This monring, I had an opportunity to meet with Nick Ford, Head of Marketing at TAPPINN. TAPPINN has created one of the first full-service web platforms, which can generate, manage and analyze QR barcodes, as well as develop mobile web sites.
Here’s our discussion:
RM: Nick, your background is in traditional commercial printing. How did you make the leap to 2D barcodes?
NF: Several years ago, when I was at The Duratran Company, we were trying to visualize how we could make our clients’ traditional print ads and signage that much more engaging and effective from an ROI perspective and, while trying to come up with a solution, we recognized how more and more consumers were using their mobile phones to aid in the purchase process. As we set out to find a way to tie the print ads and signs with mobile phones, we discovered 2D barcodes, specifically QR codes. In 2007, I partnered with Casey Ford and Kevin Galbavi to form TAPPINN, and here we are. Casey serves as CEO and Kevin as CTO.
RM: The word TAPPINN is supposed to stand for something, can you explain?
NF: Yes, the “TAPP” portion of our name stands for “Transmission Activated by Permission Protocol,” and the whole idea behind what we are about is permission based communications between the brand and the user or consumer. We see a world where mobile advertising will be led by the consumer, meaning it will be up to them to decide which ad they wish to view and read about.
RM: You also use the phrase “beyond the code” to describe your business, please elaborate?
NF: The web platform that we have built and offer to both ad agencies and companies is full-service in that it does much more than just generate QR codes. The platform goes “beyond the code” by providing clients with the ability to inventory and manage all of the QR codes they generate, develop mobile web sites, or what we call smart sites, and track and report on campaign activity.
RM: Speaking of the QR codes that your platform generates, why do your QR codes have a red square in the upper left hand corner?
NK: The red square in the upper left hand corner is meant to represent quality.
RM: Quality in terms of what?
NK: Quality in terms of content. Similar to the idea behind Intel’s “Intel Inside” campaign, we want consumers to be able to see our codes, recognize the red square, and know that the mobile web site that it links to is a quality site with respect to content. And, by the way of content, we mean that the site will be easy for the consumer to navigate, targeted to the consumer’s need or interest and offer consumers the ability for them to share it in a sociable way.
RM: What do you mean by “share in a sociable way?”
NF: To us, mobile marketing is all about the user experience and the ability for consumers to share what they like with family, friends, etc. So, when a consumer views a TAPPINN mobile web site, they will notice on the bottom of the page four icons, which can be used to: 1) Facebook “Like It”, 2) Twitter share, 3) email or 4) create their own QR code. We make it extremely easy for consumers to share and be social.
RM: What makes your creative design work different from others?
NF: When designing a 2D barcode-based print ad you can do it in one of two ways. First, you can design the entire ad and then insert the 2D barcode. Second, you can design the ad with the barcode in mind and then develop the entire ad around the code itself. We believe the second way makes more sense strategically and this is what we do with all of the ads that we are asked to design for our clients. It is also worth noting that often times the barcode becomes the ad’s call-to-action, so here too we pay particular attention to where the QR code is placed and what it looks like.
RM: As I understand it, you use open source to generate your QR codes. Could you speak more to this?
NF: Sure. In today’s market, there are a few companies that generate proprietary 2D barcodes, which means that unless you have the scanner/reader software which corresponds with their proprietary code you will not be able to scan/read the code properly and link to the mobile web page that’s intended to be seen. As an open source platform, we generate codes that can be scan/read by most any scanner/reader software. At a time when consumers are just learning about and getting used to 2D barcodes, we believe it makes more sense to make it as easy, and open, as possible for them to use and access the technology.
RM: If a company wishes to purchase your product what are the costs?
NF: We charge on a pay per scan, or PPS, basis, as well as for the development work to set up and deploy the platform. We also charge for any creative or consultation work that might be asked of us. For specific rates it would be best to contact us directly.
RM: Who are some of your clients?
NF: We have done work with TAG Heuer, Hearts on Fire, Tissot, Spazio24, Fred Meyer Jewelers, Aetrex and others in the luxury brand space.
RM: Where do we go from here?
NF: We see the 2D barcode market ready to explode here in the U.S., and taking on a presence much like that found in Japan and Europe, which are ahead of us in many different ways. From our perspective, 2D barcodes will transform traditional print advertising and create a much richer, and more social, user experience for all.
RM: Thank you Nick.