Lowe's, Bloomingdale's take wacky approaches to mobile marketing

Grabbing a young shopper on mobile or social today goes far beyond what it says. Engagement today is meant quite literally.

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Credit: Adam Hunger/Reuters

The retail mobile challenge today, especially when trying to interact with the youngest of consumers, is not merely what a message says or even how it looks. It's giving shoppers concrete reasons to interact with the messages, preferably in a pleasant, sometimes humorous way.

Granted, when a marketing department tries too hard to make something go viral, the result is often forced, awkward and ineffective. But sometimes, it all works. Two retailers that covet young shoppers, albeit for very different reasons, are Bloomingdale's and Lowe's. And each has just launched very different, and quite effective, mobile compaigns.

Lowe's wants to furnish every new homeowner's house and millions of first-time apartments. It created a series of commercials — including this one — that depict lawn ornaments coming alive and commenting on the lawn and other house elements. They are mildly amusing, but that's not the clever part.

The commercial was written and filmed in various ways, with a different ending each time. The first commercial will air on television and in Web ads, but the alternate versions — continuing the story, if you will — only exist online at Lowes.com.

Of course, once online, geographic info about interested parties will be known. If they happen to have Lowe's accounts and cookies saved, the chain will know their exact name, along with all behaviors after the ad is watched. Talk about precise return on investment (ROI), not to mention the ability to follow up with highly targeted responses.

Yes, Lowe's is hardly the first company to try this, but it's execution is much smoother than most.

Bloomingdale's, with youth-oriented fashion styles in mind, has gone a very different route. It has launched a series of 64 emoticon-like images, calling Bloomoticons because, presumably,Bloomingdale's marketers are unfamiliar with shame. The idea is that shoppers choose a few of these tiny images and assemble them in various sequences and send them out as social messages. This is supposed to reinforce marketing messages for key Bloomingdale's apparel brands, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Rebecca Minkoff and Diane von Furstenberg.

The images were chosen by marketers from each clothing line. "To kick off the campaign, designers were asked to describe their 100 percent Bloomingdale’s exclusive capsule collections using only emojis. Sarah Jessica Parker chose a ribbon mimicking the grosgrain detailing she uses in her designs as well as a taxi symbolizing her New York City inspiration," Bloomingdale's said.

If it works, it would be a powerful way to use social media to spread marketing messages — from shoppers — to a wide audience. Where I find this a bit of a head-scratcher is why they think shoppers would do this. If a woman has a desire to hawk a retailer's products for free via social media — fans do that sort of thing — then she is free to do so. It seems that assembling someone else's images to craft a cryptic message is time-consuming and not especially fun.

But don't take my word for it. I originally saw no point to using songs as ringtones, to personalize a mobile device. Guess I was wrong on that one.

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