Microsoft takes on QR codes

Picture 7.pngA couple of weeks ago I posted an update and video demo showing how QR (quick response) codes work. Today, I was pointed to a separate Microsoft version of the technology. It's called Microsoft Tag. The way it works is identical to the QR code system (download an app, take a photo, decode the photo through a gateway and deliver you the content).

Where QR codes came out of technology and manufacturing, this new system is coming into the world with a consumer-friendly push. The site is easy to use, shows the value of the service in terms that consumers can understand and provides a direct link to have the software download page sent to your device. The iPhone app has worked well in my trials.

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The same Microsoft system enables marketers to create the codes through a central interface, track engagement through usage and render code images in a very easy manner. The application asks for your location (not sure if this is shared back to the marketer or Microsoft).

Here is a video demo of the Tag technology.

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However, with the excitement around this system the same challenges exist for Microsoft as for other providers. There is a lack of education about this in the public and software readers are scarce.

Real world example

97200020-E04D-4DE7-9C8D-5E5D7581BDE8.jpgJust as an example of the kind of linkage you can get with this technology, I saw a QR code in the wild the other day when I was in a movie theatre. The cardboard standup for the movie "Notorious" had two of these codes on it. The code linked the user to the movie's trailer on YouTube and the revelation that people had when I showed them how I just linked the physical marketing to the online was amazing.

Could a move by Google embed this into the mainstream? What if all US carriers started installing this software standard? What would you use it for in an existing campaign? How are you engaging people offline to bring them online?

This isn't a short-term answer, but it does get you thinking.

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Voiceless, spoken communication

Now this is pretty cool and I just have to share. I found the following video on Marc Andreesson's blog and it blew my mind (as it did his). These guys have developed a way to intercept and translate speech before it gets to your vocal chords so you don't need to say what you are thinking, you just have to think it. Check out the video below.

This is very cool technology and may well shape the way we engage with technology in the future. You could be sitting at your desk and just think things like "open Microsoft Word" and it would open. You could create thought to text software that would actually work because the words are pre-digitized. This could possibly enable speech impaired individuals to communicate "vocally".

What other implications will technology like this have on our day-to-day lives?

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Virtual worlds colliding with traditional ones

I was watching a little primetime TV last night and saw a spot by Toyota for their Tundra line of trucks. The 30 second spot features the virtual world/video game World of Warcraft (WoW), but even if you're not familiar with the WoW you can pretty easily follow along. I think it's very progressive of them to use this concept and I'm sure it's reaching the younger male audience that they're targeting. Here it is if you have not seen it.

Another example of virtual worlds coming to mainstream is the October 24 episode of CSI: NY. In the episode a parallel Second Life experience will allow users to interact in a whodunit of unprecedented proportions. Users will be able to log in to SL and walk through the crime lab, process evidence and try to catch the killer.

Both of these endeavors by such large companies show me that they believe virtual worlds are at a tipping point for their target audiences. I imagine this type of integration will become more common in certain audience demographics as the technology gets easier to use and the experience becomes more easily accessible.

This definitely appeals to a pretty narrow audience, but it's a very hip, young, connected, tech-savvy one. Have you seen any other examples of this type of virtual world integration? What other brands lend themselves to this type of hook given the audience?

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I was bluespammed

bluespammed.jpgI was walking through the upper west side in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago when I felt my phone buzz on my hip. I had my hands full with my camera and a venti coffee from Starbucks so I let it go to voicemail. A few blocks later I finished my coffee and grabbed my phone to see who called. To my wonderment I saw a bluetooth connection request from a merchant I had walked past. I even took the picture you see in this post because it caught me so off-guard.

I've posted about bluespamming before, but this is the first time it happened to me. It is a very risky, short-term tactic for companies to engage in and could potentially cause some damage to the brand (unless you're a marketer who doesn't care about your branding). Mobile phones are still very personal for a lot of people. They don't want tele-marketers calling them, rogue text messages or unsolicited bluetooth offers.

I also just came across this post at Helen Keegan's blog which is a great read for marketers thinking about this risky and untested space. In her example, HSBC bank is trying it out in the UK to both of our amazement.

The low cost of this tactic is enticing to many companies and it's only going to get worse I fear. But, this is spam no matter how you dice it. So unless you have the license to send messages to every single phone (like you own the company and the employee phones) you are going to tick people off and damage your reputation.

If you're smart, stay away from this invasive, unrequested form of marketing. If you're innovative, consider (for example) creating an SMS campaign which you promote on a sidewalk ad in front of your store. Tell people that for an immediate X% discount, send a message to your shortcode and show the cashier the reply message. This way you're using technology, but the user is pulling you in.

UPDATE: I read this article on, via, and the tone of the article paints this as a "mobile ad push". NO! This is spamming. No ifs, ands or buts. Please people. Just say no to unsolicited messaging.

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Mobile marketing 101: Geographic targeting, bluespamming

Monday I wrote about smart-targeting based on geography and technologies like GPS and SMS. Customers, in that case, would have signed up, confirmed their opt-in and set their preferences for receiving messages.

The other form of geographic targeting is also proximity based (where you only get messages when you're in a physical range of the transceiver), but it's not specifically targeted to your device and you probably didn't ask for it. This is happening now where stores are using Bluetooth technology to push their messages to anyone who walks past. The term is 'bluespamming' or 'bluecasting'. (See this great post by Helen Keegan of Beep Marketing for her take.)


For marketers, this is tempting because of its simplicity (set up a bluetooth server that constantly sends out your message to anyone who walks by), but it's as unethical as email spamming in the lack of user permission. The technology isn't the problem, it is the usage in this case. If marketers leveraged the smart-targeting example and asked permission this could be very successful and probably more cost effective to set up and manage.

Bluetooth has limited range, but for shops with a lot of pedestrian traffic nearby this could be a great model. This is sure to start popping up in the US now that Bluetooth is becoming standard issue on most phones, but it doesn't seem like a viable long-term solution to mobile marketing.

Past Mobile Marketing 101 posts:

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The bleeding edge: QR codes

img.pngAlthough QR (quick response) codes have been around since the mid-90s in Japan (born from manufacturing), they have only recently come into the mainstream consumer's focus. Japanese mobile consumers are using these codes along with special software and their phone's camera to shortcut having to type information into a mobile browser. (The QR code to the right is the URL for this blog in QR symbology.)

These codes are creeping up online, in magazines and newspapers and even on TV to allow users to quickly jump to their website or share a host of other information. All a person has to do is point their phone at the code and it knows what to do, taking the user to the end destination. See for yourself and create one using this generator.

Realistically, the success rate of something like this in the US is going to be equally proportional to the number of US mobile subscribers who use mobile web. Right now that number is low (but growing). Without a support base of subscribers who find entering information into their phones difficult, this could go the way of the Cuecat.

Here is a video of it in action, you may not be able to read what it says, but you'll see how it works.

Competition is out there (see this post on Engadget) and although QR is an ISO standard, it is not a universally agreed upon convention. Interesting to note, there are also 3D versions of these codes which are capable of storing 1.8Mb of data. That could be a document, small music file or short video clip. Imagine the possibilities. Walk into a store, see a CD you like, scan the code and possibly listen to a clip of the track right there.

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