Mug Marketing

May 21, 2013

facedealsSo there I was, Sunday night, enjoying one of my favorite weekly rituals. I was savoring those last few relaxing hours before a hectic work week would begin, blissfully tuned into “60 Minutes.”

I love the show and find it unfailingly interesting. But this week, one story really captured my attention.

It focused on facial-recognition technology. Not in law enforcement or criminal investigation, but in marketing. It profiled a company called Red Pepper, maker of Facedeals. Through Facedeals, businesses can install a camera inside (or right outside) their establishment to scan the faces of every customer who enters. Those faces are almost instantly matched up against profile images stored in Facebook.

When a match is made, a message is sent to the customer’s mobile device. In Leslie Stahl’s case, upon entering a restaurant, her iPhone signaled she could enjoy a free Diet Coke (nice choice, Les!) with the purchase of a Caesar salad.

The deals are tailor made for customers based on their “like” history on Facebook. Kinda freaky, huh?

The good news here is you have to opt in to receive the deals. The bad news is that according to the report, U.S. laws regulating facial recognition technology for commerce and marketing aren’t keeping up with advances in the technology.

Now, you have to admit it’s cool. In many ways, it’s the manifestation of futuristic “Star Trek”-style stories that have been told in the movies and on TV for decades. But the question is where it might go from here. The easy answer is a slough of marketing applications that live online and in social media. But can it become a practical force for good?

For example, couldn’t facial technology be used to make life easier and tasks quicker? Could I simply show up at the DMV, pose for a photo and instantly have my tabs or license renewed? Could I walk into a Banana Republic or Macy’s and have recommended shirts, ties and trousers picked out based on my online browsing or purchasing habits? Or could grocery stores create a system that instantly puts the items I buy most often into a cart for me? Maybe even save me the trouble of bagging everything and putting it in my car for me?

The opportunities seem endless, and certainly not exclusive to Facebook. A similar technology that operated through Pinterest could help sell practically anything. Think of the micro-targeted marketing efforts that could be turnkey for car dealers, furniture retailers and especially mass merchandisers. Target, for one, could turn it into a virtual goldmine.

How about you? Would you opt in to Facedeals? How about something that might be seen as more “intrusive?” At what point is this technology going (or has it already gone) too far?