IDEA #21 –


The Problem: What about all the commercials and advertisements you see — maybe you’re looking for a new car and see a billboard for the new Nissan 350z — and you’d like to check that out further online, but you’re in your car now. Or you’re watching a TV show and see a commercial for a new video game you’d like to check-out later. Or you’re reading the newspaper and see an ad for a new laundry detergent offering a $1 off coupon at their website.

But you’re likely not going to drop everything to hop on your computer — you’re likely going to forget about these things.You’ll likely have to see those ads several times (industry studies show 8 times), before you’ll really remember. However, there is potential to capture your attention the first time — in those few seconds. I call these, impulse interactions.

The Idea: Wouldn’t it be great if there was a unique code for each of those ads? I could simply send the code as a text message, or call a phone number and input the code. That’s it, done. The code gets tied to my account and next time I’m at my computer, I could login to my account to view all the ads/offers I had “bookmarked” offline. I’d see a link to the website for the Nissan 350z — and a link to that $1 off coupon for laundry detergent, etc.

The Competition: Well, this idea is being done already — but still hasn’t taken off. There’s Aboutcodes (was using codes inputted in voice calls; they are not operating currently). Then there’s a company called QTags that are using a 5-digit SMS USShortcode (which can get expensive — $1000/mo rental for the number, then typically $2500 minimums with the SMS gateway provider, and then another 3-5 cents per incoming/outgoing text message).

I still don’t know the number of phones that can send/receive emails as standard text messages — but I think the majority of phones can, it’s just that users don’t realize it. For example, if you have a Verizon Wireless phone — someone could send a 160-character email to your phone, which you’d receive as a normal text message. The format for a phone number of (555) 321-1234 would be ‘’. Other carriers have similar functionality and formatting.

Launch this: I think someone should launch this with the free email texting service — yes, the user still pays any text messaging fees they have to, but you as a company won’t. At first, I’d offer the reminders functionality — people could send themselves reminders easily. In future, hopefully you could get some large advertisers to include codes in their billboards, commercials, ads, and it’d really take-off.

Great value to all involved: It’s a great thing for an advertiser — you’re connecting people from an offline ad, to online to view further information. And the advertiser doesn’t have to show prospects their ad 8x before the person remembers it — they show it once.

You wouldn’t want to share your users’ information with advertisers though — only aggregated demographic data I’d share; you want your users’ trust. You won’t have trust by selling them to advertisers. Just enable users to remember things they want more info on — and enable advertisers a way to let them remember their offering (and view more info online later).

Also, QTags charges advertisers — they have to. But if you did this free method, advertisers could freely create and use codes — you’d want them to. Then you’d likely have some competitive advertising on the website — or these advertisers would pay to block-out competitors from ever being seen on the website next to their ‘bookmark’.

[Thus what I’m saying is — if a user ‘bookmarked’ offline the ‘Nissan 350z’, then Mazda could offer their ‘Mazda RX-8’ next to any bookmarks for ‘Nissan 350z’, or Nissan could pay us a fee for each bookmark of Nissan, so that we didn’t show the user any competitive ads].

I have tons more of the process and value proposition to advertisers over at my Aboutcodes website.

FYI — I created Aboutcodes, which at the time I had no clue QTags existed. It wasn’t until I showed up at the Digital Marketing Expo in NYC in April 2005 when I saw their booth there, that I realized we were doing the same thing. The only difference was, I had built the entire thing in VXML — so you’d call up the toll-free number I had, it would recognize your phone number, and you’d input your code (codes were all numbers or you could have text — but used the numbers on the phone keypad corresponding to the text).

I shut-down the service due to lack of capital. I figured everyone has a phone, so everyone could type a code into a phone — whereas some older people still have no clue how to send a text message. This is still the case 2 years later, but I needed a big ad agency — or some big companies to support the business by using my codes in their ads, commercials, billboards, etc. I didn’t have the means to get those big fish. I still don’t.

There’d also be the investment in teaching the world what Aboutcodes are — but maybe something like this could eventually take-off and get word-of-mouth “understanding” (of how it works). I have tons of monetization ideas for this. I mean, imagine the convergence of the offline world, online. Amazing powers.
I still love the idea.

Methods of Remembering: If you need or want to remember something, what do you do? (Seriously, I’m curious — post a comment about your method).

There are different types of methods I remind myself with — and at different times. Currently, if there’s a website I want to remember to check-out later (because I don’t have the time at that moment), I am using a tag called ‘L8R’ (“later” in geek-speak) in my bookmarks.

If I have an idea, but I’m in my car or in bed — I call myself, go into voicemail, record a message, and it’s sent as a ‘.wav’ file to my email. Next time I’m at the computer, I listen, and jot a note of it and send as an email to myself — and tag the email with a label I setup in my Gmail account called ‘Ideas’.

Sometimes I’ll send myself an email as a text message from my cell phone — particularly if I’m somewhere where I can’t talk (it’s loud or I’d be rude), or it’s just a quick note that I can text.