TRENDSETTERS: Bonin Bough, Pepsi's Global Digital Guru, Outlines the Power of the UPC
Who thought that the Universal Product Code (UPC)—that barcode used for tracking items in stores—could be associated with social media and corporate responsibility?
Bonin Bough, the Global Director of Digital & Social Media for PepsiCo, has the vision to see how such concepts can be aligned with digital content that connects to "real world items” through bar codes—thanks to a little help from Stickybits, the tech company that's working to "tag your world."
Speaking at Internet Week in New York, Bough said, "We were thinking of how we could better communicate the promise of PepsiCo, which is wrapped up in our core value system of Performance with Purpose. Our CEO Indra Nooyi believes that our company has an obligation to deliver a positive impact on the world and transform business in every way."
"To better understand the purpose behind each product, we asked, ‘Can we change the Universal Purchase Code to become a Universal Purpose Code?' Did we have the ability through the UPC to provide consumers with information about the product's origin and answer their questions about sustainability? Could we offer our customers all the information they required from a responsible company right on the package?"
Stickybits Founder & CEO Bill Chasen described how the best way to understand the new power of the UPC was to imagine a contemporary birthday card. A sender could record a video of friends singing "Happy Birthday," which becomes part of the card's bar code. When a recipient scans the symbols, the video plays. It is possible to attach a similar message to the bar code on all Aquafina bottles, for example.
Bonin Bough adds, “Today marketers may try to participate in the conversations around their products, but there are countless conversations occurring well beyond the reach of any company. As a result, we are forced to be accountable for the messages we put on our products—messages that must be credible to the consumer. With this UPC scenario, everyone interested can join the conversation."
During the month of June, PepsiCo is highlighting its new innovation incubator program, PepsiCo 10, an open call for emerging companies in media, communications and technology to activate a pilot program with the company’s brands. Ten companies with original concepts will be chosen to further develop innovative marketing ideas.
According to Bough, “If it’s a big idea, we can make it scaleable. We have the opportunity to change human behavior today. We can partner with a worthy start-up and make those ideas happen. These platforms will change the world. And our scale matters. We are interested in getting any early look—of course, but we are also willing to support ideas we can believe in.”
Entrepreneurs entering the PepsiCo10 contest are asked to focus on one of four innovation segments: social media, mobile marketing, place-based and retail experiential marketing, or digital video or gaming. Proposals will be judged on their ability to impact brands while furthering PepsiCo's corporate Performance with Purpose priorities.