In search of the marketing tech sweet spot

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New technologies can give creative marketers an edge but can quickly lose appeal. Andrew Hennigan explores some recent developments

Very often new marketing ideas quickly get tired. First the early adopters introduce consumers to a new idea like Virtual Reality, then others hop on the bandwagon but before long a fresh approach can be look dated and overused. Old methods can be refreshed with new twists, but what really turns heads is to try methods that are in the sweet spot between not-quite-working-yet and boring old hat.

Some of these new marketing technologies are ready to go with minimal effort. MonkeyLectric’s Monkey Light Pro is one of these. The basic idea is simple: you attach a strip of LED lights to a spoke of a bicycle wheel and by changing the lights as the wheel rotates it exploits persistence of vision effects to create a visible image, floating within the wheel rims.

MonkeyLectric founder Dan Goldwater built his first prototype in 2005, intending it to be a one-off artwork.

“I never thought of selling it,” he says, “but riding it around the streets of Oakland and San Francisco, people would literally run after me asking where they could buy it. Sometimes crowds would just cheer as I passed by.”

Inspired by this experience, he founded a company to market these bicycle wheel lights; some of these are bought by consumers, but the Pro version is used for commercial advertising.

“Our larger customers tend to be marketing companies who want a fleet of bicycles to advertise for a client,” says operations manager Phil Yip.

Devices come preloaded with standard images and animations but customers can easily add their own messages. Loading the images that appear in a wheel is done with the help of a smartphone app. “Our Monkey Light Pro has a Bluetooth receiver so that you can send images to it wirelessly while the wheel is spinning,” Yip explains.

Social media meets real world

Another new idea, this time at the crossroads between social media and the real world, is the ‘Hashtag Kiosk’ demonstrated recently at the St Pancras Hotel in London. Made by a UK-based brand experience company, Hashtag, this kiosk is a permanent fixture in the lobby of the hotel and every time someone posts an image on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #StPancrasHotel the image appears on the screen of the kiosk and with a tap on the screen it can be printed.

Hashtag Limited offers these kiosks on a lease agreement, for hotels, exhibitions and events.

“The Kiosk at St Pancras Hotel is our standard design,” says Phillip Krynski, marketing manager at Hashtag Limited. “But we are able to design bespoke ones as well, or build them into walls and desks. We also brand the face with bespoke die-cut vinyl logos and text, brand specific software and brand specific print templates.”

Hashtag’s kiosk achieves two things: it encourages more people to share photos and it brings more people to the hotel lobby. The idea is for hotel guests to become influencers and reach out to their social networks. “Not only does a guest in the hotel get a free photo of their adventures, but the hotel builds a stronger connection with potential guests,” Krynski explains.

Sound beams

Other new technologies are available to order off-the-shelf but are still so new that most people haven’t seen them in the field yet.  One of these is the SoundLazer directional loudspeaker, a commercial product that started as a Kickstarter crowdfunding project.

SoundLazer uses a new ultrasound technology to beam sound into specific locations. Previous efforts to do this required clunky plastic dome loudspeakers and were hard to fit into most environments. SoundLazer units are surprisingly small, so that they can be fitted to walls and ceilings, discretely out of the way.

Directional sound can have many practical uses in hotels, resorts, museums and transport hubs

Directional sound can have many practical uses in hotels, resorts, museums and transport hubs. Announcements can be directed at specific areas without disturbing other people. Advertising and entertainment screens can also have limited areas in front of the screen where the audio can be heard, minimising disturbance for other people – especially employees, often forced to hear the same sound loop hundreds of times each day. 

One of its most potentially interesting use cases could be in novel marketing campaigns where promotional messages or the soundtrack to video displays can be beamed at specific people standing or sitting in specific locations. Being able to direct audio messages also gives advertisers new ways to personalise messages depending on location, not just in the room but exactly where they are in the room.

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