Every June, the daily-email-for-foodies company Tasting Table hosts a Lobster Roll Rumble — 20 or so lobster roll slingers duke it out in New York City for the coveted title of “best lobster roll.”
In 2010, Rumble voting was done via text, but a loophole allowed people to vote even if they hadn’t paid the hefty ticket price; consequently, voting became a free-for-all on the social web. In 2011, Tasting Table reverted to old-fashioned paper votes in boxes. But this year, the lobster wasn’t the main (Maine?) attraction. The food site upped the ante, partnering with Tagstand, a Y-Combinator startup that received $1.1 million in funding last October. At the door, guest were handed NFC-enabled wristbands, and it was by wielding a bracelet that attendees cast their vote.
The potential applications of NFC are promising — and we’re already seeing the technology hit the mainstream. A New York City bus stop advertisement asks consumers to use NFC on their phones to unlock a Ceelo Green song. Soon, we might be able to walk into a store and wave an NFC-enabled phone to check in on Foursquare. (No final word yet on whether the iPhone 5 will have NFC.)
But this year’s Rumble made the technology accessible to the masses — even the ones with dumbphones — and it worked pretty seamlessly. Nobody was confused (“tap here” is easy enough), the bracelets weren’t intimidating and more than 90% of attendees cast a vote.
Tasting Table was introduced to Tagstand and NFC technology through its sponsorship of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in May — ClearHart Digital tapped Tagstand to create “digital goodie bags” that people could tap at the party’s bars and then receive cocktail recipes the next day. Tasting Table decided the technology was accessible, would help to streamline the voting process (and make it real time) and be a cool, novel feature of the event.
“Based on our guest survey and the number of taps, NFC was a huge hit. It allowed us to gather voting results in real time, which we displayed at the event, and caused a cool buzz about the leading contenders,” says Kai Mathey, VP of Communications at Tasting Table.
How it Worked
The Tagstand team tests the bracelets and readers before the event
When the 1,000 ticketed guests entered the Lobster Rumble, they were given a bracelet that had the URL tastingtable.com/vote on it. Attendees could register their unique bracelet code with their Twitter and Facebook profiles, a process that took about two minutes; about 20% of attendees did so. Aside from that little hurdle, the Tagstand bracelets were smooth sailing.
Patrons could swing by the 20 lobster roll booths to cast their vote (the first tap was the only one that counted, which was a shortcoming that lay more with the people passing out bracelets than with Tagstand). Results were displayed in real-time on a jumbo screen. Throughout the venue there were eight social media stations where wine, beer, ice cream and cocktails were passed out, and where attendees could tap their bracelets to send a message to Facebook or Twitter, like, “Cooling off with some Häagen-Dazs ice cream at the 2012 Tasting Table Lobster Roll Rumble.”
Despite this being many attendees’ first interaction with NFC, more than 90% of guests tapped their bracelet to vote for a lobster roll, and 30% of guests tapped their bracelets to vote for their favorite Don Julio cocktail (the tequila company was a sponsor), with 56 pushing to social platforms. Over the course of the three-hour event, there were 340 “social taps” (the pre-programmed tweets and Facebook posts) at the social media stations, which were located throughout the venue and at booths for Stella Artois, Celebrity Cruises, Bordeaux Wines and Haagen-Dazs. These pushes to social networks helped the Lobster Roll amplify its reach on social networks; Tagstand’s Kulveer Taggar estimates that the NFC bracelets’ messaging reached more then 33,000 people on Facebook and Twitter. Then, of course, there’s also the social reach from people who forwent linking their bracelets and instead checked in on Foursquare, posted Instagrams, tweeted and Facebooked independently of the Tagstand bracelets.
“Most guests hadn’t experienced the tech before, so a lot of their feedback on the survey highlighted how impressed they were with the technology,” says Mathey.
The innards of the NFC voting boxes
Tasting Table’s decision to use NFC had been a last-minute one — the Rumble was planned over nine months, but Tagstand was integrated only three weeks out. “The social numbers, particularly registration, weren’t as high as they could’ve been had we had more time to integrate it a bit more and have more messaging regarding the bracelets and how to register them leading up to the event,” says Mathey.
Taggar agrees. Moving forward, he says, “We want to tie the social media registration into the actual event RSVPs so that more people are connected before arriving at the event.” Had the seed been planted and the barrier to entry lowered prior to the Rumble, it’s likely there would have been even better engagement.
Despite improvements that could be made to the event logistics, Tagstand and Tasting Table’s partnership proves a practical application of NFC, suggesting that it’s a buzzword worthy of the buzz.
Have you ever used NFC at an event? Did it work well?
Images courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency, Tasting Table
Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/17/nfc-tasting-table/