Interview: Chip Paucek and 2U’s Launch

After the 2U IPO, Startup Grind Hosts Founder Chip Paucek

It’s been a big summer for the DC community with the arrival of the much anticipated 2U IPO. Startup Grind DC was lucky to host one of the company’s founders, Chip Paucek just after the IPO and hear his experience in taking a technology start-up from a few guys with an idea, to a publicly traded company.

Like many DCites, Chip arrived in DC as a student at George Washington University. Born and raised in South Florida, he was the first person in his family to go to college, and consequently supported himself through his undergrad. Of education he says, “GWU fundamentally changed my life in every way. I wouldn’t be here without [my education].”

Bleeding Entrepreneurship

His first entrepreneurial experience was at 12, selling comic books he earned working in a store to neighborhood kids. In 1993 he founded Cerebellum Corporation, an educational tv production company, which he ran in between doing political work. He went on to be the CEO of Hooked on Phonics, while founding and running the Sylvan Learning Center.

Surprisingly, he says of 2U, “Of all my entrepreneurial experiences, 2U is the only one that’s worked.” He remembers harder lessons with Cerebellum, where he had the unfortunate experience of laying off 80% of his workforce when the company wasn’t meeting valuation expectations on its 14 million dollars of venture capital. “It was like trying to get blood from a stone.”

Stay Focused, and Treasure Good Ideas

“I look back on my Standard Deviants (Cerebellum) and Hooked on Phonics experiences as real lessons in focus,” he said to the Startup Grind audience. “Entrepreneurs, you’re bred to constantly look for the new angle. Any bright shiny new object is super attractive to entreprenuers. You can easily convince yourself any idea is one you should pursue.”

While he humbly shares 2U’s success with two cofounders and the company’s 700 hardworking employees, he “will take credit for the company’s focus”. “We put the world’s best university programs online. Period. That is it. That is what we do.”

To entrepreneurs he says, “Once you find a business you have some traction in, treasure it. They are difficult, they are hard to find.”

2U, Inc. trades on the NASDAQ as TWOU. As of this writing it is trading at $15 a share, $2 over the estimated offering price. Startup Grind does not offer investment advice….just awesome entrepreneurs.

Content originally published in October 2014 for Startup Grind.

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Congresswoman Delbene on Starting Drugstore.com

This May DC’s Startup Grind chapter joined chapters around the world in committing to host a female speaker, Congresswoman Suzane Delbene. (Actually, this was our second female in a row, and second congressperson.) Congresswoman Debene represents the 1st district of the state of Washington, but her career began in 1989 at Microsoft.

After ten years building Microsoft’s marketing she went on to help found Drugstore.com. She was CEO for Nimble Technology, overseeing its acquisition to Actuate in 2003. She then returned to Microsoft before beginning a new career in nonprofits, and now public service.

Female Role Models Start at Home

Delbene’s life was ripe with female entrepreneurship potential. Her story hit a personal note with me, as the daughter of a working mother. She was from middle America background: the youngest of five, born in Selma, Alabama, her parents divorced when she was young. Delbene was lucky in that her “single mother” was a leader, and able to support her family: She was a pilot and became a university professor. Delbene calls her mother a “pioneer”, with a STEM background and drive that inspired her daughter.

Her mother remarried another pilot; Delbene almost ran out fingers naming the states she grew up in. When her stepfather lost his job, her mother decided the family should start a toy store in Colorado, first inspiring her entrepreneurship.

When Everyone Thinks Your Wrong

Asked about her experience as a football reference, “in a white, male dominated field”, she answered, “It was some of my best training for life. You do the best you can, and if someone doesn’t like it, you usually get a loud response – but you have to decide. You’re in the position, you make the best decision you can. You don’t always have perfect data, but you have to make a decision. This is where people often go wrong, in the legislative process too, they don’t make a decision.”

After working in biotech, Delbene made the move to technology rather surreptitiously through an MBA program: She was a Microsoft summer intern. During her career there she worked on firsts like “electronic messaging”, Windows ’95 and the first Internet Explorer. “You got to focus on products, and understanding customer needs.” She also worked on embedded devices, learning about the software products running everything from sewing machines to gas station pumps.

