PSFK Conference Follow Up

Last month, PSFK held their annual conference here in New York and, if you recall, I was invited to join a panel on the subject of "Mobile Tagging." I have been waiting for the video of the panel discussion from PSFK but, for some reason, it has yet to be released. So, without further ado, I wanted to follow up and provide some comments and observations.

The conference attracted about 300-400 people and was considered by PSFK to be a sell out. Those in the audience consisted of marketers, creatives, technologists and others from a whole host of brands, agencies and everything in between. On the "Mobile Tagging" panel was Patrick Donnelly (Founder, QRArts), Carlos LaMadrid (Chief Brand Officer, Woman's Day), Robin Lanahan (Director of Marketing, Microsoft Tag) and myself. Piers Fawkes, the co-founder of PSFK, moderated the discussion. Also discussing mobile tagging in a separate presentation was John Puterbaugh (CEO, Nellymoser).

First, some general observations. Microsoft Tags were displayed on all name badges. When scanned, the Tag provided an individual attendee's contact information. PSFK sent an email the day or two before the event to all attendees announcing the use of Microsoft Tags, and encouraged attendees to download the Tag Reader app. By the looks of the amount of scanning that was going on all day, I wonder 1) if people paid much attention to the email and/or 2) if people really cared to go through the motion of scanning. The only time that attendees did actively scan was during the opening presentation when Mr. Fawkes asked people to scan the Tag on the name badge of the person sitting next to them. When I exchanged scans with a person from American Express sitting next to me, they said that it was their first time scanning a 2D code. Knowing the make up of the audience, I found this to be a bit surprising. I would be curious to hear from PSFK and learn how many people actually scanned Tags for the day.

In addition to the name badges, Microsoft Tags were also used in the event program. Next to each speaker's name and photo was a Tag, and these resolved to a page on the PSFK website, which provided a full speaker's bio. Here too, I did not see many scanning the event program.

Although PSFK made an attempt to prepare attendees for the display and use of Tags, could or should anything else have been done to boost scan rates? In this environment (i.e., non sales related), does it matter? If I was Microsoft I would think so, regardless. A missed opportunity, perhaps.

Second, the panel discussion itself. If memory serves, as I was unable to take notes, Mr. Fawkes began by asking some very straightforward questions about the use of mobile tags and what the technology meant for the brand and the customer experience. From there, we spoke about mobile tagging best practices and before we knew it our 15-20 minutes were up. A brief session, yes, but I believe the panel members were able to hit home some keys points about what and what not do to when thinking about using mobile tags. I very much liked an answer given by Mr. LaMadrid in response to a question on best practices. He said, companies should look at the marketing campaign backwards and build from there. Meaning, once you know what you want your consumer to experience via the mobile tag, you can work backwards from there and build the campaign in such a fashion that the end game is achieved. Instead of "building it and they will come," the idea is to first ask why will they want to come and/or what do we want to achieve and then let's build it. A slight difference, yes?

With Microsoft Tag being a major sponsor of the event, the panel talked enough about their product, as opposed to QR Codes, or any other 2D barcode for that matter, but I suppose what's fair is fair. I don't believe the audience minded all that much, because a great deal of what we were speaking about I gather was new or relatively new to most of them.

Overall, it was a very worthwhile event, filled with a number of very interesting and informative speakers. My biggest take away with respect to mobile tagging was that many people within the fields of marketing and creative are still learning about the technology and how best to apply it. The tipping point has not yet been reached.

(To Piers and his team, thank you again for the invitation and opportunity.)


  1. Very insightful comments. During a recent visit to the National Restaurant Association Expo in Chicago (May 21), I surveyed the majority of the exhibitors at the expo, and arrived at very similar conclusions.

    Some exhibitors are including barcodes, a small percentage of attendees understand (it's not just marketers) what to do or engage *unless* there is clear advance communication of the very principles you highlight in each of your blog posts:

    1. Marketing call to action
    2. Benefit to reader/visitor/attendee
    3. Direction on steps/software to use for scanning
    4. Efficiently scanned barcode

    We use Microsoft Tag in instances where it's measurability, location-awareness, and device id detection capabilities are desired. It's a fine platform, even if not open-source.

    From your description, it's clear that considered efforts were made to provide the environment in which to scan codes for all the right reasons, with plenty of well-reasoned tactics.

    The component that appeared most effective in generating activity was the speaker's call to action to scan the barcode of the person sitting beside you.

    At the end of the case study, the lesson I take from your notes and our experience using barcodes in the event and tradeshow environment is that one cannot simply build it - individuals will engage with an experience when they are properly motivated with benefit or incentive, as particularly evidenced by Mr. LaMadrid's comments.

    Thanks, Roger, for an excellent event summary!

    Best regards,


  2. Bill:

    Thank you for the comments and compliment.