NeoMedia – 2D mobile bar codes – an interview with Iain McCready, CEO

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2D mobile barcodes still an emerging industry

The BarCode News conducted an interview with Iain McCready of NeoMedia, a global leader in 2D mobile barcode technology. Despite the fact that 2D bar codes have been around for years, our conversation confirmed that this is a market only starting to find its footing. The use of 2D barcodes as a means of communication with users is just being born – the approach and responsiveness could be called one dimensional, meaning the user is merely directed to a site for more information or a coupon. It’s the 2010 version of a toll free phone number or website URL in an advertisement. Both methodologies capture the inquirers phone number, and both deliver roughly the same content. However, the 2D barcode has the advantage of being cheaper, less labor intensive and can provide an immediate benefit to the user. Additionally, it can potentially deliver stimulating multi-media content and engage the user with the level of interaction he has come to expect (crave?) in the digital age. It’s likely perceived to be more anonymous and less intrusive than an 800#, although upon close examination, that is not necessarily the case

Much Better Response Rates than Direct Mail – Faster measurement too.

We asked Mr. McCready how the effectiveness of a billboard advertisement might compare to that of a direct mail piece (a common benchmark for the rate of response of a direct mail piece is .5% one-half of one percent). Direct mailers are constantly trying to achieve and surpass this level. How does that figure compare to the response rate from a billboard with a 2D barcode ad? “Response rates are much better than direct mail” McCready replied. How much better?, we wanted to know, but McCready would not relay any specifics, citing client confidentiality.

This is a bit of data we’d like to see documented independently. Do a lot of people walking by a billboard take the time to scan it? Or is it really only the ones interested in the brand? Does it matter? What about the users seeing an ad in a magazine? Having a 2D barcode in a magazine is a means to instant gratification for the advertiser and his agency – allowing them to quickly ascertain how many people liked the ad enough to pull out their cell phone and scan it? Advertisements could be effectively tested in such a manner – by testing different headlines in different copies of magazine, matched to different bar codes – interesting results could be generated quickly. At a level beyond that, an ad campaign in multiple magazines could be conducted with unique bar codes in each publication to measure varying response rates. Marketing companies used to do that by placing different 800#s in each magazine. The results can take 45 to 60 days to materialize because of the need to wait for the next phone bill to arrive to show the data.

One striking aspect of the billboard is the significant amount of real estate taken up by the 2D barcode. It’s practically the entire board. Naturally, as McCready pointed out, the barcode being scannable is paramount, but, from this writer’s perspective, a branding opportunity is being lost. Looking at the billboard, I don’t know exactly what they are promoting – jeans, underwear, or? Am I curious enough to bother scanning? (Being fashion impaired and not having any CK in my wardrobe, I must admit I am not.) Or, if I am driving, do I dare try to whip out my smartphone, scroll to the right menu, start the application (basically having to slow down and let the software capture the image) and then view the download while I am driving away? I doubt I could do it, unless stopped at a light. If I were walking by, had the time and two free hands, yes, I could and probably would. However, NeoMedia says that this ‘large scale’ implementation is not required and it is up to the brand to determine how they want to leverage barcodes as part of their mobile media initiative. A much more modestly sized 2D bar code would have worked just as well.

Replay? Yes, but 2d barcodes not yet viral

Now, if there were a cutting edge video or some form of entertainment on the other end of this 2D barcode, I might want to be able to show it to friends or share it.

When asked about the user’s ability to replay an interesting result from a 2d barcode captured earlier, McCready thought that most 2d barcode reading software could successfully recall the code at a later time, but was not aware of a feature allowing a user to share a code with friends. Surely it is a simple thing to code a Share feature into the software app- could it be that advertisers are afraid of coupons getting wider distribution than intended? For ads that are coupons, but might be sufficiently funny or interesting enough to pass on, companies would only benefit from any type of viral marketing response.

Bigger incentives draw better – getting users to respond to the 2D barcodes.

Not surprisingly, larger incentives produce better draws. An offer of a free pizza, for users who scanned and signed into a website reportedly received an excellent response. I imagine it would. I know I’d invest fifteen to thirty minutes of time to get a free pizza. Most teenagers would invest a lot more.

Mobile loyalty – Very intriguing!

Mobile loyalty is still a nascent technology – but McCready spoke of applications already in retail stores, involving the use of cell phones for loyalty cards. In one example, customers flash their own loyalty barcode on their cell phones as they pass a scanner entering the store. This “self-scanning” lets the retailer know who is in the store and serve up customized coupons or information to the customer. I might like to try this at my favorite bookstore or even my supermarket.

NeoMedia certainly is at the forefront of the technology with a wide variety of 2D barcode applications, solutions and products for such diverse areas as mobile couponing, ticketing and direct response. NeoMedia also has a significant IP portfolio established around the emerging mobile barcode industry. The technology, while obviously still far from mature, is clearly functional in its present form and holds massive potential. We’ll be looking to report on other compelling and provocative uses of 2D mobile barcodes.

For more information about NeoMedia and their applications, visit their website at www.neom.com

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