The Perfect Mix for Entrepreneurship Success

Speaking about her inspiration for founding Drugstore.com she says, “At that time, folks were looking at how technology could change commerce. One of the places people go to buy things is the drugstore. It’s all one of the places people don’t want to go.

On her successes, she cites the “bubble market”, where it was easy to get financial backing and her team. “My boss and I, at Microsoft, we went together to help start Drugstore.com, and we had a great team in pharmacy, in technology and in retail, and it was that great combination we needed.” Brian cited Aileen Li’s research on former coworkers being a factor in creating “unicorn” companies.

On funding she says, “It was a time when things were moving very quickly. It was really the concept. We didn’t even have a temporary website or anything like that. The concept was there, people understood the opportunities there, but also knew other people might think of that idea. At that time it was really who could get to market first with ideas. There was an impatience at the time.”

Asked about whether it takes an “ex-Googler, the equivalent of an ex-Microsofter at the time”, to gain credibility in today’s startup market, she answers simply, “It’s all about having great people. You don’t get a ton of people when you’re starting up a company, so you need great people.”

For the full interview, watch the video.

Coming At Your Life: 2012 Social Media Trends

This article is written with thanks to the marketers on my Marketing Word Twitter list who keep forging ahead with bigger ideas for the biggest companies, and my teenie bopper siblings, who’s tech savvy reminds me I’m only a few steps ahead of the pack.

What’s In:

1. Augmented reality!!!

2010 was the “Year of Social Media”. 2011 was the “Year of Mobile”. 2012, budgets holding, will be the “Year of AR”. This will be the year the offline and online finally blend. PS: Don’t bother with what they say at SXSW. Last year’s predictions from the festival failed to come to fruition. (Namely, QR barcodes). Look at what’s fun/cool. That’s your trend.

2. Social commerce

This is going to happen for three reasons: One, the ability to track customers and spending via the web is increasingly available to smaller businesses through social networks (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare), and software like Sharepoint, Salesforce, Bottlenose, etc,. Two, customers like recommendations from friends. We trust our social network more because we know they care about our happiness, rather than just about making a sale. Three, it’s a successful model as proven by Amazon.


3. Accountability for spending

For the same reason social commerce is becoming easier for businesses, ROI tracking using these softwares is making it easier to justify or debunk spending on social media. Where businesses once employed sales people, they will now be able to hold their web salesteams to quotas and directly attribute spending to revenue increases.

4. Mobile payments

Starbucks is doing it, therefore everyone must. Mobile payments are actually an easy replacement for those annoying retain cards everyone has. With access to your phones, retailers can offer special discounts targeted just to you. They can build a relationship with their customers by always be there. And, Oh, the data, the data. Eventually, retailers and companies will find this a way to save money on debit card processing fees and, truthfully, service associates. It also eliminates some theft risk for merchants.

5. Data analysis

As one hedgefund analyst, turned computer teacher, turned web entrepreneur explained, “If you can do data, you can do anything”. In the science community I manage, I hear the best minds constantly discussing the power of data, and the current challenge in more data than can be efficiently analyzed. I love the above video because of this line, Science is the N-U-Ar-T…data make the data pay. The best software programs and companies like IBM are tackling this challenge. In 2012 and for the next couple years, data analysis jobs will be highly in demand. According to Glassdoor, after processing data from salary postings across the nation, they average $55,000, the same as a finance salary.

6. Streaming television

Amazon’s $75 a year Prime is going to kill it across the board. With the problem of highspeed internet more or less solved, customers will stop wrestling with cable companies offering superfluous channels and horrific service. [Funny story.] The entire social media internet movement was about consumer power. American marketing has a consistent trend to more individualized choice. Streaming video answers this, as Napster did a long time ago, but with a revenue model. And yes, Netflix will pave a path to Hades for the Postal Service and any other company which requires you to leave your home or lick sticky squares of paper.

7. Interactive advertising

Part of AR, interactive advertising covers both the “online” and “offline”. In one of those ironic misspends, a liquid paper company actually came up with the interactive ad story above allowing users to interact with bear. Much like the seldom used DVD “choose your ending” concept, this ad gives users choice in content and engages them with the ad. More fun interactive ads will emerge in the real world, such as the Pedigree Puppy bill board above. One idea I had was if DC’s Ann Taylor bustop ads allowed you to “try-on” the product as you stood there. This technology does exist.

