Innovation: Mobile digital barcode readers
The internet and other advancements in digital technology have posed major challenges to traditional print media and print advertising.
However, now new technology associated with digital barcode readers on mobile phones could provide a way for print media to connect readers to digital content, expanding the value of the printed product.
Barcode readers and applications are available for just about every smart phone on the market, said Sara Santiago, president of Milwaukee-based Roll Mobile.
“Digital readers and QR codes are not widely implemented here in the U.S,” Santiago said. “But what people don’t realize is that they are already wildly popular in the mobile space in Europe and Asia.”
The United States could catch up soon, Santiago said.
“Market research reports indicate that two thirds of companies in the U.S. are planning to launch a digital initiative before the end of 2010, and most of them are going to include some QR code capabilities,” she said.
QR codes are one of many types of customizable barcodes that can be scanned for digital content on a smart phone. Microsoft Tag Reader and an application called StickyBits are other popular types.
“I think we are going to see digital content take over print,” Santiago said. “There are a lot of people that see a lot of value in direct mail pieces and print advertising, and the use of digital barcodes that contain video clips or website destinations could breathe new life into that medium.”
Laura Gainor, public relations and social media strategist at Milwaukee-based Comet Branding, has explored the use of StickyBits for many of Comet Branding’s clients and says she sees a lot of opportunity in the technology.
“There are so many possibilities in how it can be used,” Gainor said. “Companies can see when and where the barcodes were scanned and even who is scanning them. It’s a unique tracking opportunity and one that sets it apart from traditional print media.”
Customizable barcodes, tags and readers can be created online and design elements can also be implemented into codes as well.
“It doesn’t have to look like a traditional barcode,” Gainor said. “You can add company logos, text and design elements to make it your own.”
Milwaukee-based Finn Digital recently developed a tag reader service called BoothTag that enhances interaction and creates micro-local communities within a tradeshow exhibition floor. They piloted the program at this year’s BizTech Conference and Expo. The service is centered on exhibitors creating digital profiles that are attached to a Microsoft Tag. Attendees can then scan an exhibitor’s tag and automatically have any information the exhibitor decided to attach to the tag.
StickyBits uses a traditional barcode format so digital content, pictures and comments can be added to anything with a barcode, Gainor said.
“The opportunity lies in that the more people use StickyBits and attach comments and reviews to products they purchase in a store, the more useful it will be as a customer product review at the point of purchase,” she said.
Digital profiles or website content can be attached to barcodes that can be placed on business cards, advertisements, bill boards or even works of art, Gainor said.
“We’re working with clients to implement barcode technology into a lot of their businesses,” Gainor said. “But the possibilities are endless.”
Comet Branding partner Al Krueger says artists could implement barcodes along with their paintings or sculptures to give a buyer an idea of the creation process and the real story behind the piece.
“We see a lot of opportunity in the technology,” Krueger said. “It’s about giving an expanded digital experiences to things that traditionally would be two dimensional.”
Santiago is working with some of her firm’s retail clients to implement some of the bar code technology in future campaigns as well.
“It’s a great way to create a conversation for whatever the barcode is attached to,” Santiago said. “If I can scan a barcode and get more information about a product or service that ultimately convinces me to purchase that product or service, that becomes a meaningful part of any business’ data.”