Success in online advertising for large brands is usually determined in equal parts by having an idea that creates revenue or brand buzz and the ability to execute it in a way or on a platform that no one has ever done before. Those two things are linked because when you pioneer a new media or platform it translates into millions of dollars in free press which translates into brand buzz which translates into revenue. It’s a trend in advertising that is unique to the digital world because TV, radio and print ads live within the strict parameters of their mediums and don’t have the ability to create new advertising platforms that can connect with consumers in a totally new way. So as a result huge amounts of ad agency and client time are spent in the constant race to find the new shiny platform that will help set their brand apart from all the others in the increasingly crowded digital landscape.
Because modern branding is about having a conversation with the consumer and social media doesn’t require each brand to build their own unique platform to have that conversation much of this effort recently has been focused on that medium. The challenge for marketers is that you can see a trend over the evolution of social media where we need to participate less and less in the social media platforms to generate content. For the majority of society social media started with Facebook and it’s a long form check-ins and the ability to let you determine the list of friends that could see your updates. Twitter then shortened that check-in to just 140 characters and removed approval process so anyone could see your updates. Four Square then removed the need to type anything to create a check in by making it all location based and split the approval process so you can have some friends who see all your check-ins but at the same time anyone can see a check-in for a specific location.
So where do we go from here? What is the next evolution in social media? I am going to bet that we are going to continue to see the trend I outlined before continue and we are going to move from location based check-in to a more product focused approach with object based check-in. Enter StickyBits which launched at South by Southwest Interactive in March. It’s an iPhone and Android based application that lets you associate videos, photos, text or audio to real-world objects through barcodes.
Stickybits made the very smart decision to base their platform on something that that every product in every store already has. North American consumers aren’t as accepting of new technology like what you see in Asia. When you used a QR code you first had the challenge of having to create awareness among your consumer base to what the code is and then how to use it. From there the technology was hindered by never having an internal unified platform and each experience varied wildly after you scanned the code. You would usually receive some form of simple mobile experience that was very light on content instead of the rich content you get with Stickybits.
You download the free StickyBits app and scan a barcode which is either a unique codes obtained from StickyBits or from barcode already on a product. The application processes the code and then you can upload a geo-tagged piece of content that is tied to your social media profile or view what others have already uploaded. The problem with this when it first launched was that there was no ability to differentiate between brand and user created content and content was simply listed in the order in which it was posted. That problem was fixed the week with the release of their updated application that can distinguish between the two types on content and now lists ‘branded bits’ accordingly. PepsiCo has signed up to be the first sponsor to take advantage of this new feature so when you scan can of Pepsi you now get a video about the Pepsi’s Refresh project before seeing all the bits associated with that object. Other Pepsi products like Lay’s potato chips will soon be joining in as well.
So while no one can predict the future, I think the combination of using barcodes as a universally available entry point, rich media content and having packaged goods clients means this technology has the potential to explode far faster than what we have seen with other recent social media darlings like FourSquare.