That Coke Can You're Holding Could Be Your New Media Channel

StickyBits App Lets Users 'Check In' to Objects Via Barcodes

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A new check-in app for objects is turning soda cans into media channels.

A StickyBits sticker affixed to a laptop.
A StickyBits sticker affixed to a laptop.
StickyBits, which launched during South by Southwest Interactive in March, is an app that lets users affix video, photos, text or audio to real-world objects, as long as those objects have barcodes. This is an example of what some call physical URLs, and while StickyBits is in its early days, consumers are already turning their iPhone and Android apps to consumer package goods, meaning user-generated clouds are starting to form around real cans of Coke and Red Bull.

How does it work? After downloading the free StickyBits app, users scan a barcode -- either unique codes on stickers purchased from StickyBits or printed out, or those on products already in the world -- and then upload a piece of content or view what others have already uploaded. That uploaded video or message is geo-tagged and attributed back to the user's social-media profile and becomes part of that object's content stream.

StickyBits co-founder Seth Goldstein created the concept with developer Billy Chasen and equates the phenomenon of "threaded conversations around objects" to checking into places, a behavior apps such as Foursquare or Loopt have pioneered for real-world locations.

The StickyBits app allows users to scan barcodes and attach messages, which become part of that object's content stream.
The StickyBits app allows users to scan barcodes and attach messages, which become part of that object's content stream.
"When you scan a product, you're tuning into it," Mr. Goldstein said. For package-goods companies, that could mean creating content for products that can only be unlocked by scanning barcodes with smartphones. "Imagine you're a beverage company, and you have content that people can only see when people check into your can," he added. That also means amassing communities around purchased goods.

Brands such as Ben & Jerry 's, Campbell Soup and Doritos already have content forming around their products. After scanning the barcode of a Coke can from a New York deli, Ad Age viewed 16 bits of content, including amateur product photos, a video of a pizza box and one user asking: "What happens when people start attaching porn to brands?"

In June, StickyBits plans to introduce tools for brands, including means to manage the conversations popping up on its products and an analytics dashboard. Brands will be able to track where and when people scan its products, publish official content, or talk to users that have checked in previously. While StickyBits is already in talks with consumer-package-goods marketers, there are no big brand programs to date, Mr. Goldstein said.

While the App Store is already crowded with location check-in apps, real-object scans up until now happen primarily in stores to compare prices or get further product information. But StickyBits is not the first product check-in app not tied to information gathering. In March, developer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers-backed ShopKick launched a product check-in program for its app CauseWorld. With CauseWorld, users earn money for charity by scanning products of marketing partners P&G and Kraft in retail locations.

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