Quite a Reach Into Space and Into Consumers

It seems that someone is reaching toward the skies with an intense hope that people will care. When launching a new product or service, companies need to look at where their product falls within the bell curve of relevancy. Sometimes, the launch of something that might have seemed cool when a sector was really hot raises more questions when it is released in a murky landscape with the only thing possibly going for it is a “quasi-cool” factor. With technology trends and marketing gimmicks, the path to relevancy is even trickier.  Such is the case with Phillips & Co’s new product named Blue Marble – where they place QR codes on roofs of buildings for consumers to view via Google Earth and Google Maps.

First off, QR codes had a huge buzz a few years ago with very little in the way of returns.  The uptick in usage among consumers once they warmed up to QR codes never really happened.  It seems lie a matter of people not really understanding what QR codes really do and marketers not really giving a strong return for people who actually attempt to participate.  A Russel Herder study found that 72% of consumers had seen a QR code, but nearly 30% have no idea what it is.  A few weeks ago, I saw a cool QR code on Brick Lane in London that had the code made of a bunch of individual pictures.  Unfortunately, the code didn’t work for me. I generated more interest for it by standing there trying to get it to work than it might have on its own.

Close UpFull QR Code

Secondly, many people who are using Google Earth or Maps are looking for something specific.  While a number of campaigns have been executed with placement in both of these outlets (we’ve executed a few over the past three years) the participation is extremely low – with the only excitement possibly being from the vendors who built the campaign or the executives they were sold to.  To try to get users to do something ulterior to their original usage intent in this situation is a major challenge that, if successful, better provide something of real value.  Perhaps if that were to happen more consistently – if at all – we might see more of a reason to incorporate campaigns into these outlets.

Which leads us to Phillips & Co’s offer to paint these codes on the roof of buildings.  In a way, it is somewhat similar to selling a piece of property in the Everglades – it’s just not there.  The gimmick is fine and I imagine there will be buyers trying to get some traction off the buzz factor.  The cost for installation is relatively small, but that doesn’t count how much it might be to rent the rooftop space or build out the product users will see when scanning the code. But, there is no telling when the images will begin appearing within the system (believed to be within three months) and you also need to have something compelling if anybody should actually try to capture the code.

One of the major challenges with this type of technology is that its something new and some standards need to be met.  When the early adopters check something out and it’s not really cool, it can have a huge effect on the larger adoption.  When QR codes first started coming out a few years ago, vendors were talking about how cool the execution was without ensuring that the end product was as cool as the possibilities suggested.  A lot had to do with the technical challenges, but others had to do with the buzz about the new distribution point on its own without any care for what it was really distributing.

In this case, it’s a Phillips & Co came up with something that made more sense a while ago, but I fear it might be coming too late in the game.  It is really a stretch to get people to participate with QR codes posted in the real world, let alone within the digital world.  Maybe it is too early to discern whether QR codes will pick up the traction it needs to be anything more than a gimmick – and programming behind the codes will fill the gap between what is imagined and what is currently available. Perhaps the best client for these would be the actual companies who have large buildings with QR code programs in place already – where they would only have to pay the $8500 fee for placement and then the ability to say they are marketing to space.  And then they can wait for the Martians to come down with their code readers in hand.