“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.

Disintermediating the entertainment industry

I’ve been thinking a lot about “entertainment content”, people’s increasing demands for what they want / when they want it, and the proliferating host of gadgets that are on the market. I mean, we have a “phone”, a “tv”, and “ipad”, etc etc. There have been fits and starts towards true convergence for years now…I wasn’t sure if it was going to be the computer people being the convergence drivers (the Origami micro PC was an attempt a few years ago), or the phone people, or the television people – as it turns out, the “phones” are where convergence has come from.

….At any rate, and despite all the convergence gadgets, entertainment content is still being delivered in a really channeled manner. I pay for tv, for my Internet enabled phone  (where I can stream tv shows), for Internet access and then Netflix for their streaming entertainment, and for the most part these four (TV, phone, Internet, Netflix) are four access point for the same content. This is obviously not efficient.

I’m waiting for the day when I pay for one access point – and I think it will be through the phone. As soon as what we now call a “phone” is able to act as the funnel point for my entertainment needs and then send the information to the output device which is set up to interact with that data, the need for all these others will vanish. So – I will choose what I want to watch (when I want to watch it), tell the phone to stream it and output to the large screen on my wall. Or I will tell it to connect to a keyboard, and an external screen then work on a Word document.

I understand that this all has challenges: besides the obvious current bandwidth issues of the “phone” device (which can be solved), there’s the challenges that the entertainment content people (20th Century Fox, etc) face in their current agreements with the existing/legacy distribution channels. The entire industry will be turned upside down, and every tier of the chain is madly scrambling to figure out how to manage what’s happening. But it will happen because the people who have the most to gain – the phone companies – will push for it and have the fledgling support of consumers who are flocking to smart phones to back up their push.

I’ll talk about how cloud storage is also going to enable these developments in another post….as well as how consumer demand for instant gratification is one of the biggest drivers behind all of this.

And also the ramification for brands and advertising. Which is huge.

Update 1/8/2011: At CES, Motorola unveiled the Atrix Superphone, which has docking capabilities that allow you to use it with a mouse and a keyboard as if it were a normal computer (with 4G capabilities and a dual-core Tegra 2 processor – yee haw!). Not only can they now run Word, Excel, etc AND communicate AND surf the internet AND stream entertainment etc etc – the only thing keeping this from happening was interface and processing power. With cloud storage local memory won’t be needed (you stream it from your virtual memory on demand). Watch out laptop manufacturers – this is going to make you as obsolete as you did the traditional computer towers.