Bar Code Art

Wow. All kinds of original barcode art, videos, animations and products. All very creative and well done. Here's a sample.


Yet more 1D barcode art

My wife just sent me this link. Quite a few creative applications of bar codes in art and advertising.


Mobiles and Campaign Discovery

I like reading mobile marketing case studies (I think it's a side effect from all the EDGE radiation I have absorbed), and Bluetooth marketing for mobiles looks pretty difficult. Plus given what I have seen it provides little benefit over barcodes in some situations. If I have to get close enough to read instructions I could have scanned a barcode instead. Even someone unfamiliar with barcodes would probably have an easier time installing an application than configuring their Bluetooth.

Since many people are still a little unsure about Bluetooth marketing, voluntary opt-in is difficult to trigger gracefully. This is less difficult with other calls-to-action like SMS/Email, barcodes and RFID where interaction requires deliberate action, but the required action is so simple that a transaction can be completed before the impulse to participate subsides.

  • SMS keywords and "empty mail" (Japan's mobile email equivalent to SMS opt-in) require the user to transmit information from some media to their device. Somewhat inconvenient, but it definitely constitutes a voluntary opt-in.
  • 2D-barcodes require the user to activate their code reader and aim their device's camera at the barcode. The device them reads the information from the media itself. Since the user does very little to facilitate the transfer of information, it would take the same amount of time to input a page of text as it does a URL. It can also be used to trigger the other forms of opt-in such as SMS, empty-mail, web access, client application download, or even further instructions or special information about a campaign. It could contain all of these at once. Granted, these are best suited for print media. People can remember an short code/keyword long after the commercial is over or the magazine is lost, but barcodes demand immediate participation unless they can take it with them (say, on a business card). Still I think the act of scanning a code is engaging rather than tedious (like typing an SMS). You can even embed extra information like what publication the ad is running in or what region the magazine was shipped to, etc. Planned well you could gather some interesting demographics this way.
  • With RFID the user must get their device deliberately close to an antenna. It is possible the use could trigger their chip accidentally, but I haven't seen this happen. RFID is a very nice blend of requiring deliberate participation while keeping the transfer mechanism super simple. "Come a little closer." The problem is that not so many devices are equipped with chips.
    Then again this is my relatively uninformed opinion.
  • Bluetooth is a little different from the others. Most of the time you are prompted to participate without initiating contact (walking or even riding your bike by a shop does not count as an opt-in). Other times you have to follow some instructions to make your device receptive to the campaign. Since many people are concerned about nasty-ware and Bluetooth security this may considered invasive and bothersome. Most of the time the mechanism is bigger than the message. All that work to get this image on my phone telling me to buy your product. If it had been an old-school print ad you might have found my way there in the time it took to get the message via Bluetooth.
"Biased"? I don't know what your talking about. Denso Banzai!

Since most phones have cameras and scanning applications are free and many, there is more of a hardware barrier to RFID than barcodes. Plus it is generally cheaper to place a print ad than a networked RFID station.

There is nothing wrong with SMS/Email opt-in, and as I mentioned barcodes can be used to facilitate these mechanisms in situations where it cannot replace them. For instance, you can scan a code and be presented with an SMS, recipient and message already filled in and ready to send. The same can be done with email. URL's, contact information, encrypted data (like on Japanese work visas), double-byte characters, control characters, and so on. Lots of possibilities, and I have a feeling that this will blow up in 2008 in Europe and the US. At least I hope so ;).



"CR" for "Colbert Response". I thought this would be a good opportunity to create an animated code and show some appreciation for Colbert Nation and The Colbert Report. I admit I got the idea by noticing how Tomi Ahonen and Stephen Colbert look a bit alike.


Improved Logo Codes

So I haven't been blogging at all lately. I've been super busy with work, moving, registering myself in yet another country, learning to dodge trams on my old-school Dutch fiets, etc. I did manage to spend a little time honing my QR and Datamatrix -branding skills. Here are a couple of them that I can share:

Now, I had good results with these codes using i-nigma, Kaywa and QuickMark on a Nokia E65 an 6120c. The BeeTagg reader (they recently added Datamatrix support) might read the MoMo Amsterdam code. Your mileage may vary. These may not be the coolest codes I can show, but they are pretty reliable even from a computer screen with no auto-focus or macro-mode. The Tomi Ahonen code is a QR-code, so all you folks living in Japan (and many of you elsewhere in Asia) know just what to do with it. The MoMo Amsterdam code is a Datamatrix code. Similar to but different from a QR-code, and your keitai might not be able to handle it. Those outside of Japan (and may some of those inside) have a nice selection of free applications to install. If you have access to a Windows machine you can scan them both with QuickMark WebCam. Actually this would be a nice replacement for those $5000 POS scanners with QR-code recognition. Freeware and a $5 web cam can do the same thing with a little programming glue.

Anyways, you can see what is possible here without introducing any new technology or code format. I admit this treatment may detract from the code's readability, but if you are careful you can strike a good balance of branding and functionality. The symbology that is readable to machines becomes meaningful to humans. Out of context, I would bet that given a choice people would rather scan a branded code, as they have some idea of where it goes. These branded codes are less reliant on surrounding context to give them a meaning and promote familiarity.

With QR you can include text in multiple languages, add links to take users to mobile web pages or prompt them to SMS, email or call. They can also be used as a replacement for SMS in some cases, especially print media. Mobile coupons, product information, ticketing, real-world connections to digital services, contact information, game pieces, and on and on. I hope to see an advertising campaign that includes 2D bar codes integrated into urban art. I think it would look cool to overlay some graffiti over a QR-code that gave information about the artist, their portfolio site, whatever. Yep, that would be cool. Maybe someone will do it...