If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I'm a lover of technology. How else to explain my annual trek to Las Vegas that first week of the new year to commune with 180,000 souls in search of “the next big thing?”
I'm referring to CES, of course. Paul and I are planning on returning to the biggest tech mecca on planet earth in just a few months for the return of CES. Last year, the show was forced to the virtual arena. And we learned there's nothing like the real thing.
One of the truly serendipitous things about CES is randomly bumping into a new innovative gadget, a spectacular exhibit, or a compelling presenter who helps guide you down a fascinating new path.
But in our annual CES wrap-up webinar, I also enjoy shining the light on what I call the “Dumbest of Show” – new technology that might have been better off staying on the computer lab floor. I typically pick three of these, and let attendees vote on the lamest new technology we simply don't need.
In 2020 (remember, CES took place two months before the pandemic began), the big “winner” was “Go DOGO” – a mashup of a Master Class and Peloton for your pooch.
The elevator pitch is that “Go DOGO” is a mental simulation system for your canine friend designed to train him while you're not home. The main component of the system is a treat-dispensing computer that can send a video to your television of an instructor asking your pet to perform various tasks.
Correctly completed tasks are rewarded with positive feedback from the instructor and of course, a treat. The better your furry friend is at doing tricks and performing, the more challenging the requests become. Data about your pup's progress can be viewed from your smartphone.
Talk about lousy timing. COVID ended any hope that “Go DOGO” would earn that IPO after all. Thanks to the pandemic, dog owners were stuck at home, training Fido by themselves for months on end.
Plus, who would subject their dogs to telelearning while they're gone? It's bad enough your kids have had to endure remote classes. And let's face it, when you go out on “date night” or to your kid's soccer game, your dog is better off sleeping or chewing on your slippers – not learning stupid pet tricks.
Technology that epically fails is always fascinating. And that bring us to the modern art design at the top of this post, better known as the QR code – which actually stands for Quick Response.
But QR codes weren't exactly an overnight success. In fact, a 2017 story in Techspot – “Biggest Tech Fads of the Last Decade” – listed QR codes along with notebooks and 3D TVs as innovations that fizzled out.
And then came COVID. And especially during that period when we were scrubbing our hands every 11 minutes, the last thing anyone wanted to do was pick up a menu someone else had actually touched. Eeeuww!
Welcome back, QR codes, and all their magic.
Of course it helps you no longer have to open a QR Code Reader app on your phone to actually translate the URL. Thanks to great cameras in Apple and Android phones, we now merely need to point at those abstract squares in order to open a web page or site on our smartphone screens.
And voila! You instantly get rewarded with a cocktail menu and a wine list.
Writing a story in AdExchanger, senior editor Allison Schiff referred to QR codes as “2020's comeback kid.” Now, there's finally a reason to use them.
Since the outbreak, restaurants have made extensive use of QR codes for self-service food ordering, while retailers utilize them for touch-free clothing returns.
In just the last 18 months, QR codes have gone mainstream and they've gone big-time. According to a story in The Perch, payment companies that use them include Apple Pay, PayPal, and Amazon Pay.
And then there's Amazon Go, Starbucks, Walmart, Macy's, Target, Dunkin', CVS, and 7-Eleven.
QR codes are turning up in all sorts of places – billboards and bus ads, and even at ballparks and stadiums.
But perhaps the biggest change with this technology is that since the pandemic began, most people have discovered how easy QR codes are to use.
So, what about for radio? How could QR codes be used to engage fans in new ways?
I'll leave that heavy lift to the promotion geniuses out there. But it's not hard to envision how these smartphone activated codes could be used at events, concerts, bumper stickers, and even sales appearances.
That prize wheel takes on a whole new spin when each outcome isn't a number, but a QR code. The winning listener does a quick scan to find out what she's won.
Or it's a big concert. And the station sends out T-shirt wearing street teamers and/or personalities, each featuring a different QR code connected to a prize landing page. Maybe one of the codes is tied into a front row seat upgrade or $1,000.
It's not hard to imagine fans taking pictures of every station shirt they see, trying to score a prize on-site. And that's part of the fun of this technology. It's portable, simple to set up, interactive, and a lot more interesting than 9th caller contests.
That's the beauty of technology connected to a ubiquitous gadget like our smartphones. Everyone has one, and we take them everywhere. Like apps, QR codes are easily accessible marketing tools.
For the salespeople, business cards, retractable banners, and pamphlets can be QR coded to save time and space – and to keep things safe.
Even though they aren't new, cutting edge technology, QR codes are another trend turbocharged by COVID that's not likely to go away.
Even when the virus does.
Every QR code that appears in this post goes somewhere, except the MLB photo. And sorry, no prize money.
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