A high ranking success

HP Labs' Rankr service helps a youth marketing campaign stand out

Visiting scholar
Yarun Luon

Last fall, researchers in HP Labs’ Social Computing Research Group were looking for a real world testing bed for Rankr, a novel social ranking engine that they’d created.

HP Sweden, meanwhile, was hoping to engage a youth audience that loves to swap music and pictures as well as take part in social games.

The two were connected by the HP.com FutureWorks group – a unit within HP.com that fosters innovation in marketing for the HP brand – and the result was a highly successful national marketing campaign that ran during the 2011 holiday season. Overall, the campaign produced a 100% rise in customer engagement at the HP Sweden Facebook page, increased page ‘likes’ by 126% and vaulted comments by a remarkable 900%.

Rankr employs crowdsourcing to rank large sets of items, explains Yarun Luon of HP Labs. “Give us a collection of ideas, photos, anything really,” he says, “and we can show you how they stack up.”

To do that, Rankr shows people two of the set of items, such as pictures, being ranked, and asks them to decide which one they prefer. After they’ve voted, each person is presented with another pair to choose between. People can vote as many or as few times as they like. In the background, an algorithm takes all the votes that have been made across all users and intelligently chooses the interesting pair. As a result, by leveraging the votes of the crowd, large sets of items can be efficiently and accurately ranked while at the same time minimizing the number of comparisons any one person needs to make.

Crucially, says Thierry Combes of the HP.com FutureWorks team, it’s also fun. “Rather than just letting people on a Facebook page say, ‘I like this picture among many,’ this allows us to create a kind of competition between two items – and people like to be able to decide between them.”

That’s especially true of the young demographic that HP Sweden was looking to attract in a campaign highlighting the audio quality of HP’s laptops, adds Johnny Kroneld, business manager for HP’s PC business unit that ran the campaign.

Facebook app using Rankr

“Young people love to listen to and share music but they don’t have a strong sense of the value of good sound quality,” Kroneld says. “We wanted to help them better understand the notion of sound quality that comes with the Beats Audio® software on HP laptops, and by using Rankr we were able do that in a way that was both creative and unlike what other companies have done.”

In the promotion, Swedish music fans were invited to go to HP Sweden’s Facebook page and post pictures and captions of their favorite “Beats Audio Moment” – a picture showing them listening to or creating music. Visitors were then encouraged to vote for their favorite pictures – with the winning posters receiving an HP Pavilion dv6 outfitted with Beats Audio®. In addition, users who voted on at least 10 pairs of pictures received a 30% discount on HP accessories.

While the campaign was clearly a success for HP Sweden, it also helped drive HP’s research, says HP Labs’ Luon.

“Having specific user requirements was very, very valuable,” he reports. “The constant feedback from HP business teams in terms of what features they needed also made our application much more practical for use in the real world.”

A lot of companies still have fairly simple interactions with followers on Facebook, notes Kroneld.

“ This was more advanced and a bit closer to how people like to use social media, and perhaps not something people were expecting from HP,” he says. “I’d like to see us develop this further and do even more projects like it.”