Food Forum: Picture this

Using image recognition technology for in-store promotions can pay big dividends for retailers.

Jamie-ThompsonBy Jamie Thompson

The ongoing battle between brands for premium shelf space is predicated on this domino effect: Once customers see it, they will hopefully touch it. If they touch it, they are more likely to buy it. The same is true when shoppers photograph a product with their mobile phones.

According to a recent Google study, 79% of mobile users consult their phones when making shopping decisions. Snapping pictures is the number one mobile consumer behavior after talking on the phone.

Supermarkets and brands now can choose from a dizzying assortment of mobile apps that ask customers to scan QR codes or barcodes on products to enter a contest or receive an instant coupon. Another common CPG approach to giving away prizes is printing codes under the caps of beverages or inside cereal boxes.

But there is an alternative—and I would suggest more natural—way to engage consumers at shelf. Snapping and sharing photos of products—without any special printing or packaging modifications—can be the primary way customers participate in your in-store promotion.

Pongr uses computer vision technology to turn any brand logo or packaging into a direct response opportunity. Customers snap pictures of products, share them by email or text, and instantly receive digital rewards, special in-store offers or confirmation that they have entered a contest.

Go ahead and give the system a try right now. Take a picture of your store logo on a sign or private label product and email it to (StoreName) Watch what happens in your inbox.

Our image recognition system can identify several brand logos in the same photo. Supporting their “Power of One” initiative, PepsiCo and Frito-Lay have run multiple “Match-Snap-Win” photo-driven sweepstakes requiring shoppers to photograph any beverage from the Pepsi family together with any Frito-Lay snack.

These Match-Snap-Win promotions, which have offered VIP experiences at the Super Bowl and MLB All-Star Game, have been activated with specially marked packaging and POP displays. However, incurring extra printing costs—whether it be with stickers, cap tags, neck hangers or inserts—is not necessary with a photo response marketing campaign.

Nestle’s Skinny Cow brand recently used computer vision to verify more than 133,000 photo entries in their WoCave (“Woman Cave”) Instant Win Game.  Image recognition detected the lipstick-wearing cow “Skinny,” whether she appeared on candy, cookies or ice cream treats. Whenever incorrect photos are submitted, the sender receives an encouraging “Try Again” message.

Skinny Cow’s call to action was 100% digital, relying purely on social media and their active network of mommy bloggers. When your existing CPGs are made to be interactive, you can launch your campaign without delay. No need to get costly package modifications approved or to depend on the creation of elaborate store displays.

Many of our photo shopper marketing campaigns are co-branded with a retail partner. Using the same model, there is a tremendous opportunity for local, regional and national supermarket chains to promote their own private label products.

Your supermarket logo lives on milk, juice, breakfast cereal, pasta sauce and thousands of other products—not to mention signage throughout the store. Tracking down all these logos is a ready-made scavenger hunt, which can be enhanced with direct response messages tailored to the product or time of year.

These in-store social photo-marketing campaigns can be integrated with your CRM database or loyalty programs, so you can invite your most motivated shoppers to participate in future events.

Another possibility is pairing complimentary private label grocery products with brands that are household names. For example, a summer cookout promotion could start the consumer at a case of Miller Lite or Budweiser and then direct him or her to store-branded ketchup, hot dogs and buns.

My local supermarket is currently running a “Make Our Brands Your Brands” campaign with flyers trumpeting that “our products are made with the same ingredients as the national brands.”

Well, now supermarkets can use the same computer vision technology as the big brands, too. With grocery stores increasingly seeing more supercenters encroach on their turf, finding new ways to visually connect with your customers could pay huge dividends. 

Jamie Thompson is the co-founder and CEO of Pongr. He can be reached at

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