As innovative brands acknowledge that content is the currency they trade for consumer attention, the big question is how best to leverage this content. To date out-of-home media to shelf talkers have relied on consumers spending a certain degree of time and effort ‘grabbing’ their content. Near Field Communication (NFC) marketing is about to change that as it introduces a disruptive new way of grabbing and sharing content, with a simple tap of technology.

In the not too distant future we will be walking down a city street when we notice our cell phone needs toping up, we caste around and spot a bus shelter with a billboard where we simply tap our phone to top up. As we do so we see our favourite band is playing in a month’s time and we tap on this to find out more and share the good news with our friends. Actually that not too distant future is already happening – right now in a city street in Sydney, Singapore and Stockholm.

How brands leverage their content is one of the most important challenges marketers face, and today’s generation of connected super-sharers are primed for the coolest and quickest ways of doing just that. As a consequence the timing is just right for the introduction of a disruptive new way of grabbing and sharing content, using NFC. The use of NFC in marketing may be deemed disruptive but in reality it is set to become the most frictionless way brands have interacted with consumers to date.

NFC, short for Near Field Communication, utilises electromagnetic radio fields to allow wireless communication and data exchange between digital devices such as smartphones. NFC is actually an offshoot of radio-frequency identification (RFID) which is designed for use by devices within close proximity to each other. In other words, holding two NFC-enabled devices close to each other allows content to be transferred.

As technology goes NFC is almost prehistoric since it first emerged in the 1980s. Best known in the context of contactless payments it has remained, for at least the past couple of decades, buried under the bonnet of payment engines.  Its application as a marketing tool is only now starting to rise, although it is far from pervasive, but that is poised to change.

Back in the days when NFC was enabling contactless payments to become the new oil, marketers started getting excited by the concept of QR codes. Of course QR codes need to be scanned and read by a smartphone before directing the user to a website, opening a map or sending a text. Whilst the potential is obvious as they offer a simple way for the retailer to interact with the consumer, adoption has been limited because consumers first need to actively download a codereader application.

NFC as a marketing tool emerges and eliminates the need to take multiple steps to reach online content.

NFC on the other hand has the capacity to leverage content from just about anywhere too, but without the need for downloading, scanning or finger-typing. It makes the whole experience of accessing content drop-dead easy. Just as we were getting to the stage where the buzz of downloading yet another app, or lining up our mobile cameras to click on the QR code was starting to wear a bit thin, NFC as a marketing tool emerges and eliminates the need to take multiple steps to reach online content. Its application in this new role is just starting to draw attention.

Only last year Microsoft and JCDecaux teamed up with Tapit to run the biggest outdoor NFC-enabled campaign in the world for the XBOX 360 launch of Halo 4 in Sydney and Melbourne. Microsoft promoted the scavenger hunt on Facebook to more than 300,000 fans and provided an app that pinpointed the location of unclaimed posters. Halo 4 fans simply tapped on the poster with their NFC-enabled phones to ‘claim it’. Winners were promised delivery of the poster they claimed, signed by Halo 4 creative director Josh Holmes, after the campaign finished.

The world’s largest shopping mall, Dubai Mall, created a phenomenal treasure hunt powered by NFC technology, and Coca Cola launched an NFC-centric poster campaign in Singapore where the user was encouraged to either tap their NFC-enabled phone or scan the QR-code to allow their mobile phone to integrate with the campaign and download content.

In each instance the campaigns used a combination of NFC and QR to accommodate those who did not have NFC enabled mobile devices. This leads us to possibly the only issue currently holding NFC back, the fact that not everyone has an NFC-enabled handset.

At the current rate of growth this means that by 2015 NFC will have reached mass-market status.

Forecasters are already predicting that by the end of 2013 20%-30% of all existing smartphones on the market will have NFC capacity. At the current rate of growth this means that by 2015 NFC will have reached mass-market status. Add to this the fact that consumers are rapidly moving to 4G making our mobile devices as advanced as our home-based PC and content will know no further boundaries!

As we move out of the early-adopter stage with Samsung, Nokia, HTC and Sony producing NFC-enabled handsets, only Apple is digging its heels in yet the pressure is on as brands start ramping up their digital activities.

If a simple tap can transfer all the information we require, we really do feel we are finally living our sci-fi dream of seamlessly streaming, sharing, searching without so much as breaking stride. NFC is the sleek, intuitive missing link that creates a digital bridge to physical content.

 By Niklas Bakos

About the author

Niklas Bakos is VP of Tapit, leaders in delivering brand content to consumer phones via NFC. Bakos’ background resides in the gaming sector having worked with international mobile games publishers Glu Mobile and Namco Bandai. His current focus is on developing campaigns that transform static physical objects and environments into an ecosystem of interactive gateways that effortlessly connect people to rich digital information on their phones. He collaborates with companies in the EMEA across a broad range of sectors including governments, retailers, telecommunications and media owners, helping them leverage their brand messages using the NFC technology.

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