How content fits into the Internet of Things

Internet-connected fridges, Google Glass, smart watches...everybody’s talking about the Internet of Things. But what does it mean in real, as opposed to ‘geek’, life? And where does content fit in? CMA consultant editor Dominic Mills looks at an early content-led piece of marketing activity that uses wearable technology.

No doubt most brand marketers have by now had their de-brief on the Internet of Things/the Quantified Self (note: it’s compulsory to uppercase certain letters to demonstrate Appropriate Importance).

Their tame futurologist/media agency has been around to excite them about internet-connected fridges, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smart watch, Oculus Rift and Google Glass.

They’re all thinking: “hmmm, fascinating, but what does it mean for me as a marketer?”

As Dan Calladine, head of media futures at Carat, points out, what they all have in common is ‘personalisation’.

Taking this as a starting point, the first consequence is that brands are highly unlikely to produce traditional, broadcast, interruptive advertising for these devices. Google, for example, has said it won’t allow any advertising on Glass. That’s a sensible approach to take. The added intimacy of wearable technology means push advertising is that much more invasive, and therefore likely to produce a backlash.

But content-led marketing that is useful or entertaining isn’t advertising, and it needn’t be invasive if it is served on the right device, at the right time, and in the right context. It can also be highly personalised.

This means then that there is an opportunity for brands either to create content or to offer structures around which users can create their own content. Clearly, though, it means producing content for a much smaller screen – if there is a screen at all. One of the first pieces of wearable technology, the Nike Fuelband, doesn’t really have a screen at all, at least not in the sense that we understand it.

It might also mean:

  • producing short-form or disposable content, like Vine or Snapchat;

  • encouraging gamification that allows brands to reward users;

  • being the hub or village green around which people congregate, as with Nike’s Fuelband, which allows users to input their own content and share it with others;

  • allowing users to record what they’re seeing or doing and sharing that around;

  • or generating content from the data collected by these devices. 

Or it might be something completely different. The point is that no-one really knows, and we are in an age of experimentation.

Take US fashion brand Kenneth Cole (think something mass-market, but just above the average – more John Lewis than M&S), which in March used Google Glass to launch its Mankind fragrance. This made it, the first advertiser to use Google Glass.

Penetration of Google Glass is minuscule – with a user base of just 10-20,000. But that, in a sense, is just the point. It means the likes of Kenneth Cole can experiment without either incurring huge cost or, if the project fails to generate any return, embarrassment in the spotlight.

Synergy between Kenneth Cole and Google
At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be too much synergy between Cole and Google. But that would be wrong.

At $1,500 a pop, the glasses are hardly up there with Specsavers, but users will be early adopters who no doubt like to think of themselves at the cutting edge. But part of Google Glass’ strategy is to turn itself into a fashion item (an uphill struggle, perhaps, when wearers are colloquially known as ‘glassholes’), so association with a fashion brand like Kenneth Cole helps.

For its part, Kenneth Cole is probably not where your average hipster or thrusting tech entrepreneur buys their clothes, so it benefits from the link-up with Google and the cutting-edge halo thrown off by products like Glass.

Called ’21 Days, 21 Deeds’, the campaign mechanic was itself quite simple. Since the fragrance is supposed to embody the spirit of chivalry and gentlemanly behaviour (obviously, people who dream up fragrance concepts live in a parallel universe), contestants were thus asked to perform over a three-week period a series of random, ‘gentlemanly’ tasks, ranging from bringing in coffee to fellow-workers, over-tipping bar staff, or sending as hand-written note to a loved one, such as your granny.

The prize was a Mankind kit, worth $1,000 – not generous enough in my view for the effort required, but that’s a different matter.

The twist was that, via a Kenneth Cole Glass app, users were encouraged to record their good deeds for posterity.

Using the hashtag #manupformankind, contestants were then encouraged to upload the photos to Twitter.  

It comes over like a good, old-fashioned competition. But in fact it’s a thoroughly contemporary take on content.

What’s not to like? It’s fun, it’s simple, it’s relevant and, by combining a contextual narrative with authenticity – all boxes ticked by content.

It also adds an element of social currency – participants gain kudos not only for doing a good deed, but also for sharing – and gives Kenneth Cole data that offers insight into the behaviours of a cohort it would like to target. 

As Aaron Harvey, a partner at Ready Steady Rocket, the agency that developed the Kenneth Cole app, says: “It’s a welcome challenge for marketers to develop ad products with authenticity, like contextual ads, connected to my social network.”

The Kenneth Cole/Google Glass work also chimes with some other, broader, content-led characteristics:

  • It’s human-centric: the best content gives the brand a human face. By connecting through emotion, it engenders trust and loyalty.
  • Uniqueness: Consumers seek uniqueness, and brand content can provide them with those experiences.


Posted in CMA blog
27thMay 2014

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