Brands are on the move - Event Marketer

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Brands are on the move

For years, the conventional strategy for photo activations was to use them to create a draw to the footprint at a trade-show booth or consumer event, and then invite attendees to take a branded photo, either with a kiosk interaction or with the help of a brand ambassador-photographer. Now, with ever more sophisticated cameras and ubiquitous Wi-Fi and cellular service, some brands are escaping the footprint and seeking out consumers on the go.

Marketers are already using a new Android mobile phone-based photo activation system that helps brands go mobile in a whole new way. The idea is simple, while the technology (via Chicago-based eshots) is cutting-edge. A brand ambassador is outfitted with a special camera tethered to an Android OS-equipped smartphone such as the Motorola Droid. Then she sets out into the event space, looking for target consumers. Once someone opts in for the experience, they enter their email address on the phone and step back to pose. The staffer takes the photo and lets the attendee know it will be emailed right away. And it is, via a Wi-Fi connection. If Wi-Fi isn’t immediately available at the venue, the photos are queued up in order until a connection is found. Then the photo is uploaded to a branded microsite and once posted, a link gets emailed to the consumer, who can visit the site and download the pic. All of this happens automatically once the photo is snapped.

The real bonus is in the data collection. The brand gets a list of consumers who have opted in and who have experienced the brand in a fun way, but might not have ever visited a static footprint. Other bonus features include the ability to add in a survey screen before the download, integrated social media and simple editing features to add in branded borders and stickers. And of course, all that activity is tracked so the really engaged consumers are easier to find. Mission accomplished.

Another new mobile approach puts the branding on the photo as soon as it’s taken, making sure consumers don’t forget who sponsored the experience. Last year, the Cartoon Network went on a month-long tour to promote “Scooby-Doo,” the movie. The network activated at some of the largest state fairs in the nation and used a unique digital camera to get consumers in the picture—literally. The camera, designed by PictureU of Atlanta, integrated the subjects of the photo into pre-programmed backgrounds that featured Scooby and a Cartoon Network wrap, all without any need for a background or post-event editing.

Participants took a photo with the Mystery Machine and the integrated green-screen overlay system added a custom border with the event details and a CGI image of Scooby-Doo into each photo. Over the course of the tour the network took more than 6,300 photos and printed another 1,200 snapshots (OnTour Marketing, Incline Village, NV, handled).

One of the originators of mobile photo activation is national restaurant chain Benihana. For decades, the family-style restaurant equipped wait staff with Polaroid cameras to give guests the instant photo experience. But two years ago, when the camera company stopped making its iconic instant film, the chain needed a new solution if it was to keep its memory-making experience alive. And so, with the help of a wireless-equipped camera and software system developed by San Diego-based PhotoTouch, it moved from mid-20th Century technology into the modern era.

When a consumer lets his server know that a special occasion is at hand that needs to be commemorated (like National Talk Like a Pirate Day, Sept. 19), the camera comes out and the shot is taken. Immediately the camera uploads the photo via Wi-Fi to Benihana’s website and to a waiting photo printer. The customer leaves with a branded print, just like always, but now, she also gets a link to go online and download the picture, share it on social media sites and, if desired, sign up for the brand’s e-newsletters and loyalty clubs.

“This has significantly increased our website traffic,” says Jeannie Means, senior director of marketing at Benihana. “We have this heritage of providing photos for guests’ special occasions and now that experience is so enhanced that it’s become a significant differentiator.” Yum. EM

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