Personal branding through social media.

As a part time photographer, I’m continually fascinated by the power of social media to publicize one’s personal brand. For instance, I shoot a lot of roller derby; after a big tournament, I’ll place a few links or watermarked snap shots on select roller derby team facebook pages, which can result in numerous shares and several hundred visits to my flickr page in the space of a few hours.

I’ll typically also gain a few new facebook friends too – members of the roller derby community who are now aware of my photography. Sometimes people will use my shots  for facebook profile or cover photos, which is more free publicity for me.

Even before facebook was second nature, companies would put content on the internet that people could pick up and share as a way to publicize a product or brand. Think movie trailers and desktop images as some early examples. Of course, once that content is out in the world, you really have no control over it. People will modify it as they feel like, you may never know about it, and you have to learn to let go – because there’s a larger payoff down the road.

By publicizing my images, I know that they may end up being shared, linked to, or used as a cover photo in ways I can’t anticipate. Most of the time, the user will ask me first, but not always. I look at it the way a production company might look at a movie trailer: a few free, low-resolution photos given away here and there are little teasers to the bigger picture. In my case, anyone who learns of my photography through social media is another potential buyer of prints, or a book of my best shots, later.

It’s a nice reminder of how social media has become a great free advertising tool for individuals – if you have something people like sharing, of course. Just like the big brands.

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Filed under Facebook, Social Behavior

Animated gif meets magazine cover.

If you read magazines online – on an iPad or other tablet, say – you’ll already be familiar with the ability to instantly watch video related to an article simply be tapping a link. Seems to me it’s a very short leap to simply embedding video clips that automatically play directly within the articles themselves. Or better yet, replacing the still image of an online magazine cover with a video.

In the future, we might think of online magazine covers as the ‘teaser trailer’ to the main story inside. We’re already getting used to six-second video clips thanks to Vine. And animated gifs have been around for far longer. So really, animated magazine covers are simply another venue for this type of video – and very easy to implement thanks to technologies like html5.

Is there an opportunity here for advertisers? Maybe. Depending on the magazine, one might be able to sponsor a cover – although imposing an actual video commercial on the space would very likely be counter-productive. If your product somehow appears as part of a consumer magazine’s cover animation, I could see embedding a link to buy it. And if the cover featured a celebrity wearing or using your product, such a link might work particularly well.

While a picture is worth a thousand words, a video, in this case, might be worth much more.

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Filed under Tablets

Worth writing on your home page about.

One of the goals, when using social media as your advertising vehicle, is to get people to like you and your content so much that they’ll share it. I’ve been involved with two examples recently where the advertiser took advantage of a ubiquitous but often overlooked element of facebook: the cover photo.

This month the Toronto Roller Derby League created a series of facebook covers that did double duty as the 2013 season schedule.


Created by designer Liz Govier, the covers featured an action photo from the league’s previous season along with the full calendar of upcoming bouts. Each of the seven ToRD teams got their own unique version.


All ToRD had to do was post the covers to their various league and team facebook pages, and the league’s own following, and individual skaters, picked them up and used them as their own facebook covers – essentially advertising ToRD’s full schedule to everyone in their networks. It’s a great example of how to use facebook as a low cost/free media buy (I even donated the photos for this purpose).

Meanwhile, New York Fries has been using their facebook cover photos as a way to reinforce their brand as quirky and fun. Each cover, rotated regularly, features an offbeat line about a menu item.


While fans don’t necessarily adopt New York Fries facebook covers as their own, they do “like” and comment on the covers – an action which shows up in social feeds for friends to see, thus spreading awareness for free.

Nowadays, when advertisers are constantly asking us to “like” their facebook pages with little incentive to do so, it’s nice to see reminders that, when you create something people actually do like, the rest comes naturally.

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Filed under Facebook, Social Behavior

The 21st century sandwich board.

If you’re a fan of the Canadian sci-fi show Continuum, you’ll know the hero in the show, 2077-era police officer Kiera Cameron (played by Rachel Nichols) wears a cool suit that’s combination computer, ballistic armor, taser, cloaking device and – most importantly for our purposes – LED display. Advertising people would naturally see the possibilities of clothing that could display messages. And guess what: that possibility just got one step closer with this prototype for a programmable LED t-shirt.

Just as a flash mob involves masses of people performing a single action in unison, one could see how an advertiser could display a single message on hundreds of t-shirts across a city, reaching people in places other outdoor advertising can’t. Say you’re the beverage supplier at an outdoor concert and you want to let the audience know where to get your products – or that there’s a special on between sets. T-shirts interspersed throughout the crowd could be your advertising vehicle.

