“Augmented reality” (well, sort of): How not to use techology in advertising

Got this email from Boucheron today (very high end fine jewelry, for those of you not familiar with them), titled “Enjoy a unique experience with augmented reality‏“.

It sends you to the website, where you can “try on” the jewelry using your web cam and a paper ring or watch you download, print out, cut out and then “wear”. When you hold your arm up to the web cam field of view, it superimposes the jewelry on the screen so you appear to be wearing it.

It’s klutzy (how many steps does it take again??), and an incorrect usage of the term “augmented reality”, but at least they are trying to be creative about how to make a user experience where a consumer can actually interact with their products (OK, that’s me attempting to be positive).

I know first hand that jewelry is a tough sell (I also own a jewelry brand); it’s an emotional product, and very difficult to sell without actually being able to try on the product. I’m guessing this is where their impetus to create a way to “try on” the jewelry is coming from.

But to be honest, it strikes me as very “web 1.0”. I mean, print out paper template, find scissors, cut out template, find tape (lordy I’m bored already), have working web cam…you get my point. My guess is that this won’t actually be a very useful tool for selling Boucheron (and we’re talking EXPENSIVE!) jewelry here.

It’s really just a sad, half step towards appropriating some of that wonderful virtual world technology…how come it hasn’t taken off in more commercial applications yet?

But the saddest part is, they undoubtedly spent a lot of money making this work, and when it is unsuccessful (if they’ve defined “success” at all) they will blame the medium and probably say to themselves “See? I told you the internet isn’t the right way to sell high end jewelry.

I applaud their willingness / effort – really I do. But am wondering why they decided to spend this much money on a microsite/app (a destination one at that, meaning you have to go the website to use it) for a product that by sheer price point, let alone category, is a highly niched product. You’re shooting a very wide range of bullets in the hope that one of them will hit something, so to speak. Can’t help but thinking there would have been a more targeted, effective way to spend that money.

It’s not about the technology, it’s about people

Here’s a great presentation (http://tiny.cc/bob91) which got me musing on one of my favorite mental riffs: how it’s not about the technology, it’s about understanding human behavior. Which has always been my position. Here’s why. 

There are a gazillion different start ups, technologies, widgets, gadgets, etc etc – far too many to be able to follow on an individual basis. But if you understand people, their needs, desires, and how they interact – in other words, psychology – then technology just becomes the tool that enables that behavior. And that’s how the smart brands approach deciding how to leverage what’s out there.

I’ve had my fill of clients insisting “WE NEED TWITTER!”. Umm, why? Your core market is 55 year old male business travelers staying mid week at your hotel, do you really think they care enough about your brand and the relationship with it to want to hear from you / interact with you on a daily basis?

And inevitably the client then points to Apple as a brand they want to emulate.”But Apple has 100 millions fans! We want at least 50 million too”. Really? Do your customers exhibit any of the rabid fandom of the Apple brand? If not, Twitter won’t convince them. And if they have a really utilitarian relationship with you (as they might, say, if you were a budget hotel that they occasionally stay with when in a podunk town), then maybe, just maybe, they won’t be interested in “being your friend” on Facebook either.

Bottom line: decide what you want to achieve from a business point of view (e.g. attract a new customer segment, retain the ones we have) and THEN decide which of the tools and technologies that are out there are best suited to enhance that objective.