health problems.”

This week we read an article illustrating that arguments for children’s use of emerging media tools can go both ways. “Technology experts and stakeholders were fairly evenly split as to whether the younger generation’s always-on connection to people and information will turn out to be a net positive or a net negative by 2020.” However, I’m an advocate for their use and I even have personal experience from both schools of thought to back it up!! (Along with lots of references too, of course).

Toddler Computers
Image courtesy of

I have two boys under the age of three and also a 16-year-old stepdaughter so I have seen digital media usage from two separate perspectives and how it is used by various age groups. Starting with my young boys, one is way too young to even hold a tablet much less navigate one, but my older boy, who is almost three, is a thriving tablet user. I must admit that I do use the tablet as entertainment for him while I’m in the midst of cooking, cleaning, doing laundry or tending to the baby. (Ok, ok, I may also sit him in front of the TV or the tablet when I just need a mommy moment….sue me). However, I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. Many parents choose to use media as a way to occupy their children, even those who are very young, while they engage in household tasks. Media use by preschool and school-age children is not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be mindless, either.

My almost three-year-old can draw his letters, categorize items of similar color and shape and put relatively difficult puzzles together. He also can apparently order and download an entire season of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but that’s another story. His exposure to the Information Age is a glorious gift. He’s already learning skills he may not have been exposed to until pre-school and when he gets older; access to the Internet and other digital technologies will provide him with endless opportunities to learn about anything he chooses.

In addition, the interactivity of these mediums open up another world of options for hands-on learning. Tablets and other touch screen devices are geared towards interactivity, unlike television and print, and unlike computers multi-touch features of tablets allow objects to be manipulated on screen unlike in the past. 3-D models of the solar system, for instance, allow children to more readily understand the relationship between planets.

Now, our 16-year-old is a social media/digital media/emerging media (whatever you want to call it) professional. She knows more about SnapChat, Reddit, Twitter, you name it, than I will probably ever know and she can simultaneously Skype with her cousin, while playing online video games, while updating her Twitter account……and she probably stopped for a selfie somewhere in there too. I must admit, I’ve been surprised with the amount of information that her friends will post online to essentially an entire world full of strangers. Now, there’s a strict rule in our house that if she has a social media account, it must be private and she must be friends with or followed by a parent. So, we don’t necessarily run into the issue of her “over-sharing,” although I imagine that’s because she’s aware we are looking at her accounts.

Still, I have often times been worried that all that exposure to all things digital has made her less engaged in school work or socializing with friends. So imagine my surprise when I noticed the other day that a fellow Twitter friend of hers sent a homework-related question out into the Twitter-sphere and my step-daughter, not only had a recommendation, but had a darn, good recommendation for this student. Low and behold, among the monotonous, daily updates and insignificant chatter, some teens are actually using this medium to connect with other teens and collaborate on school work. I was actually quite proud!!

That being said, there is obviously a balance between the use of digital mediums and other rich learning experiences. However, maybe we shouldn’t be focusing so much on how much time our kids are spend consuming these media and instead focus on the quality of those media experiences and how they might affect children’s development and learning. The challenge going forward is in establishing new models for using technology in effective, developmentally appropriate ways.

For those of you that have children, do you think their use of emerging media tools has helped or hurt their learning experiences?