Test Drive for McDonald’s Happy Table

Venturing into new territory, a McDonald’s in Yishun, Singapore is testing driving a new form of in-store entertainment with the Happy Table. With the help of NFC (near field communication) stickers placed on the underside of the table, DDB Group Singapore is bringing a new playing field for games to the restaurant.

As shown in the video, people, in this case children, can use smartphones to communicate with the NFC stickers to play games across the table. A whole new world of gaming becomes easily accessible and unveils another excuse for families to linger a little longer in the restaurant, maybe to grab one more drink while they’re hanging out. And while I’d like to think such a game might allow for more peace at the table, I can’t help but wonder how this pans out when the number of children outnumbers the number of smartphones available in Mom’s purse. But I digress.

The simplicity of this technology, from the installation of simple stickers to the basic methods of playing the games, make the Happy Table seem like a no-brainer. Once this pilot program at the single location ends, rollout plans are in the works to spread to more McDonald’s across Asia. How long with it take for the Happy Table to cross the pond to the states? No dates confirmed as of yet.

NFC has not hit mainstream USA, though with every new iPhone or latest mobile phone release, people anxiously await for NFC capabilities to be incorporated. However, it’s easy to see that NFC is drawing closer and closer on the horizon. An NFC-driven concept like the Happy Table could easily be translated into any number of ways. Perhaps, Barnes & Noble could incorporate NFC to its play tables at story time or Starbucks could implement simple games into its tables, with varying games that could appeal to children or to the procrastinating college student taking a study break.

Along those lines, why not have these NFC stickers strategically-placed by the sitting areas in malls, near chairs/tables placed for resting in retailers, or at the beverage station in a convenience store etc, all with the purpose of quick games to increase engagement with their surroundings, when people might otherwise disengage into Facebook posts or their own games or texting their friends. Because at the end of the day, it’s the engagement that will keep your store/product/brand top of mind and keep them coming back for more.

Credits: Youtube, DDB Group Singapore, FastCo

What Does a Yawn Get You These Days?

A cup of coffee. Yes, a yawn can “buy” you a cup of coffee. A campaign from Dutch coffee company Douwe Egberts uses a gussied-up coffee vending machine with facial recognition software to dole out free cups of coffee to weary airport travelers in need of a pick-me-up, all for the cost of a yawn. Called “Bye Bye Red Eye,” the campaign served coffee to more than 210 airport passengers.

I love this. It seems like a simple match of technology and creativity put to use in a way that’s a perfect fit. People who are tired often drink coffee. People who are tired often yawn. Bam! An engaging platform is born to get people talking about their coffee.

Facial recognition, or recognition technology in general, as currency mixed with a vending machine with a seems like it could apply to a variety of brands. Smile for a Hershey’s bar or a Pepsi. Roll or smack your lips for a Chapstick. Sneeze for a box of Kleenex. Granted, this would be a promotional spin on these items as brands can’t pay the bills with smiles or kisses, but it would be fun nonetheless.

Watch the video without yawning. I dare you.

Image Credits: YouTube, DouweEgbertsSA, Getty

Social Media, Branding Superhero

Inc. Magazine recently featured a post about whether social media is more advertising or PR. The author believes that social media can be either, depending on a marketer’s goals or objectives. My Millennial opinion: Social media is its own entity.

PR is message and communication management, a key aspect of social media. Advertising is focused on business strategy and achieving measurable results based on set objectives. Any social media promotional campaign that depends on conversion as a success factor harnesses the skills of advertising.

I agree with the author that social media can be what a client needs it to be and can lean toward PR or advertising, depending on the objective. But, as a whole, social media is the future…happening now.

The fact that social media can tackle the demands of PR and advertising in one fell swoop gives it a power that neither PR nor advertising can have on their own. It’s a medium that gives anyone the power to become a brand — and that’s exactly how my generation is using it.

We are setting the future of business by branding ourselves without the assistance of PR or advertising, but instead using social media. And thanks to this special medium, when consumers set trends on Facebook, Twitter or the like, brands tend to follow in their footsteps. If you’re wondering who is really in control…look no further. Consumers and Shoppers. They hold the power in today’s dynamic retail ecosystem.

