Developing The “Concept Car” Of Digital Marketing

The Los Angeles Auto Show just rolled through and there were a few concept cars being shown.  They weren’t as far-out or exciting as the fantastical concept cars I remember from the past.  Some were not really true concept cars, but just a year or two away from production.  Some bystanders were swearing to the fact that BMW’s i series would actually not change much prior to production – glass sides and all.  In the past, you would look at concept cars and guess what components would actually make it to the car dealer lots.  In the case of Digital Marketing, we can rely on the innovation of the larger companies to derive the same knowledge and foresight.  Perhaps Kraft’s innovations can serve as our “concept cars” to derive the future from.

Kraft has always been good at taking chances in bringing things to the market.  One of my favorites of theirs was an early iPad App, Big Fork Little Fork.  It was perfect for the medium and was also one of the first native Apps out of the gate.  At the beginning of this year, Kraft introduced their Meal Planning Solution that they developed with Intel.  Here is a video conveying its main features:

When this was released, they were pitching it to a number of grocery chains with the promise they were going to roll out wide.  From my understanding, they might have only reached a few test locations.  8-9 months later and they’re nowhere to be seen.  Perhaps they were too big and costly.  Perhaps they couldn’t secure enough placements to bring the per/unit costs down.  Perhaps grocers did not want to have such a large semi-permanent footprint for one company (an installation that reduced the threat of moving the company’s items from an end cap to the bottom shelf…) I’m sure there’s numerous reasons why we’re not seeing the cool kiosks all over the place.

But, there were a number of great elements they developed that could provide solid opportunities if used on their own – with or without changes.

  • The ability to interact with the screen was good, but the multitude of steps and choices were a bit too involved/complicated for my tastes.  So many selections to go through in an environment that usually doesn’t allow for mulling around brought somewhat limited rewards.  But, if there were quick responses or activities based on reading your loyalty card code – basing suggestions on previous purchasing habits or not – that could be cool.
  • The provision of samples is also a strong plus.  It allows brands to distribute samples with descriptive text or videos without having to pay or train a person.  Additionally, there’s a stronger defense against loss due to the fact that you can control how many pieces a user gets based on the requirement that they swipe a loyalty card.  It’s also a nice additional incentive to sign up for the loyalty card.
  • The seasonal theming via video/digital is a nice touch.  There are in-store solutions like PRN to provide seasonal elements like this, but those experience are usually at the end of the shopping and not before it – where you can influence purchase better.
  • Menu options are nice as well, but they need to be quick and then perhaps coupons should come with it for the multiple ingredients.
  • Their interface with Kraft’s shop assist app was a nice touch, but if users don’t have that, it requires even more time for download.  Could there be a more generic form of adding to the shopping list?  It could even be sent via bluetooth so the customer at least has the list and perhaps coupons on their phone.
  • The video capture is nice to get the basics of demo without asking for it and then capturing use patterns across all users.  I just think that having the user manipulate the photos is a bit of a waste of time – again, we don’t go to the grocery store to mess around.  It is one more thing to add time to the experience and you really want to process users through as quickly as possible.  If there’s a line, most people won’t even bother. The interesting thing is that much of the buzz in January was that the camera would scan your face and figure out what you want to eat.  I think some bloggers were misreading the technology as Kraft or Intel did not present this auto decision maker as part of their program.  From my understanding, it was just for recognition and tracking.  How wierd to think that a computer would deduce what you want to eat just from scanning your face…

Perhaps the best future solution doesn’t even stand in Kraft’s court.  Maybe this kiosk is a sound solution for a third-party to place in the stores so that brands can book time/representation and the stores can get a piece of the profits.  Maybe strong elements of this are presented in a way without the kiosk – perhaps through marrying a bluetooth or Near Field Communications execution with a loyalty program would allow specials to be sent to your mobile when you enter the store so that you can view as you are moving through the store.  To save the sample solution, there could be a distribution box that is triggered by scanning whatever was sent to your mobile as you walked in the door.

Perhaps I’m riffing on Kraft’s concept and laying the groundwork for a succesful company of the future… The reality is that technology is not linear and much like the auto industry puts out a whole concept and then pulls parts from it or uses the concept to inspire their designers, we marketers should be looking to do the same.  Yes, we may come up with some bombs or cool products that might be “too soon,” but to not look smartly for innovation is lame. Just as we can learn from everything, we can pull pieces apart and engineer them in different – hopefully better – ways. Who knows how todays concepts will turn into reality and change our world?

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