AT&T’s Tom Sawyer Approach To Barcodes

AT&T's Tom Sawyer Approach To BarcodesMischievous Tom Sawyer got the other boys to paint a fence for him because he was able to convince them, “It’s fun!” AT&T is doing something similar while, laudably, attempting to get mobile barcodes more widely accepted by American consumers.

Today Big Blue announced AT&T Mobile Barcode Services, which works across multiple platforms. For businesses, as to be expected,┬áthere’s a code management platform to create, manage, and measure mobile barcodes campaign experiences. But more interesting is how the barcode offerings target consumers directly.

First, there’s an app that lets consumers scan 2D and 1D barcodes in print, on store signage, and at online sites, “unlocking new ways to experience the world,” as the company phrases it. Then there’s the Create-a-Code service, which allows consumes to create mobile barcodes and share them online or on printed material. When someone scans the code with a phone, he or she will be linked directly to content that the consumer placed within the code, such as websites or business cards.

Getting U.S. consumers directly involved with not just the usage, but the creation, of barcodes is an interesting strategy utilizing the whole “fun” factor. In countries where mobile technology is most advanced, barcodes are used for immediate gratification, such as buying a can of soda from a machine without shelling out physical money–almost like it’s free! Create-A-Code is a great way to grab the attention of one’s friends and family. But it also offers DIY marketing to not just small businesses, but tiny ones: For example, I can see struggling bands putting barcodes on their fliers, for fans or potential listeners to learn more about their music or upcoming show. And such consumers will have been conditioned to zap those fliers, after downloading the Code Scanner app and checking out what fun information marketers have embedded in their ads’ codes.

Of course, this means marketers are going to have to step up their game and make sure what they encode is truly valuable to the consumer. At the same time, smaller organizations, whether SMBs or nonprofits, must keep showing how easy it is to implement mobile code campaigns–and how easy it is for consumers to engage in them.