With the iPhone being around for close to two years now, one might have assumed that most car companies would have a website designed for it. Typically this is not the case. The always-hip VW is one exception. They built a clean and simple site formatted to look good and work well on the iPhone. It offers some basic information about their models, a dealer locator and an “Assistance” page. Best of all – you only need to type in vw.com in the address bar. No unnecessarily complicated Urls.
The site is a very “safe” corporate approach. No risks taken. No real use of the opportunities offered by a mobile platform. The site could have been so much more if only approached from beyond the lowest common denominator of the corporate safety zone.
If the site had been developed more with consumers in mind, we might have seen:
Actual inventory lists from local dealers
User ratings of local dealerships
Useful information for current owners such as user guides or vehicle specific information
Even from a company perspective more could have been done:
Current APRs or incentives right on the home page
Dealer incentives or specials per dealer located
Build or price with options functionality
List of pre-owned inventory
Some of these items would clearly require a lot more development effort and may therefore have been too expensive given the general state of the auto industry, and the relative small size of the smart phone ownership. However, some are really low hanging fruit such as current incentives, or detailed vehicle information. Most of it exists online already. VW even has a whole section devoted to videos showing specific features of their cars. The content is there. Just use it.
Even though VW could have done more, I applaud them for at least offering something for smart phone users. Where are all the brands that call themselves technologically advanced and cutting edge? Where is Audi? BMW? Mercedes-Benz? Cadillac?
Granted, some of those companies made specific iPhone games. But how does that really benefit the consumer?
A common concern among clients who want to engage their customers via communities is the need for moderation. There is a balance that need to be struck between freedom of expression and the need to tame excessively inflammatory posts. Clive Thompson of Wired recently described several interesting techniques to rain in trolls without having to resort too heavily on expensive moderation. Instead, here are some tricks to let your community do the policing:
1. Crowdsourcing. Let a randomly picked group of readers describe posts for a limited period of time. These descriptions are then converted to a rating. Users can then filter out low rated posts, making them less apparent.
2. Selective Invisibility. Again, based on reader ratings. If a comment gets too many negative ratings it gets removed. The trick is that it becomes invisible to everyone except to the one who posted it. This way the troll thinks everybody is ignoring him and hopefully goes away.
3. Disemvoweling. Using this technique, a post that crosses the line gets all its vowels removed making the message still understandable (and thereby not really censored) yet still clearly flagged as inappropriate.
Of course, the best way may be to simply ignore the trolls. NPR, for instance, has a rule not to “feed” the trolls. They remove both the original inflammatory post as well as replies to curb the practice. In addition, requiring registration or some form of identifier in order to post will help create a barrier to entry for the random hatemonger.
Augmented reality seems to be everywhere recently. It lets users control a 3D objects on the screen simply by using a special printed marker and a webcam. A recent commercial example was featured on the GE Smartgrid site by GS&P and North Kingdom.
Now this was a good example but I believe this technology has a lot more to offer. AR is perfect for interactivity and while rotating 3D vectors is cool, I’m hoping to see more game type content soon. Topps cards are on the right track. They are trying to put some life back into baseball cards and the approach is right on. What I like is that they didn’t just use a model of the athlete, but also added a simple game element and additional interactivity, which will extend the novelty factor somewhat.
The main drawback with AR is that it requires a lot from the user. First one needs to print out a marker. Then it requires a webcam and a relatively fast computer. The iPhone on the other hand is the perfect device for this technology. It has a built-in camera and it’s portable with a large screen and offers 3D acceleration. There are several promising examples of AR for the iPhone and I’m sure there will be more coming.
Interestingly, some of the most exciting aspects of AR is how it can bridge the gap between traditional advertising media and “new media”. Print ads and out of home are perfect places to put markers on, and with an iPhone AR app running, those ads could come to life in a unique way never before seen.
Billboards for movies can feature 3D characters. Ads at subway stations can show hidden messages. Not surprisingly, the auto industry has been one of the early adopters of AR when marketing to a younger, more tech-oriented audience:
Another related approach to this is using image recognition software on an iPhone to link directly to brands. I wouldn’t label this as “Augmented Reality” as there is no computer generated environment to it, but I guess they get a free ride on AR hype wave by slapping the label on it. Nonetheless, it’s an indication that image recognition is getting better and will be more ubiquitous in the future.
We Are Organized Chaos (WAOC) is Zugara’s (www.zugara.com) interactive marketing and advertising blog where we’ll be featuring some great projects and discussing upcoming trends in the digital world. Work — good and bad — will be critiqued. Hope you’ll enjoy reading our insights and thoughts on interactive.