And mark my words, the more prominent social media becomes, the more brands will begin to test its limits in ways no one could ever imagine with PR or advertising alone.

Feature photo credit: ViralBlog

From the Westside: Fresh & Easy Exits US Market

It comes as no surprise to many retail watchers that British parent company Tesco announced this morning that it will attempt to sell all 200 Fresh & Easy stores, located in California, Arizona and Nevada. Incredibly, the chain did not make any money during its 5-year duration in the US.

It’s an unfortunate situation for the small-format, innovative stores that launched in 2007 with high hopes for bringing fresh food to “food deserts,” or areas that were underserved by supermarket and grocery store chains. Initial plans were to launch 1,000 stores in California & other western states before expanding east. Those plans were scaled down due to the economic climate as well as lack of performance & profit.

Why did Fresh & Easy fail? Theories abound. Primarily, the US grocery market is competitive, with well-established banners under Kroger, Safeway, and SuperValu brands.There’s also increased competition from high-end/specialty/independent grocery chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, as well as the rise of mass-market retailers with grocery components, notably Walmart and Target.

Fresh & Easy also pursued a self-service check-out model that was not popular with consumers who are used to cashiers, especially for high-volume, check-out intensive purchases. The chain also did not offer vouchers or coupons, which US grocery shoppers are accustomed to. In fact, many grocery chains highlight their coupon program as the primary draw for shoppers, even offering shopping incentives such as double coupons. Fresh & Easy also made a push to sell ready-made meals which were not necessarily compatible with local shoppers and their habits, mainly because shoppers in the west tend to grocery shop once a week and look for a wide range of products rather than shopping more frequently, where they’d be more inclined to shop for a grab-and-go/ready-made product.

Finally, Fresh & Easy launched with a high percentage of private label brands and a reduced SKU assortment in the center of the store. Many consumers were unable to find the brands they were used to purchasing, leading to frustration and an additional shopping trip. Many shoppers willing to give the new concept a try visited once and never returned.

Ultimately, the store failed to find it’s niche in the competitive US grocery landscape and solve a real need for consumers. It tried to introduce a new way of shopping that wasn’t compatible with US shopper needs, desires or patterns.

Retail analyst Neil Saunders of Conlumino in London said “Retail history will likely record Tesco’s American foray as something of an unfortunate misadventure.”

Social Media’s March Madness

The Superbowl may have commercials, but March Madness is nipping at its heels with social media, thanks the medium’s ability to attract and interact with a broad range of consumers – and a lot of them.

Nielsen’s 2012 Year in Sports revealed that among 18-49 year olds, 99 percent of sports events were viewed on various devices the same day as airing. This means brands that ran campaigns during the 2012 NCAA championship game were guaranteed a timely interaction with a portion of the 20.8 million viewers who tuned in for the Big Dance.

To take advantage of 2013’s potential reach, Coca-Cola is spending 10 times what it did on social media in 2012 with a campaign that takes a look into the loss of productivity during NCAA March Madness.

The campaign pairs Coke Zero with Bleacher Report, one of the leading sports brands during March, to provide various insights via multiple channels as to why “it’s not your fault you’ve been slacking off” during tournament time.

Other brands have also embraced social media to connect with the NCAA March Madness consumer.

ESPN took a somewhat political approach by having President Obama fill out his bracket on SportsCenter, followed by YouTube star Robbie Novak, also known as “Kid President,” making his predictions. While the President’s video has only 3,000 views thus far, Kid President has racked up more than one million views, demonstrating the power of a strong social media presence.

NCAA sponsors AT&T and Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have both created campaigns that promise a chance at attending next year’s tournament, all the while ramping up brand page views and Facebook likes. Even more, AT&T and the NCAA teamed up on Twitter to provide “real-time highlights” of games under the NCAA’s @marchmadness handle.

And although the final numbers for 2013 are not yet in, brands that implemented social media campaigns during the past month are sure to see positive results — results that will likely spark an influx of social media campaigns in 2014 and years to come.