8. Political socialnetworking

It’s 2012. Duh. And vote for Ron Paul if you care about retiring, increasing your salary or your children living in a world power versus a failed state. That’s my 2cents.

9. Meetups

As I sat in a Madison, WI Panera I evesdropped on a sales manager explaining their strategy to one of her staff. “I want you to go see each of your contacts at least once a month. I can’t tell you how many studies have shown the more you see someone the more you like them. Once a month equals twelve times a year! If they see you twelve times a year, they will like you.” Most MeetUps are once a month, building relationships over time through the power of oxcytocin, the bonding hormone you will see me write about a lot a lot.

As we become more immersed in technology, we will continue to long for the more human, more real connections through face-to-face interactions. This is exhibited by Facetime and G-chat, the move toward a more realistic conversational experience. Remember, language developed in the last phases of our evolution. We can’t escape the millenia of evolution behind that which required hormonal and body language communication. This is the power of MeetUps.

*The picture above is of a “Couchsurfing” MeetUp in Hong Kong. MeetUps are becoming huge internationally, especially in countries where community and networks are even stronger than the U.S.

Baby Talk: The Iphone 5 – Android LTE Debate

Sent to me via an unnamed phone network source of mine.

For Grownups:

Another unnamed source who works Apple told me new products usually come out in summer, but as the celebrity babies noted the iPhone 5 has been rumored to be delayed until next fall in order to handle a 4G network.

AT&T’s recent acquisition of T-Mobile was in order to improve their existing network, but work on the 4G LTE is still going on with an indefinite completion. There are several Androids on Verizon which can handle their “lightning fast” 4G LTE, one of which being the THUNDERBOLT, (sucker for ad lines), I will be the proud owner when it arrives via US Post at my 1960s house…thus I understand Baby 1’s frustration in having a 3GS in a 4G world. Some funny PR man tweeted it correctly: “iPhones aren’t popular anymore. Everyone has them.”

The NFC payments Baby 1 was promoting are “near field communication”, meaning allowing your digital device to interact with non-electronic devices. An example of this is QR, which you can see fun examples of by major brands in my post: QR Barcodes In Reality. The payments he was discussing are about making your phone your credit card so you don’t have to wait in line or have a plastic card. Starbucks is already doing this very successfully.

In one of my startups articles, I introduced Rabbit QR, a buspreneur from Chicago who was using QR codes to send money between two people on their phones. GREAT PR IDEA HERE: Having an event with QR codes on fliers so people can buy tickets instantly, no hassle. Their method was something like PayPal, a safe way to transfer money electronically.

PayPal is rumored, or going to be pairing with Bump…Bump is an app, a couple years old and similar to Hashable or Hollaback. All of these apps are alternatives to business cards. They transfer your contact information between two phones. Follow the connection? Bump uses a cloud-based transfer over Bluetooth, (like wifi, but not), to transfer information. PayPal wants to use this technology to transfer money between people.

Starting to see the bigger picture? This is what digital strategy is all about, using technology and applying it to new purposes. We are building the matrix, which Baby’s 1 and 2 are eager to wire into.

(PS: I’ve now watched this movie like 5 times and two other versions. Tick, tick, tick…if you happen to be blonde, incredibly goodlooking, have a history of identical twins in your family and into geeky girls, you’re welcome to find where I hang on Foursquare. Dere soooo cuuuuutee….)

SXSW Startups on a Bus: New York

This is the first of the six cities startups. Wanted to put it out in manageable “bytes”

So SXSW is over and so is the reality show style Buspreneurs.
38 teams on a bus from around the country hacking away and pitching their startups.
Fifteen finalists, weeded down to two winners.

Mashable reported this story, but neglected to even list the companies, let alone what they all did. I went one further and listed the companies, whether they won and a PR suggestion, yours free for liking…reading my blog. Suggestions are for digital or PR strategists how they could use the apps for a client.

NEW YORK

Bridge
Brdg.me
Concept: App to find friends through common interests.
PR Application: Can use it to find key influencers in topics on Twitter.

