What’s the True Value of Code/Image Scanning Technologies?

This is Part 1 in a multi-part series this week on Mobile Scanning Technologies. I think these types of technologies are powerful in the “new” OOH because they bridge the offline (real-world) with the online (virtual world). And the “new” OOH, to me, is all about connecting others with the places and things around them AND each other.

Today, I’m going to focus on two different (yet conceptually same) technologies – code scanning & image scanning. I’ve written about these types of technologies ad nauseum this year.

I can’t tell you how many discussions I have in our office about adoption of these technologies and their true value. I’m on the side of the fence that sees great potential in their ability to drive consumers deeper into brand experiences by bridging the offline with the online. Others are on the side of the fence that asks, “why not just use a URL?”

Here’s my simple response – if it’s the same exact content that you’d send someone to, via the URL or through the code, the code isn’t that valuable. If the code enables consumers to “unlock” special content that couldn’t otherwise be accessed, then the code is extremely valuable. The crux of it to me lies in content. So, my question back is, “what’s the content strategy?”

These codes, just being used for technology’s sake, do very little good. They don’t enable a great experience and more importantly, they don’t offer up value to the consumer. However, when they can deliver content that enables a valuable experience – oh, by the way, in a unique way – then, they can be very powerful. The sheer ability to instantly drive a consumer into an interactive (sometimes, social) experience from an otherwise static advertisement is profound in its power. Problem is, we’ve not seen many brands create the type of experience that makes a profound impact. I’m convinced that it can be done.

What are your thoughts? Which side of the fence are you on?

Stay tuned for more….

5 thoughts on “What’s the True Value of Code/Image Scanning Technologies?

  1. Paul Flanigan


    I think the real potential for code scanning and imagine lies in connecting the digital dots. You’re very right – alone, these types of technologies are inconsequential. However, when used to link different touch points together, they do a couple of things. First, they help guide the customer down the path he or she has chosen because they help enable an individual experience. Second, they make the experience itself cohesive and understandable.

    During the content strategy meetings, one of the biggest questions to ask is, “Okay, how are we going to tie this all together?” The answer is right here: Scanning technology.

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  3. Brian Hasenbauer

    Nice piece.. as with most new technologies it’s important to make sure that it’s being used in a way that makes sense from both the users perspective and for the venue (in the case of DOOH).

    The challenge that we have seen with QR Codes, JagTags and so forth is that we are not sure they make sense when displayed on an LCD screen in a restaurant. We have tested QR codes internally on our screens and found that most smartphone cameras / QR readers pick up only from a very short distance and we are not sure that we want the diners (our viewers) going up to the screens with their smart phones to capture a QR code. Even though our viewers are in the restaurant for approximately 25 minutes the programming loop doesn’t keep anything on the screen for long enough for a diner to get up out of their seat, grab their phone and walk to the screen.

    Sending a text message is a different story. They can be seated, read the message and text within the 30 seconds that the spot is airing (or remember the short code and keyword and send later). There are also no special instructions required to text as with some QR type codes (JagTag and Microsoft for starters). Not sure I want to add another layer of complication such as “Download the app from XYZ.com, install the app and then take a picture of this code and email or text it to XZY.com”.

    All of that being said… we use QR codes in our sales presentations and when we are doing trade shows since we know that the viewer will either receive a printed piece (where QR codes truly belong), be close enough to the screens (and in a somewhat controlled environment) or will see the code on the screen long enough (like in their keynote / ppt presentation that we give them).

    Yes, the age of the QR code is here.. the challenge we all face is the best applications for it’s use. For indoorDIRECT.. not sure it makes sense on the screens. But we have something else in mind for increasing interaction with our viewers. But you have to wait and see.

    Take care.

  4. Mike Cearley Post author

    Paul – agreed, these technologies are a powerful connector. Too bad there are so many of them – codes + readers. I think the biggest barrier is not getting brands on board, but showing their value to consumers. Thanks for stopping by and your comments!

  5. Mike Cearley Post author

    Brian – thanks for your comments. I couldn’t agree more re: QR codes digital to digital use. I think they’re a powerful bridge between the offline (non-digital) and online (digital) world. However, when on a digital screen, particularly a place-based screen, I think they could be powerful in delivering a deeper place-based experience via more targeted content. NFC will probably change the landscape completely, and then I think there’s even more possibilities for a valuable digital to digital experience.

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