Or one could add a location-based element to the technology, and have t-shirts on a bus route let commuters know that they’re approaching a particular brand of coffee shop or fast food outlet as the bus gets within a certain distance.

Perhaps a brand could give away such t-shirts as a promotion, with the shirt programmed to include the brand logo in whatever image the wearer decided to display.

As with today’s sandwich boards, people would begin to tune out before long – unless the message was interesting or useful enough. And when it is, you’d have a nice way to extend your reach to virtually anywhere there are people.

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Filed under Installations

Motion sensing games meet outdoor media.

On a recent trip to New York City I came across an interactive billboard in the Columbus Circle subway station, for Beneful dog food. The billboard uses the same principle as the new breed of motion sensing video games.

Interactive billboard at Columbus Circle Station.

In this case, motion sensors in the billboard detect you as you walk by, triggering a virtual dog to come up to the screen. Stop and stand in a designated spot in front of the board, and you can get the dog to “play” with you. For instance, you can pick up and throw a virtual tennis ball, which your dog will go fetch.

Interactive billboard in Columbus Circle Station.

I have to admit I didn’t see the connection between playing with a virtual dog and “I should go buy this dog food.” And there were some features I wouldn’t expect busy commuters to bother with, like the ability to customize your dog on-screen. But I like the technology behind this idea. And I think there’s a lot of potential for it in future outdoor installations.

A ski lodge could use this same technology to let you virtually race down their most challenging slope, for example. A tour operator could give you the chance to look out over a sweeping mountain vista or bustling foreign skyline, and even explore landmarks within it. A car maker could let you virtually explore the interior of their latest luxury model, zooming in on key features.

I think the trick is to make the interaction simple, while offering an experience a static display couldn’t do justice to. With such an installation, an advertiser might just start sensing increased motion around their billboard.

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Filed under Installations

Using QR codes for market research.

It seems I’m coming across more and more interesting uses of QR codes lately. This past weekend I was in a Canadian Tire when I saw a guy with a QR code on the back of his t-shirt. I got him to stop so I could scan the code – and it led to a dead url! Clearly the code was linked to a promotion that had ended. But the company behind the code, Tiipz, does seem to be very much alive. And what they offer is something I hadn’t heard of before.

Tiipz promotional QR code on the back of a t-shirt.

Tiipz gives local businesses the ability to use QR codes to do market research directly at the point of purchase, with the results available in real-time (they provide other forms of mobile market research too, but it’s the QR code aspect that interests me). Think about it: a retailer could offer customers a simple reward, like a discount, in return for answering a few questions on the spot that would inform any number of business decisions. And all the customer would have to do is scan a QR code displayed at the retailer’s location to access the specific survey, then show their phone, with the confirmation on-screen, to the cashier to get their reward.

These days, companies large and small are turning to social media channels to learn from and respond more effectively to their customers. This strikes me as a smart way to solicit opinions while the subject matter is top of mind.

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Filed under Mobile Apps, QR Codes

Slipping up on QR codes.

I’m always on the lookout for interesting uses of QR codes. So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered a new QR code sticker on a bunch of bananas I bought last week.

QR code sticker on a banana

The sticker invites the consumer to turn their bananas into something called yonanas, and provides both a QR code and a url for Okay, I figured. I’ll bite. So I scanned the code with my smart phone, using the Red Laser code reader app.

First, yonanas are simply frozen over-ripe bananas which have been turned into banana “ice cream” courtesy of a yonana machine – think meat grinder for frozen fruit. Delicious idea. Sadly, the execution fell flat.

First problem: a lack of quality control in the sticker application process meant the QR code was bent around the edge of the banana peel – not scan-able, unless you peel up part of the sticker to get it straightened out.

Worse, the yonanas site was not designed for a mobile phone screen. The web site is the same whether you’re visiting from your computer or your phone. Which made it almost impossible to experience the site properly with a mobile device. So if the advertiser’s intent was to get people to buy a yonanas machine in the store, I’d say they missed an opportunity.

Still, it’s a smart idea to place your QR code where it’s 100% relevant to your target audience, and there are valuable lessons here. Most obvious, of course, is to ensure that your QR code takes the viewer to a site that’s going to look good and work well on a mobile device. Second, consider how your QR code is being applied, and ensure it’s easily scan-able. Finally, the sticker’s call to action needs work. Instead of “Turn me into yonanas,” which doesn’t mean anything to anyone, I’d have gone with something more benefit oriented: “Turn me into ice cream,” for instance.

So, a good idea; but poorly executed. Hopefully Yonanas will make some adjustments and try again.

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Filed under Mobile Apps, QR Codes