Brand owners turning to mobile tags

22 June 2010

NEW YORK: Companies such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are now adding special barcodes to packaging that consumers can scan with a mobile phone to discover more information about their products.

PepsiCo recently announced the "first-ever branded page experience" with Stickybits, a specialist technology start-up in this area, as it seeks to leverage this emerging channel.

Shoppers that download a Stickybits app to an iPhone or Android-powered device can scan the appropriate code to access content such as videos, as well as uploading their own material.

More specifically, the food and beverage giant will attach "bits" to goods from its trademark cola brand, allowing customers to gain an insight into the Pepsi Refresh Project.

It will also affix these digital tools to certain offerings made by Frito-Lay, which will supply details of schemes such as the snack manufacturer's alliance with local farmers.

PepsiCo has also assembled a "council of leaders" in the area of social media and corporate social responsibility to assess how this medium can be exploited further going forward.

"There is something so potent here, such a huge opportunity in using universal codes that are already out there," said Bonin Bough, director of social media at PepsiCo.

"Everything we interact with in the physical world can now be part of conversational media. Someone can scan in the US and someone can scan in Asia and be part of the same conversation."

Coca-Cola is also running a pilot initiative that enables consumers to take a picture of a barcode with their handset, and then watch videos and read the opinions of other customers.

This effort is linked to a campaign that centres around the "secret formula" created by Coke's founder Doc Pemberton, which also has gaming, social networking and viral elements.

Campbell Soup will roll out a similar programme with Stickybits in July tied to the launch of new packaging and soups, and will hold competitions via this novel marketing format.

"People will realize the products around them have stories and will interact with them," said Seth Goldstein, chairman of Stickybits.

"At a certain point they won't even need a code. The phone will recognize the object based on image recognition."

Microsoft operates a similar system, called Tag, to that offered by Stickbits, with one billion businesses and individuals having taken advantage of this platform since January last year.

Some 20 million magazines containing these gadgets were sold in the US in April alone, with Condé Nast one high-profile publisher that has utilised this tool.

At present, Microsoft is providing a free service through which firms can generate Tags, as well as developing a variety of "value-added" options like analytics and real-time location functions.

"We can imagine a world where any physical object can become a gateway to a world of digital content and engagement," said Aaron Getz, general manager of Microsoft Tag.

"Whether it's Golf Digest demonstrating the perfect swing, Fearless Records connecting fans to new music and info about their favorite bands ... or a Tag on your morning box of Wheaties – Tag is increasingly making the world around us 'clickable'."

Data sourced from Brandweek/Microsoft; additional content by Warc staff