One of the fundamental changes of digital technology is that now everything is interactive. The ability to either embed or connect to information can be associated with not only digital objects but analog ones as well. Some examples:
- For years billboards have the ability to recognize a car and broadcast a message to you. Minis and leaky FM signals are but two examples.
- As the cost came down and smart phone penetration increased, the ability to communicate shifted to very specific interactions. The use of 2D bar codes (QR, Smart Tag, etc) allowed information be presented based on an explicit action of a consumer. These found their way in to print, outdoor and other flat surfaces where the link to a web site added to the information retrieval process. The TomTom example links a physical product to an iPhone App that makes the experience better. Since home shoppers often browse for products being shown on TV HSN embedded a QR code in the TV feed to make it easier to launch a mobile site. And for a creative resume/CV see this one. The QR code was developed in the automobile manufacturing arena to track parts – not as an advertising vehicle – and thus has a fairly linear range of functionality.
- Now we're starting to see interactions that aren't just about information retrieval but executing some type of transaction. Near Field Computing (NFC) moves the interaction from device-to-device by embedding RFID chips into various objects – like movie posters. Imagine sharing contact info, photos etc, by simply holding phones near each other- or better yet making a purchase. Google has already moved toward NFC and way from codes in part because of capabilities and in part because of user experience; there is a lot of discussion around this topic. With ISIS picking Salt Lake City as one of its test markets, we will have a front row seat. Google Wallet is the alternative.
- Paid Media: the ability to link to video or other information that a flat surface can't provide will remain attractive for QR codes, particularly since they are very cheap to produce and distribute. Like its predecessor, the UPC, the QR code is simply printed. So expect some sort of launching pad to remain in the retail, entertainment and food service business. Here is a list of examples for use on wine bottles.
- Owned Media: as a publisher, marketers have a an opportunity to take the idea to another level by creating tighter links between consumer and activity. With the price of a chip in the $1 range, the distribution of NFC can't be mass but should be targeted – posters, high-end catalogs and magazines, brochures etc. This also minimizes the impact of low penetration for NFC-enabled phones.
- Earned Media: enabling the sharing of content, via either technology, remains a distinct goal and either technology can support it. For an interesting beer commercial see Carlsberg's recent edition; they should have NFC on those bottles.