Fall Jones NY Line to Sport Mobile-Activated Hang Tags

Jones Apparel this fall will attempt to bring a new dimension to its retail presence with a program that lets consumers get more information about its clothes via mobile-activated hang tags.

The program, which uses Microsoft’s Tag barcode technology, directs consumers to an online video in which model Jessica Stam discusses her contribution to Jones’ Rachel Roy line.

“You can actually get to Jessica sharing with you her favorite pieces, why she did it in a really great, unplugged way,” said Stacy Lastrina, CMO for Jones, adding that the video will include fashion tips, product information and the back story on the line’s creation. (The new line makes its debut in October.)

In addition to the hang tags, Jones will also run an ad in Lucky magazine featuring a logo that consumers can activate with their cell phones to view the video. In-store signage will also support the effort. Lastrina said the technology is cross-platform, so users of iPhones, Blackberrys and Android devices will be able to access it.

Lastrina said she’s not sure whether the program will translate into increased sales. The goal, she said, is to “maintain brand relevance—wherever media is moving, to constantly ignite desire and create conversations.”

This isn’t the first time Jones has dabbled in new media. Last fall, the company introduced the Rachel Roy line completely via social media—there was no offline advertising support.

Jones is not the first brand to use Microsoft’s Tag. Whole Foods, Ford, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Kraft and Best Buy, among others, have used Tag “in all kinds of scenarios,” said Anna Kim-Williams, senior global media strategist for Microsoft.

Kim-Williams said that she believes consumers will use the technology more and more. “If you think about consumers today, their mobile phone is their world,” she said. “They use their phones for more than just making calls.”

Tag officially came out of beta in May. In addition to Microsoft, there are other tech firms, including StickyBits, whose technology has been used by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Campbell Soup, among others. A company called CauseWorld also worked with Procter & Gamble and Kraft on cause marketing-related programs earlier this year. Those firms, however, use UPCs. Microsoft’s Tag employs QR code-like logos to activate the technology.

Such companies are betting that consumers will take the time to read in-store barcodes with their phones to access additional media content.

Not everyone, however, is convinced that  shoppers will go for it. While noting that technologies like Tag have “tremendous potential,” Eric Bader, chief strategy officer at Initiative, said that in the U.S. at least, the technology is getting off to a slow start, though it may eventually become mainstream.

 “I’m jealous of how easily and well it has been used in markets in Asia. But in the U.S., the applications still require a consumer download and for various reasons, getting consumers to act has been very hard,” he said, citing “clunky operating systems, numerous different platforms and encroachment of apps on some of the same functions.”