Kajoo
Wild Card
Concept: App to notify the correct authorities about problems in their district.
PR Application: Any utility company or city government could use this to notify the main headquarters, from cable companies to electricity. The notifications could create a grid which the analysts could use to pinpoint the problem’s origin and either dispatch their teams or reroute resources to the area. (Yo, yo, yo IBM you listening?)

Lemonade Stand
Finalist
Concept: Make selling online easy. Snap a photo, enter the price, set GPS.
PR Application: Use it for “disruptive” marketing. Come up with goofy products to sell in random locations.

Spot on Trivia
Concept: Trivia game using Foursquare for trivia by location. Notifies you of friends competing in your area.
PR Application: Create a trivia account for your client. Have it located in interesting places they commonly check-in.

TripMedi
Winner
Concept: Aggregates statistics and crowdsources recommendations potential places for surgeries abroad.
PR Application: Could pair with travel companies offering deals on flights and hotel stays. Could partner with drug or pharmaceutical stores or manufacturers. Could be applicable to other hospitals and treatment facilities. Could be used for small businesses, like small clinics and private practices in the area.

WhatIMiss
Concept: Self-curation for popular content. You check your subject and get daily blurbs on those topics.
PR Application: I love this idea for getting news in small paragraphs because attention spans are getting so short and curation is the hot topic. The challenge for PR people will be the same, to make the news, or to tie their stories to popular memes like, unfortunately, Charlie Sheen.

Chicago teams here.
San Francisco teams here.
Silicon Valley teams here.
Miami teams here.
Cleveland teams here.

#SXSW: Go Join Hashable!

Hashable is the Foursquare of this year’s South by Southwest. Remember how Foursquare blew up because everyone wanted to “check-in” at cool places? Well we’re all happy you’re the mayor of Starbucks, or your “Love Nest”, or in my case, the now bankrupt Border’s, but that’s soooo 2010.

This year it’s not about where you are, but who you’re with. So get with it! Go join Hashable and check-in with lots of cool people, doing lots of cool things, reporting on lots of cool new startups, and think of me, crying over Tweetdeck in DC, vicariously experiencing the awesomeness that is your life!

JOIN!
Because what’s cooler than digital street cred?

Quora: I’ll Show You the Money

A friend of mine asked me on Twitter what I thought “the future of Quora was”. It’s a daunting question I needed time to ruminate on. ‘What is the future of content?’ seems to be the umbrella question. Or ‘what’s the future for business models based on advertising revenue?’. Or maybe, “What’s the future of advertising?” I’m going to tackle instead in pieces.

What’s the Future for Quora’s Visitors?

It’s been two months since that question was asked. Well I had some extra “energy” tonight. Let’s start with statistics, because I’ve noticed my readership likes them as much as I do. First a look at how Quora is faring since my Statistical Follow Ups on Quora and Digg:

Quora Traffic January to March 2011 via Alexa

I like Alexa for a first look because its simple. Lesson, in digital, simple is beautiful. This graph is total visits, where the graphs in the Statistical Post were unique visitors and traffic as a percent of total internet traffic. The spike the second week of January corresponding with Quora hitting Twitter, (See: Snowball effect). If visitors are going down as seen in the Statistical post, but traffic is showing a steady, healthy 30% increase, it’s probably because the people who have found value there are becoming more active users.

What Does Quora Mean to Brands?

With social media we’ve crossed into a gray zone in advertising, a veritable no-man’s land brands are attempting to navigate. It’s filled with “friendly-fire” from search engines, consumers, content providers and any wayward netizen who might potentially classify your message as SPAM. This means creating revenue on websites from brands has to be done extremely tastefully or openly as in traditional banner advertising.

Twitter attempted to have “promoted tweets” to finally find a revenue model. Foursquare uses branded “prizes” in the form of sponsored badges. Zynga has branded farms or “virtual products”. SCVNGR’s mobile gaming has branded challenges. The startups Colorwarfare and GetGlue are looking to follow this model with sponsored prizes and stickers, respectively. Youtube makes you watch commercials. Facebook uses trusty old banner ads, Google sells ranking (ew), Digg-Ads, Bing-Ads, Mashable-Ads, …see a pattern?

