Life is Like a Box of (virtual) Chocolates

Life is becoming more and more interactive right in front of our eyes.  Today’s installment brought to you through mobile interactivity.  One of the most popular forms of mobile interaction, centered around our lives and connections, is geo-location based services like Gowalla and Foursquare.

I personally play both of them, and I emphasize “play.”  Not only do they provide another source of social connection, but they enable a game-like experience in my life.  (I’ve also helped implement one of the first B2C experiences in Gowalla, a trend with both of them that is now picking up more steam.)

New to the game, both literally and figuratively, is Stickybits.

Stickybits is fascinating.  The technology is centered around bar codes – these “stickybits” – to which people can attach photos, videos, and/or written word.  In essence, they enable any real-world object to easily be made into social objects, ones that can be shared, passed around, commented on, connected through – anything, really, that you can imagine sharing with someone, just through a simple barcode.  (You can either buy barcodes from Stickybits or you can use existing barcodes and download the Stickybits app, which is only available on iPhone and Android right now.)

As an example, think of a birthday card (which has a barcode).  Instead of signing a long, drawn-out message on this birthday card, I can record a special video message and attach it to the card.  Then, I can pass it around to others in the office for them to attach their special message to it.  Then, when the recipient receives the card, they can scan the barcode and experience everyone’s messages.  Cool, eh?

Think now, of applying/using user reviews.  If I want to see what others have said about a new pair of tennis shoes before I buy them, I can scan the barcode and see a list of user reviews, provided someone has started the “string.”  If not, I can create the review myself and attach it to the code for others to see who come after me.

There are cool things that you can do as the initiator of this string – you’re basically the moderator of all content posted thereafter.  Anyone who contributes to the string can receive automatic updates and become even more involved in the (virtual) conversation.

From a brand’s perspective, this should be really exciting.  Any packaged good that they produce has a barcode.  They can easily attach a brand message or a special call-to-action or exclusive content for all who come into contact with that product to experience.  You want to attach a special message from a thought-leader, or an executive at the company?  No problem.  You want users to vote on a particular flavor of soda (Mountain Dew)?  No problem.  You want Tom Hanks to deliver a Forrest Gump-like anecdote on that box of chocolates?  No problem.

I talk often about the power of merging the offline with the online.  It’s really what the 11th Screen is all about.  This technology not only enables that real-time merging, but it provides connection, interactivity, and a little fun.

4 thoughts on “Life is Like a Box of (virtual) Chocolates

  1. Colin Alsheimer

    Really intrigued by Stickybits. I remember seeing them in the SXSW schwag bags, but never spent much time investigating.

    My question is, in order to attach content to a bar code, does it have to be produced by Stickybits first, or, does Stickybits allow you to attach content to any barcode?

    I like seeing more companies creating products that integrate online and offline experiences. I do think that’s where the true power of digital & social lies. As Tim Hayden said in a presentation to SMC Dallas – people don’t want to spend all day in front of a screen. They want to be social and have engaging experiences.

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  3. Mike Cearley Post author

    Good to hear from you, Colin. Tim’s POV is always great. He’s a solid advocate for pushing this merger. Regarding the content – you’ve got to have the app. Once you have it, you can either use Stickybits-created barcodes (that you can buy) or any regular barcode (which is really the exciting thing.) The power is in the application, not the barcode. I just read an article about how Stickybits is playing to brands now, not just consumers:

    Brands can now be the “moderators” for their products, not the consumers, which is good and bad. I don’t think the challenge here is going to be brand adoption more than breaking the old paradigm that barcodes don’t “do” anything other than generate a price, certainly not for the consumer.

  4. Colin Alsheimer

    Just read the Econsultancy article. It does a great job of explaining the potential of Stickybits. I’m very intrigued now. Seems like it could be a powerful tool for product focused brands. I could see online retailers like Amazon making good use of Stickybits content to complement user reviews on site.

    That said – I question its ability to generate mass appeal. Seems like there would need to be a ton of consumer education for people to really understand how to use Stickybits, or even how to make it a part of their daily habits. If we think about how long its taken mainstream audiences to understand Twitter & Foursquare, which are relatively simple, it could be a long road ahead for Stickybits.

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