With our friends at Great Lakes Brewing Company tapping a fresh keg of Christmas Ale to celebrate Christmas in July, we couldn’t help but feel a little bit of the premature holiday spirit ourselves. And with all of the excitement about a little app called Pokémon Go and much chatter about whether augmented reality has finally arrived, we couldn’t help but get to thinking about some of the ghosts of digital’s past, present and future.


The Ghost of Digital Past: QR Codes

QR codes might not be totally dead, nor are they completely useless, but they didn’t become the blessing of offline trackability that they were supposed to be.

Why did they fail?

For one, Apple and Android never included a native QR scanner in their operating systems. This means people had to download a separate app and open it every time they wanted to scan a QR code. It’s too many steps for most consumers unless they know there is something of great value on the other side.

We (marketers) didn’t take the time to build good enough experiences on the other side of that scan. Scanning a code leading to a site that isn’t mobile friendly is worse than not having someone scan at all. A consumer can feel that their time has been wasted because a brand was too focused on the activation and not the outcome. The value exchange was uneven.

Digital Present: Augmented Reality

Pokémon Go brought our old friend Augmented Reality front and center and has many of us asking if it will stay.

Why it could fail?

To understand why it could fail, we have to understand why Pokémon Go works. It’s an immersive experience that with augmented reality, enhances the user experience overall. It’s not a cute gimmick like some snow falling on a coffee cup. Even more practical ideas like Heinz turning their bottle into a recipe book don’t necessarily provide the utility that will truly make branded AR catch on. In a world where there is a constant battle for space on mobile devices and only 1-5 apps are used per day, brands need to actually better the consumer’s experience—not just provide a quick distraction.

Digital Future: Chatbots

Chatbots have been the talk of tech in 2016. The upsides for these bots powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning are obvious: They provide the opportunity to fully scale customer service and collect data to apply to future conversations in real-time. These talking robots may lead to more personalized customer service in the future.

Why it could fail?

The biggest mistakes brands can make right now is trying to bite off more than they can chew with AI technology. Starting simple and letting consumers build trust in this evolving technology will be paramount in AI’s mass adoption. If brands come out of the gate with bots trying to be too smart, doing too much, too fast, they may end up with a racist, misogynist robot teenager. There are few things the internet likes more than trolling brands. Chatbots need to provide real utility in a controlled environment until they earn the trust of those pesky humans.

We’re optimistic about it. After all, no one likes a Scrooge.

Have a very merry Christmas in July, everybody.

-Your friends at Brokaw.