If Quora’s not going with a brand/sponsorship/ad revenue model, things get tricky. The community I’m working on uses the data for market research studies. Just about every other web app from Hootsuite, Hubspot, Spotify, Hulu, TurboTax, offer regular memberships and “Pro”. Many web startups are attempting this. How will Quora go this route?

As LinkedIn did, Quora will probably transition to sponsored pages, like buying a “farm”. Proof is Quora has made it clearly impossible to create a “page” = profile, under your company’s name, something LinkedIn was doing.

What’s in It For Me?

This is my mother’s favorite question. One Quora question deals with this: What’s my incentive to post answers on Quora? The summary answer:

1. Reputation
2. Intrinsic motivation: challenging, rewarding, bonding (with the community)

Reputation can mean personal branding, or the value of having yourself recognized as a key opinion leader (KOL). This is great if you’re in digital and trying to score some clients. It’s the same reason people blog. “Intrinsic motivation” is a gray answer, meaning the feeling you get from being thought important. To pull from How to Win Friends and Influence People, intrinsic motivation:

It is what Freud calls ‘the desire to be great.’ It is what Dewey calls the ‘desire to be important.’ William James said: ‘The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.’
“If some people are so hungry for a feeling of importance that they actually go insane to get it, imagine what miracle you and I can achieve by giving people honest appreciation this side of insanity.

Like Twitter, Quora and Wikipedia feed on our (ok, my) narcissism. Groundswell was all about recognizing this potential in people and harnessing like a dam to power business development.

What Are Quora’s Assets?

There is now question that Quora is in it to win it, although what “it” is will have to be determined. In March 2010 Quora tool $14 million from Benchmark Capital Partners at a valuation of around $87.5 million, which is before the tech bubble II nonsense blew up, so we can assume they had a business plan laid out. LinkedIn’s mission was originally to “provide expert insight and resources”, but has evolved into “helping professional accelerate their growth” or burn a profit either by selling themselves or their company. (Yes, I paraphrased.)

Quora’s “assets” right now:
1. Exposure – They have amazing SEO, an apt audience, and great content.
2. Knowledge – All those answers were pouring into their pages.

Technically, through the evolving internet intellectual property laws, the content you submit on sites is yours “naturally”. For Quora specifically, this answer was addressed nicely by the founder: Who Owns the Copyright on Content Contributed on Quora?

A better clarification come from my favorite Quora community wrangler, Ari. (I “question” him quite a bit.):
It’s the implicit quid-pro-quo for participating in the discourse here that you allow Quora to use your material to do good things, including, eventually, making money.

Meaning Quora can, in anyway it decides to innovate, sell the content which is dually licensed between you, the first writer, and the site. Imagine this: An e-book of answers, for retail, of which you own a page, which are your answers. Only Quora can sell the entire book.

Who Is Quora’s Competition?

Recently I’ve had a disturbing number of people contacting me about intelligence and the internet. Why disturbing? There is a long, deep, dark philosophical hole I try to avoid which goes into the realm of artificial intelligence, what it means to be human, the cosmos…and chatforums from BK (before Kari, I know sad.) Just to touch on a few:

IBM Watson – Which I worked on as an intern, and coincidently met their team on Twitter. This algorithm pulls from a database of information which the hardware is “fed” and thus functions offline.
LED Face – A database, (like Wikipedia?), of crowdsourced knowledge. It keeps a basepoint of “experts” so you can ask questions and get answers in real time if the question does not exist.
(Still trying to figure it out, assuming they’ll charge for this?)
Baby Rose -An artificial intelligence project where a program “learns” words from people asking her questions. (Not really working so far.)
Bloomfire – Create microcommunities focused on teaching and learning around a specific topic. Similar to Nings, but more standard and focused on learning. In Beta, charges for a Pro version.

Any other question and answering or information site I could find works off banner ads: Yahoo Answers anyone? Wikipedia and Wikileaks both use donations, and come from a GenX philosophy that which spouts “freedom of information” and “democritization through the web”.

Quora is a business though. It was built by business-minded people and will remain a business. Depending on how Quora ends up monetizing, their competition as a business will be other promotional outlets, from banner ads to billboards, and other information resources, from Britannica (pay-wall), to your favorite author on Amazon.

