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Smart Tags Inspire Smart Meetings

Mobile tags breathe new life into an old technology and offer planners attendee engagement opportunities.

Mobile tags breathe new life into an old technology and offer planners attendee engagement opportunities. By Kevin Durkee, March 09, 2011

Kevin Durkee

Kevin Durkee

Tag, you’re it! This phrase from our childhood is taking on new meaning and represents an innovative way to be social,  connected and participate in the world.

In the past, bars and codes were only necessary to scan your milk or canned soup at the grocery store. Now, armed with smartphones (with camera applications), clients, consumers and fans are scanning these and other codes, leading to increased engagement, content and brand loyalty.

Known as a mobile tag, the simple bars of a UPC or the mosaic patterned squares (Quick Response, or QR, codes) are design features that, once scanned by a smartphone application, provide the user with instant access to pictures, text, links to online information, or video content.

While social media is based on a community of like-minded followers and fans, sharing information about themselves or the things around them, the mobile tag is their next extension. Mobile tags offer a digital shortcut to content and because they live on bottles, boxes and cans — they are always around.

Stickybits, ( the most popular barcode application, offers users the ability to scan their favourite product UPCs and instantly enjoy, add or review content. Scanning a Pepsi-can UPC through your mobile-phone app connects you instantly to everyone else that had scanned the same code previously. User profiles, content and brand-sponsored info — all right at your fingertips.

The stickybits platform, like Facebook, records your likes, favourites and comments. This content isn’t directly connected to you, but is more connected to the product. A way to share your feedback, comments or love for the item.

Marketers are using mobile tags to engage consumers in all sorts of ways.

As an example, last November, Ben & Jerry’s partnered with stickybits to reward the first 500 users to scan their new flavours.

Mesob, a New Jersey-based Ethiopian restaurant, has placed QR codes on their menus that, once scanned, allow consumers to see how menu items are prepared and where their ingredients are sourced.

Movie studios are including QR codes on film posters allowing cinephiles to link immediately to a trailer promoting an upcoming movie.

How can the meeting and incentive channel take advantage of this new innovation to further engage your attendees and partners?

Consider Cake Studio, in Winnipeg. The innovative pastry shop placed a QR code on all four sides of a recent wedding-cake design. The cake, produced for a local wedding show, infused the black and white mosaic pattern into a striking design. When scanned, the QR code led the show attendees to a mobile version of the Cake Studio website— a seamless way for wedding-show attendees to see their cake artistry and engage directly with the design to get more information. In a few months, I can see brides and grooms adding QR codes to future cake designs, which link their guests to online picture albums and videos from the wedding.

Tell a story on-site. When guests arrive to your meeting, greet them with a QR code that links to videos about the venue, its history, perhaps, or an overview of the day’s events, or even features on the products or services being discussed.

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Instead of passing out stacks of paper copies of agendas, presentations and welcome letters, simply ask attendees to scan your code and allow them to connect instantly to digital content for the event.

Scan your way. Are you offering a tradeshow or a multi-room experience for your guests? If so, install a mobile tag at each key location/booth and reward those attendees who scan all the codes. It’s a virtual digital passport that encourages engagement and loyalty.

People are always engaged when they can unlock a deeper experience with their world and surroundings. Mobile tags offer planners and marketers a unique opportunity to attach true added value simply by using the smartphone your guests are checking 10 times during the seminar, anyway. The possibilities are endless.

— Kevin Durkee is the executive vice-president of client service for the JetStarGroup in Toronto. E-mail:

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