A steak-scented billboard: Who ever sausage a thing?

This What’s In Store post reported on a billboard that not only visually evokes a juicy steak — it smells like one. Here’s an excerpt:

A billboard that smells as enticing as it looksCommuters [on a North Carolina highway] may find a new aroma commingling with exhaust fumes: The smell of grilled steak, coming from a billboard designed to entice shoppers by appealing to a sense other than sight … It pairs the smell with a big visual, showing a giant piece of steak and a French fry on a giant fork.

The post goes on to say that this is one of the first of its kind in the country. I was reminded by a friend this morning that the technique has definitely been enhanced by modern chemistry (by ScentAir of Charlotte, NC), but this tactic at least dates back to Wisconsin’s own Wienermobile.

For those who don’t remember it, this vehicle promoted Oscar Meyer wieners for decades, and often used the smell of cooking hotdogs to help build an audience.

… As if the vehicle’s design alone wouldn’t do the trick!

Can readers find an earlier example of out-of-home “whiff-appeal” to help sell a product?

Bokodes talk to you through your smart-phone camera

According to an estimate on this video, the world is teeming with a billion people who are armed with a “reasonably high quality” digital camera. Most of these cameras are in cell phones. The Camera Culture, of the prestigious MIT Media Lab, wishes to exploit this opportunity with a new type of barcode, called the Bokode. The video below shows the science behind this breathtaking new technology.

Geek Alert: Unless you’re an optical physicist, you’ll likely start zoning out by the third minute of this five-minute video. Hang in there. The more apparent business applications are discussed starting in the last minute of this thing.

If you simply cannot endure the details about how this system conveys tons of product information, and senses where your camera is positioned and communicates that position to your camera, here’s a link to a more benefits-oriented video, from BBC’s outstanding technology bureau.

Assuming you’re like me, a marketing professional who cares about technology, I urge you to educate yourself on this advancement in cell-camera-enabled barcoding. It’s the beginning of a more robust way for us to gather information about the products and businesses we encounter.

Unless I’m mistaken, that is. I’d love to know what you think.

Related links:

Digital out-of-home has unique power to interest consumers

Boring old out-of-home is a surprisingly promising medium for engaging consumers. This can be seen in its recent growth. Due in large part to the advent of digital billboards, spending for out-of-home advertising has grown by 8% for the last three years (surpassed in growth only by online advertising).

Digital Billboards Are “Interesting”

The ability to vary and customize digital billboards has yet to be fully explored. But even with relatively “dumb” billboards, consumers are paying attention. Research conducted by SeeSaw Networks (June 2007/July 2008), and reported in MediaPost recently (registration required), highlights the power of today’s digital billboards to generate consumer interest. Here’s one of the findings in that research:

Advertising On The Media Is Interesting

Medium Percentage of Base
Digital Signage














Mobile Phone


Base: Among those who have seen ads in the media in the past 12 months

As media options continue to explode — and consumer attention progressively splinters — reaching people where they work and play will be even more important to marketers. I’m excited to see how innovations in out-of-home step in to fill that need.

Guerilla (and gorilla!) marketing at its finest

How much must a truly stellar promotion of a new business cost? If you’re a small, scrappy start-up willing to take a few risks, the answer is not much.

Steve Fretzin and a few enterprising friends realized that their Chicago networking events were suffering from a lack of publicity. There was no calendar of Chicago-area events specifically for those seeking business networking.

Instead of cursing the darkness, they lit a candle. They created NetworkingMonkey.com.

Then they realized something else. NetworkingMonkey needed publicity even more than their events.

So Fretzin and company found a sharp PR firm and embarked on an aggressive publicity campaign. He told me, “We wanted to make a statement to the city. So we hired 10 actors and sent them into the streets.”

They didn’t leave unarmed. The came packing fruit.

“We had them dressed up in gorilla suits, and we gave them crates and crates of bananas — each with a card that had our value statement and web address. We gave away 7,000 bananas.”

If you have trouble imagining what that must have looked like, click on the video below. The event was well-documented, thanks to their PR partners, who wisely planned the event to coincide with a local television newscast’s “Dance-off Friday.”

The value of this prime time television (and subsequent YouTube) exposure is hard to measure. But since the buy-in wasn’t much more than the purchase of a medium-sized plantation’s worth of bananas, I’d say the ROI of this clever publicity ploy was definitely huge.

The Take-away:

You don’t need a hefty promotional budget if you choose the right partners and use you imagination.