In the words of Porky the Pig:

PS: If someone can tell me what the new Gawker’s revenue model is I’d love to know.

The Biggest Threat to Facebook is Innovation

This was from an answer on Quora.

We forget before there was Facebook, there was Friendster, there was MySpace, there were chatrooms, email and AIM. There will always be the threat of a smart person creating something infinitely better.

Here are the things a “New Facebook” social network would win with:

OpenID – We hate usernames and passwords. They’re really annoying, impossible to remember the more clever you are with them, and seem like a sketchy way of keeping your information safe. (Can’t someone just “hack it?”) Any identification alternative is what Facebook would say is their biggest threat. They are moving to become a “reiteration of the internet” through Facebook ID which other sites like Slideshare are using to “verify” who we are. This identification system isn’t just good for marketing, it’s good for security, it’s necessary for custom portals and personalized experiences across the web, television (Apple TV, etc.) and mobile. Create the ultimate ID and you own the web.

Search – Right now we as consumers are urging engines like Bing to become more social, to let us find content through our friends. All well and good but sometimes you just need to find something that none of your friends know any thing about. (Like tarsorrhaphy). Control the way people access the web, and you control the web. This is why competition between Google and Bing is so important, and why if Google could ever get Buzz to take off, it poses serious domination for Facebook. Google is what Facebook is afraid of.

Interest Networks – Facebook exists as a closed system functioning on exclusivity. I don’t use Facebook to meet new people outside of my network, meaning people I already know. When I’m looking to meet people sharing my interests or in my industry, I use LinkedIn or Twitter, or I’m redirected from blogs to a social profile after I find these people on outside networks. I was just talking about this in a #u30pro chat on Twitter, and today I saw David Armano, a person I have never met, but as a digital person look to for advice, posting this question. Right now I’m working on a scientific social community. Try to imagine being a researcher and using Facebook to find experts in your field. It’s near impossible to find them or verify them.

Social Content Curation – This is what I call services like Twitter and the new Mashable Follow, which have you “follow” people you know or in Twitter’s case, you’ve found through chats and hashtagged interests. You can see what they’re posting on and interested in. Facebook doesn’t give me enough relevant news content from my friends. (Just great music videos.) The reason we make fun of people on Twitter writing about their lunches is because it’s not relevant, and with the vast amount of content on the web, reading about someone’s lunch wastes our time. The result is I spend less time on Facebook as relationships and party pictures stop being “news”.

Social Ecommerce – Facebook has attempted to do ecommerce with I believe Pampers and other Facebook stores, but the attempts have been marginally successful at best. Amazon and Etsy, and other semi-social ecommerce providers continue to be extremely successful because they crowdsource from the entire web. My friends may not give enough relevant information for Amazon “suggestions” or create the product I love like Etsy.

Trust – Even Gawker got hacked and we can’t blame Facebook for accessing our information to sell ads. Why don’t we trust Mark? We give our bank account numbers to Paypal and Prosper, our birthdates to just about any site on the web, and our business cards to local prize drawings, so why are we so terrified what Facebook is doing with our baby pics? Facebook is a free service, which needs to generate revenue, which is does through ads, and we hate on them for it. Do we trust LinkedIn more because they generate money through Pro memberships and corporate pages? Ignoring the regulation which is petty and an ongoing battle as corporations find ways to skirt it, a site with a different revenue model could ensure trust.


Information Age II
– The web was not created to connect people but to give open access to information. The internet evolved out of colleges needing to access shared information on multiple computers. Today the internet continues to function as our Encyclopedia, our experts, our Dictionaries, newspapers and textbooks. Facebook does not host the vast amount of content and resources necessary for this. Sites like Quora and Wikipedia, if they are able to integrate social components and provide the credentials necessary to verify the information posted, will be a true “reiteration of the world wide web”.

Comments?? Can you do me better? I dare you!

QR Barcodes in Reality

This article is a list of some cool QR barcode examples I’ve noticed implemented in real life, (as opposed to theoretically). I’ve wanted to write this for a bit, but was holding off for what are probably obvious reasons. Recently, Robin Davidson of US Guys posted an article by Mashable entitled “Creative Uses of QR Barcodes” in our LinkedIn group, generating serious buzz. I’m going to hold off reading the article and still put out my list of my favorite barcode uses.

