When P&G Invests, Pay Attention

I am re-posting an article from today’s Wall Street Journal in its entirety. Why? Because in my twenty years of shopper marketing, I’ve learned that when P&G makes a commitment to anything designed to make it easier for consumers to stay in their billion dollar brand franchises, marketers everywhere should pay attention.

I think this investment is an AHA! moment in mobile marketing.  It has tremendous potential to be a huge moment of truth for P&G brands AND to ensure that shoppers can trust the tech just like they trust the P&G brands. It might take a while to get it right, but the magic of P&G investments is that they are early and insightful.


P&G Clears Plan for Mobile Coupons

Dec. 20, 2011 Posted in the Wall Street Journal, by HANNAH KARP

Digital coupons are catching on with consumers, but the market’s growth has been hampered by a pesky problem: Many retailers still aren’t equipped with laser scanners that can detect bar codes off of the reflective, shiny, backlit screen of a smartphone.

Procter & Gamble Co. is working on a potential solution. The consumer-goods giant said Monday it is working with start-up mobeam Inc. on a pilot program that will allow consumers to redeem coupons for P&G products straight from their phones. San Francisco-based mobeam has patented a way to beam out a bar code from the screen of a phone that is legible to normal laser scanners.

U.S. consumers saved more than $1.2 billion from redeeming digital coupons in 2010, according to a research report by digital-coupon provider Coupons.com, up 41% from a year earlier.

The challenge for mobeam now will be to get its technology integrated into smartphones so consumers can use it. The technology must be installed in the guts of a phone, which requires the cooperation of device makers.

Mobeam says it is working with handset makers so that tens of millions of phones hitting the market in 2012 will include its technology, though it declined to say what device makers it is in discussions with. Samsung Venture Investment Corp., the venture-capital arm of Samsung Group, a large maker of mobile devices, recently invested money in mobeam.

Scanning technology is improving slowly. Airlines and some retailers like Target and Walgreens have developed technology to scan bar codes off of the mobile coupons they issue themselves, but consumer companies cannot guarantee exactly where customers will be able to use their coupons since they don’t control the checkout lines.

For P&G, another potential payoff could come from the data it could gather from consumers who use the digital coupons. Mobeam says it will provide its partners with a trove of information about their mobile coupon users with consumer permission, allowing companies to track where and when they redeem them and what they buy.

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