Barcodes and Marketing

I thought I knew of a lot of companies purveying their own (or a partner's or parent company's) 2D barcode technology, but I didn't know the half of it. It's pretty amazing how much marketing potential these things have. Even so, while everyone is scrambling to differentiate themselves and position their dot box in a rapidly crowding market they are overselling the whole idea of mobile barcodes.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's really cool that countries besides Japan and Korea are seeing this as an alternative to SMS-based content discovery channels. Plus they can look cool, in the right light I guess. They are getting covered more in the media, even mainstream, non-keitai-freak news. I referenced a story in Financial Times about how mobile industry leaders are taking this technology seriously a few posts ago. A few days ago the New York Times ran a story about how this new technology can communicate with your mobile and included their very own barcode using Neomedia's qode the Aztec 2D-barcode format.

Great. So everyone agrees that it has potential.

Lateley I have seem some blogging about Trillcode and their ability to add logos to their codes.

Adding logos close to the code is possible with almost any code format including QR-code. How different is the Trillcode above different from these examples?

left to right: QR Code generated by Moji-Q Maker , Bee Tagg, standard QR-Code with a little embelishment

If brandability is the goal, then I would recommend an mcode.

They work in a variety of shapes (square, rectangle, L-shaped) and can use multiple colors in the pattern to help match the brand. However, the code that has the most potential in this arena is Colorzip. While most of these that you see look like this:

They can also look like this:

Still cooler is stuff like what Mobot has going on. While other mobile scanning tech is meant to give your phone a "real-world connection", mobot is trying to do that without the use of dot boxes.

Some of the marketing-oriented code formats (Shotcode and Colorzip for instance) can only hold a reference ID and actual data retrieval requires a connection to a server. I suppose this is a combination of wanting to stay in control of usage and keeping less-optimized codes.

Many marketing scenarios proposed would work better (or at least be more convenient to the user) with RFID or Bluetooth approaches. For instance, it is difficult to scan stuff on-the-go. Take out your phone, start the app, maybe a second menu to navigate and now your are ready to scan. Maybe a quick-launch or running in the background would help you scan those codes while you are rushing about.
Granted, Bluetooth and RFID are more expensive, but for the on-the-go situations they are much more convenient. Suica in Japan, for instance, lets you pay for your train ticket on your way through the turnstile. Just get your card or suitably-equipped mobile close enough to the sensor and you are good to go. Can you imagine the lines if everyone had to scan a code to pay? It would be easier to just buy a regular ticket. The example the NYT gave of people driving around scanning bar codes of houses seems kinda ridiculous to me.
The point is that RFID and Bluetooth (and other such technologies) are better suited to some scenarios. If they are driving by it, Bluetooth. If they are walking by it, RFID. If are standing by it or holding it, then barcodes would work (and definitely be cheaper ;)). The idea of someone having an auto accident because they were trying to scan a billboard is pretty ridiculous.


Japan's Cellphone Edge

Just came across this great blog about the mobile industry in Japan. Lots of good market data and news coverage.

Mobile groups study barcode plan

Ok, I have been rehashing month-old 2D barcode news for a while now, and would like to throw a few other topics into the mix. With all the travelling back and forth between Amsterdam and Tokyo I haven't had much time for blogging, but I plan to update more frequently. But first one last mention of the goings on for mobile barcodes.

Financial Times reported (a month ago ;)) that on 27 February "Leading mobile communications companies" would be meeting to discuss the future of 2D barcodes in the mobile advertising market. One interesting thing mentioned is that DuPont plans to put these codes on all their products shipped worldwide. This will create "internet enabled" physical objects resulting in an "internet of things" according to a quote from Charles Fritz, chairman of Neomedia.

I also found out from the article (I am sure everyone else already knew :P) that there is a Mobile Codes Consortium (or
MC2). I would guess that QR-code is the format of choice (I think I saw one on their web site) since I did not see any references to specific types of barcodes up for consideration in the article. Then again, Neomedia is a member of the consortium. Anyway, interesting to continually see more support for this technology outside of Asia.


Lots o' free stuff out there...

Mobile web technology is maturing fast. It's also becoming cheap and available as carriers, device manufacturers, browser developers, commercial software developers and the OSS community make and increasing number of tools, libraries, frameworks, device profile databases, rendering engines and media transcoders available to the masses. Most of today's popular scripting languages now have at least a few mobile-oriented modules available. Even Firefox has a few extensions that are specifically intended as tools for mobile development.

These days most people who can build a PC web application can make that application mobile without too much more effort. Even the carriers are beginning to open their portals (or parts of them anyway) to the general public. With all this technology freely available and the industry hype about .mobi, "convergence" and mobile SNS's the mobile web will probably get a lot more love and an injection of creativity from developers and subscribers alike as the technical and financial barriers to entering the mobile space are lowered.