In those dark days before tablets and touch screens, when the flashiest cell phone—the Motorola Razor—was still of the flip variety, Nicole Skogg dutifully dog-eared pages of makeup and fashion ads each time she perused her monthly fashion magazine. “Flipping through magazines was frustrating as a consumer because I had intent to buy a product but couldn’t take action,” Skogg says. “The nugget of the idea was, from a consumer’s perspective, to be able to do something right away.”
A problem-solver by trade, Skogg decided to create a solution. With the help of David Crookham, and some legal counsel from her father, Skogg didn’t just make shopping from her favorite vendors possible from the comfort of a cozy armchair, she built a company, SpyderLynk, that has ushered in a new standard in interactive marketing.
Today, just about everything is being digitized and our phones are more capable than ever. However, there was a time not so long ago when readers could only experience their favorite magazine with a bell-and-whistleless hard copy, a time when a package of gum was as interactive as a rock, and a complimentary T-shirt was merely flat ad space and a needless addition to your weekend wardrobe. Needless to say, times—and the potential of graphic ad space—have changed. SpyderLynk, a mobile-activation and marketing-platform company, has helped usher in that change through its original SnapTag technology.
HOW IT WORKS
SpyderLynk’s SnapTag Technology
Functioning similar to the QR code, the SnapTag offers a more elegant solution to brands trying to build a mobile audience. Here’s how it helps consumers engage.
Users snap a picture of a SnapTag with their camera phone and text it to the number or scan it using the SnapTag Reader App
SpyderLynk deciphers the icon (usually a logo) and the Code Ring that are unique to each brand. Because of the binary nature of the coding system, code rings can be duplicated among brands with different logos.
Users with smartphones are taken to an online experience platform, such as a social network, website, app, or game, depending on the type of SnapTag. For texters, SpyderLynk responds with content from the brand such as a text, video, promotion, or e-mailed link to the virtual experience.
SnapTags can be “branded,” offering information; commerce-based, allowing users to make purchases; “social,” encouraging users to drive the brand through social networks; “action” driven, which allow users to communicate with the brand; or “mobile giving,” which facilitate user donations.
Users interact with the brand by liking, sharing, shopping, and/or opting in for more information.
SnapTags function much like QR codes, those black-and-white boxes that are the modern era’s bar code. Though nearly omnipresent, QR codes are nevertheless eyesores on otherwise beautifully designed advertising and marketing materials. SnapTags aim to solve that. Using the brand’s logo and a thin black ring (called a Code Ring) with specifically placed breaks, they can hold the same data without sacrificing image recognition for the consumer.
Skogg, who serves as SpyderLynk’s CEO, and Crookham developed the Code Ring concept while Skogg was working as an optical engineer, in 2006. After operating for eight hours a day in polar coordinates—dust off your precalculus book and remember r and θ, or radius and angle—it was only natural for Skogg to use the same mathematics to make meaning in the ring. The design is extra functional, too. When pictures of tags come in at low resolution or in low light, the ring is more forgiving than a traditional QR code for accurate recognition.
With patents in hand and a waiting marketplace, Skogg was ready to share SnapTags with the world, but needed the reassurance that SpyderLynk and the technology were not just a science project. “I had a great job and lived in LA,” she recalls. “I had to convince myself that this dream was worth chasing.” Skogg found confidence in what she calls SnapTag’s “proof points.” A team of developers began writing code, and early clients, such as Etnies and Boost Mobile, expressed interest in experimenting with the tags.
Then, in 2008, SpyderLynk landed its first national campaign. After seeking out American Media, the publishers of Star Magazine, Skogg and Crookham got a bite. On the day the issue containing the tags hit newsstands, Skogg was in Las Vegas with friends. While her friends lounged at the pool, Skogg posted up in the hotel room, glued to her computer and watching the live snaps coming in from users. “That’s when [SpyderLynk] really felt like a company with paying clients and SnapTags in magazines,” she says.
SnapTags made their big debut only two years after Twitter launched and Facebook became available to everyone, and they have been evolving ever since. Skogg and her team learned quickly that SnapTags were just the doorway to promotions, engagement, and mobile commerce. “We saw this need to provide tools behind the SnapTags that allow brands to activate consumers,” Skogg says. “We have four basic activation suites [promotions, social, coupons, and commerce], but a brand could definitely deliver a coupon with a social overlay or any number of other hybrid applications. When a brand comes to us, they don’t have to have a website or a full-scale promotion. We can help them create that.”
A killer campaign chock-full of applications can look great in a proposal, but Skogg knows the value of results. “We call ourselves mobile-activation specialists,” she explains, “people who know what to measure and how to focus on achieving your goals.” SpyderLynk’s Reporting Dashboard allows brands to see the effectiveness of their campaigns in real time, reporting snaps, likes, shares, sweepstakes entries, and free sample metrics. SpyderLynk can even modify the campaign on the fly—a feature Skogg calls the “power of the SnapTag.”
The power of this flexibility can be seen in a recent campaign with Bud Light. When the company came to SpyderLynk seeking a layered media approach for its Playbook campaign, Skogg and her team delivered a consumer experience that included content opt-ins and a content-delivery system. A few weeks into the campaign, the data crunchers in Denver noticed that consumers were not seeking out the extra content Bud Light had to offer, such as recipes, plays of the week, and funny videos.
“We looked at how many people watched the videos and how many replied to texts,” Skogg says. “We tried sending out push messages instead of making people opt-in to them. We were able to switch around the campaign to deliver the content, and we found that drove engagement.”
The midseason turnaround is evidence of SpyderLynk’s strength in data aggregation and analysis, but it also represents the experience that working with hundreds of clients and campaigns allows the company to bring to each project. In its second year working with Glamour, SpyderLynk is coming off a highly successful September (2011) issue. The magazine, which had never delved into mobile marketing or even QR codes, was unsure how its audience would interact with the encircled logos on its pages, but 50,000 advertiser likes and another 50,000 for Glamour don’t lie.
As the online landscape changes, SpyderLynk’s continued evolution is a given. As for Skogg’s personal goals for the company, she’d like to see the development of a mobile wallet that’s secure and simple while SpyderLynk continues to improve its services as a switchboard connecting brands and consumers. “We can help brands amplify their programs and promote their stories,” Skogg says. “We’re a one-stop shop for mobile activation.”