Hong Kong to Home Depot: The Power of the Barcode

{jcomments on}hongkonghomedepotLast weekend, while knee-deep in dirt at my son's School Beautification Day, I came across a QR Code. I turned to the dad/landscape architect and said, “Look at this!” He nodded at me politely. “It's a QR Code,” I exclaimed, puzzled by his apparent apathy. Of course, I hopped up onto the nearest soap box and began to promote the power of barcodes while the rest of the diligent parents quietly went about laying sod and planting geraniums.

The QR Code I found was on a stick-tag for some marigolds from Home Depot. Since I didn't have my iPhone on me,I put the tag in my pocket. I discovered at home that the code resolves to a mobile site containing a photo of some marigolds, planting instructions and recommendations for complementary plants. With the exception of the plant recommendations, the info on the mobile site is repeated on the back of the stick-tag. While I am unimpressed by Home Depot's QR Code creativity, the possibilities represented by that the stick-tag overwhelm me.

Then today, I was reading about Hong Kong opening up Government House (the Hong Kong equivalent to the White House) to visitors, as they do on occasion. This year, in addition to being treated to musical performances by the Hong Kong Police Band, student choirs and ensembles while strolling in the garden, they will also be seeing 2D Codes.

"Two-dimensional barcodes (2D barcodes) will also be set up along the visitors route in Government House.Visitors who have mobile devices with photo-taking and Internet functions and related 2D barcode software may browse information on the ballroom, the dining room and the drawing room in Government House, and video footage on plants in the garden including azalea, wild Chinese viburnum, Hong Kong orchid tree and rose of Venezuela.” a government spokesperson said.

Home Depot Plant tags and historical Chinese landmarks may not seem to have a lot in common, but they do; they both benefit from the use of barcodes. The benefit lies in the barcode's inherent powers of communication and connection. Humans are curious creatures. We also favor choices and control. Attaching a barcode to an inanimate object and loading that code with information, allows the people who interact with the object to choose to learn more, to engage in information-gathering by their own volition.

Because of the prevalence of 2D barcodes in marketing and advertising, it is easy to forget that barcodes are not mere tools of revenue-stimulation or brand expansion. Take away all the buzz words and demographics and you're left with somethig powerful, that can connect, catalog, convey and empower. Entertainment is great, and no one loves a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition QR Code more than me, but let's take today to acknowledge that barcodes are capable of engaging us and deepening our connection with the world around us.


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