My name is David B., and I'm the King of Disinfectant.
That's how I'll need to introduce myself when a 12-step program comes along to help people with their mobile social media obsessions. If I work fast, I can get this listed as a condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) before the fifth edition comes out in 2013.
I'm proud of a number of titles that I hold: Senior Director of Emerging Media and Innovation, Social Media Insider columnist, blogger, Museum of Modern Art member. How is it that some iPhone application then got me to care about how I rank in the disinfectant category?
Here's how Barcode Hero works: download the app (for the iPhone now, but Android soon), scan products, share your recommendations, and gain virtual awards for doing so. Only by checking the site did I remember you can also compare prices. Yes, the one practical application of Barcode Hero was totally lost on me.
Perhaps it's just as well. ShopSavvy is a great barcode scanner for comparing prices, as is RedLaser. Stickybits, profiled a few months ago, allows conversation around products. Barcode Hero lets you become the duke or king, the same titles used in Yelp (I don't know if Hero has barons, as Yelp does).
What makes Barcode Hero really stand out is the role of recommendations. While you get points for scanning a product, the scoring picks up once you recommend a product, say you own it, or note you're buying it now. For any given category, if you scan two related products that you both own and recommend, you can become a duke. For instance, if I scan the Lysol spray and wipes, and then say I own and recommend them, I can become a duke of disinfectant and Lysol. Becoming a king often takes more work. I was briefly king of cookbooks but had to cede that turf.
I still keep getting sucked back into the game, which is the perfect hook for the kind of person who finds it fun to earn meaningless titles by scanning consumer packaged goods with a mobile application. In the process of earning my royal titles, I'm amassing a library of products I like, and, on occasion, I'm even buying them at the time. If Barcode Hero has access to enough location data, it can even tell if I'm in a store while I'm scanning it, and then which store I'm in.
There's no marketing application right now. I had a brief exchange with co-founder Blake Scholl when I started using the app, and he noted that Barcode Hero will ideally help consumers while they're in stores. He mentioned to TechCrunch that there's still not much scanning happening in stores, but the app is in its infancy, and presumably the price comparisons are just the start of uses for it.
I'd love to see marketing opportunities not just around the product being scanned but around some mix of personas and behavioral targeting. For instance, someone who scans a jar of olives may be snacking, preparing an appetizer or hosting a dinner party. Yet someone who scans a jar of olive and a bottle of vermouth probably is tending bar and has some different needs than the home chef. The possibilities become even more interesting when mixing and matching products from a range of categories such as groceries, consumer electronics, books, and health.
The most fun I had with the app was in a store, as I discovered that this app is the perfect toy to use when your significant other is shopping. I was in no rush to leave Target over the weekend as I was regaining my disinfectant kingship, padding my lead as king of cookies, and earning countless new titles. Sure, I could have done something productive, like continuing reading a book on the Kindle app, but at the time this was more fun.
It's not everyone's idea of fun, I know. Game mechanics work best when there's either an actual game (think FarmVille) or there's a clear benefit to using it (the Foursquare mayorships add a hook to the utility of seeing which friends are nearby). I don't even want everyone using Barcode Hero because then my kingdoms will crumble. If it becomes a great recommendation engine, though, I may gracefully let a few of my titles lapse.