By  on April 2, 2008

The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., Adidas, Lipton, Northwest Airlines, Intel Corp. and CNN are just a few of the companies that have used MyClick Media Limited's marketing technology to reach young people in China. Now MyClick hopes to bring it to the U.S., Europe and Australia.

MyClick can embed an image in any media, including television, and when a consumer snaps a photo of the image with an Internet-enabled digital camera, the phone automatically links to a related Web site. MyClick's idea is that companies will use the technology as part of innovative campaigns with user-generated content, contests, giveaways, voting, coupons, social networking and the like. For example, an image could be incorporated into a hangtag or garment, consumers could upload photos of themselves wearing the garment, vote on which photos they like best, and the winning images could be printed on the hangtags, published online, or e-mailed to friends.

Hong Kong-based MyClick, which is more than a decade old and handles marketing for 300 merchants and 60 financial institutions, is in talks with fashion and beauty companies to use its image recognition technology in the U.S. Expect at least one campaign to break within a month or so, said co-founder and executive director Dorothy Cheng.

Internet-enabled phones are not as common in the U.S. and Europe as they are in Asia, but use is growing among young people. In Europe, 38 percent of all cell phone users are expected to use the mobile Internet by 2013, according to a recent report from Forrester Research Inc.

In China, Estée Lauder printed up a colorful brochure with a MyClick image on the back where consumers could get more information. The direct mail piece offered a free makeover and drove traffic to the counter.

While MyClick could not divulge the results of particular campaigns, in general, a small campaign of one to two weeks' duration and restricted reach generates a response of about 1 to 2 percent, said Cheng. Longer and broader campaigns average a response rate of 3 to 6 percent. An event-driven promotion can go as high as 60 percent, she said.

An image could be printed in a magazine, on a store shelf, at the point of sale, in collateral materials, in an e-mail blast, during a television program, at a bus stop, on the side of a bus or in a taxi or train compartment. For example, a rotating cube could appear on the bottom of the screen throughout a football game or fashion week coverage and offer a "lucky draw" to keep viewers watching throughout the program and breaks.If a viewer has a phone without a camera, she can type in a code with the same result.

Other companies have used 2-D barcodes in a similar fashion, but the barcodes don't include graphics and don't look as good. MyClick's image recognition technology is patented.

Such a campaign costs in the five figures for one month, and an annual license is somewhere in the six figures, said Cheng. The number of images a company can use is unlimited.

The 40-person company has run upwards of four dozen image campaigns in China. Many Chinese brands have repeated their campaigns and some have signed multiyear licenses "because it's fun and cool," said Cheng.

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