Chirping your way to success
The market for communicating data over short distances is becoming increasingly crowded. From apps like Aurasma that let you access additional information simply by pointing your iPhone at a graphic to QR codes and even Google’s ludicrous Goggles, there are now 101 ways of connecting you to your immediate environment.
Why? The main reason is that we’re now so bombarded with information that marketers have realised that there’s a danger of missing their (vital) messages. And as members of the Now generation, if we can’t find out more about something we’re interested in immediately we’ll simply forget it and move onto the next big thing, like a shoal of smartphone-equipped goldfish.
Adding (literally) to the cacophony of solutions available, scientists at University College London have created Chirp, which transmits cloud-based data to devices through what sounds like robotic birdsong. Chirp certainly hits the mark with its own marketing – with a catchy/annoying short name, a great back story about research into birdsong and a bearded CEO that looks like he’s straight out of the labs.
And, to be fair, the solution seems clear and easy to use. You upload the data you’d like to chirp to the cloud and then set it to send to any devices in the vicinity that are running Chirp. Simple, straightforward and instant – at least when tested in an anonymous conference room as you can see on this BBC video.
As a marketer I can see the uses for Chirp immediately – for example you can send offers to people as they walk past your shop/coffee shop to lure them inside, and as Chirp works over public address systems and radio transmissions your range is essentially unlimited. But we’ve been here before on this push model – remember 10 years ago when Bluetooth was going to be used to send marketing messages to your phone in the same scenario? It didn’t work, as the security (and battery) implications of switching on Bluetooth outweighed any benefits you’d receive in terms of money off your latte.
What mass market consumers seem to prefer is the pull model, where they choose what to scan (whether a QR code, an Aurasma logo or even listen to a Shazam jingle), making an informed decision on what content they consume. Obviously this makes us marketers very sad as consumers miss out on engaging with our wonderful products and services. Hence the continued innovation in the sector to make it as seamless as possible to get our consent to be marketed to/at.
I wish Chirp, and all its rivals, good luck but it strikes me that it is not the technology that is the main issue, but getting consumer buy-in to install the app and keep it switched on. That’s where marketers need to focus their efforts if Chirp is to really fly.