If I were to tell you about a new technology that enables mobile phone users to take a picture of an ad, send it somewhere and then they’d get a coupon or some other interaction in return, you’d probably think I was talking about QR codes. However, I was recently introduced to a new technology and software platform that enables mobile user opt-in advertising interaction without the ugly bar codes on the ads.

Pongr bills itself as a mobile connection to the brands you care about for savvy shoppers. With your smart phone application (currently iPhone and Blackberry with Android coming) or with simple email, you take a picture of an advertisement or a logo of a brand you’re interested in, send it to Pongr and voila! Coupons, product information, sales materials and more is at your finger tips.

The catch is that the ad or logo as to be with a company that has used Pongr and allowed the service to build an image recognition benchmark from the company’s advertisements and logos. The technology recognizes images on file, then delivers the associated interaction to the user.

At first glance, it doesn’t appear much different than a QR code, but here’s what makes it both better and not as:

By removing the QR code and making the process as elementary as taking a picture of an ad or logo, you are removing a level of technical understanding and intimidation from the user experience. Image recognition is still being used, but on an image the end user understands and is familiar with. While average Joes and Janes can understand QR codes, they don’t.

Plus, the advertising creative directors always want the QR codes small to not intrude upon their “art.” This inevitably means users can’t take a picture of one that is in focus, thus ruining the experience.

Using similar technology on something more familiar to the average person, the process becomes instantly more understandable for the user.

Also, by offering up the applications on smart phones instead of asking users to just text or email the image, Pongr can technically remove a level of opt-in from the typical mobile interaction. While I am certainly not an expert in interpreting Can-Spam Act legalese, provided the information delivered comes through the Pongr application, simply downloading the app is your opt-in.

What Pongr has done is taken two potentially crippling steps out of the typical user experience for mobile marketing.

The challenge that Pongr faces is reach. Sure, their technology is going to wow some folks at ad agencies and on brand teams. But until they can build a critical mass of advertisers, there will be little reason for users to try the app and interact with the ads. Until they have a critical mass of users, they won’t be able to woo the advertisers.

Certainly, that doesn’t mean Pongr won’t be successful. I think the user experience alone could easily propel it beyond what most mobile companies are selling with QR and other two dimensional codes, and fast.

I downloaded the Pongr app on my iPhone last night. I took a picture of a Diet Pepsi bottle. There was no offer associated with the image I took. But if I’d gotten a “buy one 20-ounce, get one free” offer, or similar in return. I’d have cashed it in on the way to work this morning. (Wonder if Bonin Bough reads SME?)

If you’re with a brand or an agency, you owe it to your company or clients to look into technologies like this. Smart phones are moving toward 20% market share quickly. The types of mobile marketing interaction Europe and Asia have enjoyed for years is already in North America. As the consumer familiarity with it expands, so will the necessity for your company to offer mobile touch points.

If you’re a consumer, check out the app or learn more about how it works on Pongr’s website. My hope is that someone from Pongr might share some of the advertisers you can interact with now to get you started.

As you learn more about it, tell us what you think in the comments. And do you agree? Does image/ad recognition software indeed make it easier to grasp and less confusing an experience than QR codes? Please — the comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • jimsutter

    Sounds kind of like a Best Buy approach via mobile. Good idea if the like you mentioned there is adequate buzz about their services. JS

  • jimsutter

    Sounds kind of like a Best Buy approach via mobile. Good idea if the like you mentioned there is adequate buzz about their services. JS

  • jimsutter

    This sounds like a Best Buy&More mobile approach. More good ideas if they can get the word passed along adequately as you mentioned. JS – Cincinnati

  • jimsutter

    Sorry for the double post…

  • PongrJamie

    Jason,
    Thanks for the post on Pongr! We're working on a couple of things to improve the experience for users – more ads that are Pongr'able and more social interaction around the pictures in general.

    Please keep the critical feedback coming because it helps us figure out what to fix/improve upon. We encourage users to take pictures of things they wish they'd get cool responses on and we'll do our best to add them to the Pongr'able world.

    Best,
    Jamie from Pongr :-)

  • http://pongr.com PongrJamie

    Jason,
    Thanks for the post on Pongr! We're working on a couple of things to improve the experience for users – more ads that are Pongr'able and more social interaction around the pictures in general.

    Please keep the critical feedback coming because it helps us figure out what to fix/improve upon. We encourage users to take pictures of things they wish they'd get cool responses on and we'll do our best to add them to the Pongr'able world.

    Best,
    Jamie from Pongr :-)

  • http://pongr.com PongrJamie

    Jason – forgot to mention a few things that you can try to get a sense for how it works:

    Starbucks
    Dunkin Donuts
    Jim Beam
    Makers Mark
    Heineken
    Corona
    Ben & Jerry's

    We've got a boat load of others (based on national magazines), but give those a shot and see what you think.

  • http://pongr.com PongrJamie

    Jason – forgot to mention a few things that you can try to get a sense for how it works:

    Starbucks
    Dunkin Donuts
    Jim Beam
    Makers Mark
    Heineken
    Corona
    Ben & Jerry's

    We've got a boat load of others (based on national magazines), but give those a shot and see what you think.

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    I will recommend using Email Charger for all bulk email marketing needs. Its the best email marketing software I have used so far.

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