The promotional mechanic is very simple and works as follows: Readers “snapping a picture” with their mobile phone and sending it to SnapTell (presumably via email or MMS) will “receive 15 percent off of any purchase on www.wineenthusiast.com.” It is not clear how the discount offer will be returned to consumers, but it is likely to be delivered via SMS in the form of a promo code to be redeemed on the Wine Enthusiast website.
If all of this is sounding at all familiar, it should. Boston-based Mobot, one of the first companies to activate the mobile pattern recognition space in the US, has been powering similar campaigns for Jane Magazine, Vibe and Elle Girl since 2005. What makes the WSJ SnapTell campaign significant is that (to my knowledge) this is the first MMS-based campaign to launch in the US targeted to an audience over 35 years of age. Could it be that recent studies indicating the rising popularity of MMS in the US are to be believed?
One of the reasons that SnapTell’s solution is attractive to marketers is that consumers can engage with these campaigns without first having to download a separate mobile application to transcode and/or identify the pattern to be recognized. The idea behind both Mobot and SnapTell is that all a consumer has to do is send an MMS or email an image to their servers to engage with a campaign; all images / patterns are identified on the server-side. The upside to this approach is that most handsets now have cameras integrated into the device, greatly increasing the potental reach of the tactic.
On the flipside, decoding the image on the server inherently builds lag time into the experience, and response times can be further impacted by message delays on the carrier side. The QR code mechanic, where the image (in this case a one or two dimensional barcode) is decoded on the handset rather than on the server, has been shown to greatly reduce these latencies, providing a much better user experience. However, since most handsets do not (yet) come with reloaded barcode readers (and trying to get consumers to download applications on their own is a fairly challenging task to say the least), the impact of domestic QR campaigns remains limited to an extremely small install-base.