Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When Marketing, Consider the Context

The more "interactive" advertising gets, the more important it is to consider the context of the audience. One of the first things anyone who understands social media marketing will tell you is not to think of it as a traditional, one-way informational "push." The second thing is to remember what people are doing when they see/hear your ad. On Facebook, they are primarily hanging out with their friends. If you say, yeah, I know, so why does that make a difference? Try this: imagine it as a real-life scene. You're standing in a public place, say the mall, with five or six of your friends. You're all standing in front of a store, having a conversation, when suddenly someone walks up to you in the middle of your conversation, and starts telling you how great that store is. Even if you're standing there because you "like" that store, it's still going to be incredibly annoying.

The reason it's annoying and off-putting is because you've been interrupted, because the advertiser didn't consider the context of what you were doing at that moment. One of the biggest fails on this front, however, isn't even what happens on Facebook or other social media. It's QR codes. In fact, there is a whole Tumblr, WTF QR CODES, dedicated to this type of contextual fail. For instance, it contains images of tiny QR codes on the backs of moving buses and other vehicles, on the bottom of a box of raisins, as part of the design for a building, and even as a bedspread. Think about what you would be doing in any of the situations where you would see these (or not see/notice, like on the bottom of a box). The same applies for billboards (at least in areas without foot traffic), and even, one time, an airplane banner. I can't imagine that one would even be possible to scan.

I was thinking about this need for context this morning after reading a post on how the use of "Shazam" in Super Bowl commercials failed.The author, a self-described "mobile dork," explains how excited he was about being able to Shazam commercials - he had his phone out and ready when the first one came on. Unfortunately,
"With 8 other people in the room there was too much background noise for Shazam to do its thing. It couldn’t even make out the commercial to let me continue my experience.

I could have easily lost hope right then and there but I knew there would be more chances. I should have known that like most people viewing the Super Bowl, the odds of you being in a quiet enough room for Shazam to be 100% effective was slim to none.

Now, If you were at a bar, forget it! You may not have even had audio for the game but if you did…I bet it was still too loud for you to Shazam them.

I’d like to think Shazam warned the brands or their agencies about this but who knows."
The advertisers had failed to consider the most common context in which viewers would see the commercials: large, noisy groups of people. I can't imagine a Super Bowl party where everyone is willing to get quiet just so someone can get more information about a commercial.

Bonus: a Tumblr of people scanning QR codes.

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