If you need a reader, I use NeoReader for my iPhone. You can create your own code on the site to play with. I just created one for my resume linking to my blog.

AGENCY PROMOTION

1. My Idea (This is my blog ;.)

For our internship last summer my group created a fake agency, which we called “Ctrl+Alt+Think”. We were told to come up with a tchotsky (spelling?), which we’d give out to represent our agency. My idea was to stick a QR barcode on the gift which led to our agency website. Of course we didn’t have a website, so I created a blog with the group members’ pictures and profiles so the client could get to know us before we actually pitched. As things go, the barcodes didn’t work out and we ended up just pasting a web URL for the blog on the tchotskys. I made the blog private after the pitch, but the above is a snapshot after my friend Nihara redesigned it.

2. On a Business Card

This PR agency cleverly put the barcodes are their business cards. I have a stack of business cards a mile high, but this is the only (real) agency I’ve seen use barcodes. The code takes users to a blog post about “Who We Are” on their main website, similar to my group project idea.

MAGAZINE ADS
Barcodes have become wildly popular in magazines in the last couple months. Why create a “viral video” when you can just stick a barcode on ads you already run? 😉

3. L’Oreal Paris

In December L’Oreal ran this ad without the barcode, and by February they had jumped on the wagon. I liked L’Oreal’s because, if you can read the small print, they give you a number you could text first to receive a free barcode reader. It’s important to remember while most people are getting smartphones, for most Americans its a fairly recent acquisition and they might not have an app for barcodes or even know what they are. L’Oreal makes it very easy to read their code. They also have a nice play on words: “Youth Code” is the product line, and the tagline is “break the code” to younger skin. What I didn’t like though is the barcode takes you to a very boring commercial on their website. Not very fun.

4. Tag Heuer

Tag Heuer was on the magazine-QR trend slightly before the other brands. I worked with the company at a boutique agency, and I really like their marketing outlook. As a luxury brand, their ads feature a preppy-elite, and like to use blonde tennis stars like Anna Kournikova. However, when I worked for them they were targeting Asian-Americans, and you probably heard of their Tiger Woods sponsorship, who is half-Korean. Their forward-thinking look is displayed in their integrated digital marketing campaign.
Rather than just take you to a commercial, the mobile friendly site has a list of their three “collections”, links to Facebook, Twitter and E-commerce businesses that sell their watches, a “retail locater” and a documentary style clip of the girl from the ad, Maria Sharapova. She’s getting into a luxury brand car which was part of a world wide roadtrip to celebrate Tag Heuer’s anniversary. With Tag though, I do question whether the Ford Fiasta style world tour was really appropriate for their target demographics. Ford was targeting young, middle class and slightly alternative lifestyles, while Tag obviously targets a slim elite margin. The ad ran only in high fashion magazines.

5. Express

Yes I did manage to rip this pulling it out of the magazine. The tiny little barcode in this ad was pushed as close to the fold as possible, not convenient. The ad featured a girl on a runway, which Express being a middle-class brand, is part of their marketing strategy to offer edgy fashion cheap, for aspirational fashionistas. The barcode simply says “Watch the Show”, and takes you to an efficient mobile site which loads a behind the scenes movie of their fashion shows in Quicktime. There are three links to Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, where there are more videos. There’s also a download Express’s App, which is very well done. (I’ll include it in an article on Apps some other time.)

EXPERIENTIAL

6. Party Game

I don’t have a picture for this because it wasn’t something I experienced. An SEO company I’m doing some freelance writing for, ProMedia, used QR codes to enhance their company party. They stuck the codes up around the office, like next to food, in the media room, bathrooms, etc., so as you moved around the party you could take out your phone and play a scavenger style game. I’m not completely sure what the codes linked to, but it apparently was a great party.

7….To Be Continued. I have more to add more to this list, but I have to get some permissions first.

Also a note on magazine barcodes: Yes they will be moot if people are using magazines on iPads, but please remember it’s a lot more affordable for someone to purchase a $4 magazine or $12 subscription than an iPad. Also many people consider them redundant to laptops which have better functionality.