The World Is A Giant Barcode And We Just Live In It

March 17th, 2010

by Lauren Shapiro*

The World is a Giant Barcode

Flickr Image: Jaume d'Urgell

The retail industry depends on barcodes to identify a particular item of clothing, providing information as specific as the size and color of the item. In grocery stores, barcodes are also used to identify products and have evolved to create the world of “self check out” where the scanning process is supposedly very easy. (Although I can never get through the lane without the light flashing and the computer telling me to “Please wait, someone will be over to assist you momentarily.”) 

Barcodes are even starting to influence the current trend in today’s cell phone technology. Blackberry users can attest to the ease of the barcode feature recently introduced in the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) 5.0 upgrade. The barcode allows users to exchange BBM pins using the phone’s camera lens as a scanning tool. The barcode acts like a personal identification code that provides a fast and efficient way for users to exchange contact information. BBM users no longer have to worry about mistyping a pin code since the computer inputs the data automatically.

In the U.S., this technology is the latest and greatest (Target’s use of mobile coupons is another recent example). In Japan, however, they have been there, done that, and perfected it. In fact, barcode scanning is the norm in the Japanese cellular phone culture with even, according to a New York Times article, McDonald’s printing nutritional barcodes on the packaging of their food. McDonald’s patrons can scan the barcode on their cell phones to view the nutritional facts. Cell phone users can also scan barcodes on billboards to access promotions among many other things.

Facebook may be working on creating a similar feature for smart phones in the U.S. The barcode would act similar to that found in BBM, but on a much grander scale. By scanning the barcode, the user gains access to your profile (with no greater access than one would gain by manually searching for your profile on the site). According to author, Seth Fiegerman, “The trick is that one can create a Facebook Quick Response (QR) barcode and print it on their business card, photo or T-shirt to have people scan it and access one’s Facebook profile instantly.” (Originally cited from NowPublic.)

Barcode scanning could be the newest way to integrate social media and standard media by printing the bar code for a Facebook fan page onto print catalogues, brochures or advertisements. With the utilization of different barcodes for different traditional outlets, PR professionals could use the Facebook QR barcode to evaluate print marketing, observe which outlet their demographic utilizes the most to access their fan page and allocate expenses accordingly. Although these opportunities may not present themselves on Facebook for another few years (or less.. who knows), the objective is clear – barcode scanning is the future of cellular phone technology and it will affect the way we do PR.

What advantages or disadvantages could barcode scanning present in the world of public relations? Would the introduction of barcodes breathe new life into traditional print marketing? Are you currently considering or have already adopted this technology in your communications strategy? Please share your thoughts with the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas. 


*Bio: Soon after graduating from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, in 2006 with a B.A. in communication and a B.S. in business/marketing, I joined the BurrellesLuce client services team. In 2008, I completed my master’s degree in corporate and organizational communications and now work as the supervisor of BurrellesLuce Express client services. I am passionate about researching and understanding the role of email in shaping relationships from a client relation/service standpoint as well as how miscommunication occurs within email, which was the topic of my thesis. Through my posts on Fresh Ideas, I hope to educate and stimulate thoughtful discussions about corporate communications and client relations, further my own knowledge on this subject area, as well as continue to hone my skills as a communicator. Twitter: @_LaurenShapiro_ LinkedIn: laurenrshapiro Facebook: BurrellesLuce

7 Responses to “The World Is A Giant Barcode And We Just Live In It”

  1. I think barcodes will become much more important and will help to bridge a gap between mobile phone and web use. If Facebook bring out a feature such as the one you describe I have no doubt other sites and retailers will include similar functionality into their sites.

  2. Lauren Shapiro says:

    I completely agree! I am very excited to see where the new barcode technology will take us. In Japan, the mobile phone is used more than a computer to surf the web – perhaps that is the direction we are headed in?

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by BurrellesLuce: “The World Is A Giant Barcode” New post from BurrellesLuce blogger @_LaurenShapiro_

  4. Sergio says:

    Sounds like what the government does with your social security number. In the PR world it is a great innovative business strategy to get small businesses more customers and get their name out there. It will be a great way to network if you have a barcode on the back of your business card. Potential customers can access more information on the type of business they want to engage in without relying on a phone call or a call back. It is a great ticket to valuable information without feeling committed. Keep me informed!

    Sergio L.
    Sergi Shoes

  5. Lauren Shapiro says:

    The bar code will be an excellent way to network and stay connected with contacts. As mobile phone technology becomes more advanced (or at least catches up with the Japanese market) business cards could become irrelevant. Instead, we may walk around with bar codes and to exchange information one would just scan your barcode instead of taking a business card. It will be exciting to see how much technology will change our business practices!

  6. Michelle says:

    Since barcode was developed it has been very useful in every aspect it was being used. It makes the scanning and identification much faster and easier. I am glad that barcodes are starting to be integrated in cellphones as well.

  7. […] a year ago, my BurrellesLuce colleague, Lauren Shapiro, wrote about the world being a giant barcode and how this might affect the public relations and marketing realm. In September 2010, I attended a […]

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