If you see some crazy person waving their phone around like they’re trying to hit an imaginary bug, don’t worry – they’re just catching coupons. The Mobile Art Lab in Japan has developed a new iPhone App, iButterfly, that lets you catch virtual butterflies and turn them in for valuable offers. iButterfly is an augmented reality program, it takes the video feed from your phone’s camera and superimposes virtual images – in this case butterflies. Users can travel all around Japan and see a wide variety of ‘butterfly species’, including some that look like pop celebrities or pieces of food. A quick swipe of the phone and the insect is caught. You can collect your butterflies in virtual albums, trade them with friends (via Bluetooth), or exchange them for commercial gifts. Restaurants or stores can make promotional offers through the iButterfly system. Basically the butterflies are coupons on wings, and the iButterly App is an advertising tool disguised as a game. Frakkin’ Brilliant. Watch the iButterfly commercial in the video below. Mark my words, this App may only be available in Japan for now, but it is a sign of things to come for everyone.
More than 90% of the Japanese public has a mobile device. That makes phones one of the best and important tools for marketing in that nation. The same is true, or will be, all around the globe. Your smart phone is your highway into the digital world and companies are going to find new ways of posting virtual billboards along its path. iButterfly is exactly the sort of solution that will work. It’s a game, sort of fun, and you can get real benefits from it. Users will and can enjoy the App as a mild form of entertainment on its own, but they can also get competitive with friends, or pursue virtual butterflies for the deals they offer. No matter what keeps them on iButterfly, Mobile Art Lab wins.
Now, keep in mind that I have no idea whether or not iButterfly itself will hit it big. But if it doesn’t, something very similar to it will. Actually, maybe it has. FourSquare is becoming more and more game like, and is reaching to get vendors to make offers through their system. There are other examples: Gowalla, Booyah, Yelp, etc, that combine geo-tagging with retail locations in the same way. None of these is quite as blatantly a ‘gaming for coupons’ scheme as iButterfly, but they’re moving in that direction while still maintaining a broader social media outlook. In any case, “gaming + real world benefits” is a winning formula, and big social media names like Zynga have already tried it with success (albeit in reverse).
Remember, old media is dying, and with it the old forms of advertising. Viewers aren’t going to sit in front of a TV and listen to your commercials anymore. Ditto for radio. We inhale media through the internet now, and we’re getting really good at ignoring ads and checking emails while commercials play on Hulu. Give it a few years, and I think most of these traditional forms of advertisement will be almost completely phased out. (In the meantime, we’ve got some beautiful ads on Singularity Hub!) Get ready for a lot more interactive and innovative ways to get you to crave brand name goods and visit retail outlets. The only way advertising will survive is if it can make itself fun, and social, and addictive. Gaming for coupons is one of the best solutions. Trust me, iButterfly is a sign of the future.
[image and video credits: Mobile Art Lab]
[source: Mobile Art Lab]