Mixed drinks, no mixed messages

Bars and pubs of all levels of repute have several things in common that are obvious as soon as you walk in the door, and actually before you even walk in. From the outside, you’ll likely see flashing neon and other colorful signs for various brands of beer and other liquid refreshment. This bombardment of ads continues when you step inside with yet more neon, mirrors and clocks emblazoned with company logos, coasters, mats and much more in the way of marketing at just about every corner of the establishment.

Most of us can tune these things out and simply enjoy our chosen brand of poison, but in today’s mobile and digital age companies don’t just want passive signage and scattered logos to get customers interested. And now they can shift that focus by using NFC, beacons and other technologies that have been around for a while but are finally creating a perfect storm of targeted marketing.

A great example comes from Danish beer maker Carlsberg, which will give special digital beer mats to about 250 bars across Denmark. These so-called ‘smart mats’ will be embedded with an NFC chip, which allows customers to download Carlsberg’s Crowdit events app with a simple tap of their phone and receive a free pint of beer. The mats will also be emblazoned with a QR code to download the app for those of us who don’t yet have an NFC chip in their smartphones.

One would hope that the free pint offered through the app download would have to be a Carlsberg, but those details aren’t clear. If it is, it’s a brilliant bit of marketing. Someone already seated at a bar, presumably about to place an order for an alcoholic beverage, sees the mat, lets curiosity get the better of them, downloads the app and gets a free pint. While it’s not the same as beacon technology, which pushes offers to supported devices when within range of beacons in a store or similar environment, it’s still a way to get customers and potential customers engaged.

But if there’s ever going to be a face-off between NFC and beacons, right now it’s probably a tossup. NFC is already in many phones, and that number just rose by millions with the introduction of the new iPhone models. NFC chips are also really cheap, making it part of a viable strategy for marketers and retailers. Beacons on the other hand cost much more but are supported by most Bluetooth-enabled devices. And in perhaps the deciding factor, beacons have a much greater range than NFC, which makes NFC a good choice for point-of-sale payments but not so great for beaming in offers from the store you just entered.

Apple, which seems to dictate which technologies will live or die, is hedging its bets at the moment with NFC support in its new phones and its iBeacon technology, which is available to many of its devices.

The real winner, we hope, is the consumer who can now leave the house with just a smart device and be able to get information, pay for it and even get a free drink. Now once we can get our driver’s license or other form of legal ID on the phone to prove we are old enough to have that free beer, then real wallets may truly become extinct.



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About Anita Karve 37 Articles
Anita is a writer and editor with 20 years of experience covering just about everything in the technology space with a focus on computer networking and telecommunications. She was managing editor of Billing & OSS World magazine and technology editor at Network magazine and most recently was in charge of newsletter coverage at TM Forum.

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