A Q&A with Blippar co-founding director and CMO Jess Butcher. The London–based company was founded in August of last year.
SUB: Please describe what Blippar is, and the value proposition you bring to the mobile market?
Butcher: Blippar is the first marker-less image-recognition platform for smartphones designed to convert real-world media, brands and products into instantaneous digital experiences.
Through one free app on a smartphone, Blippar opens in camera mode and becomes a ‘lens’ through which real world branded objects, such as press adverts, billboards or retail displays, logos, packaging or even landmarks can become content-rich, interactive experiences.
Experiences might include: An augmented reality overlay, web links, location-based service, digital graffiti, gaming, couponing or sales promotion.
Our technology is best suited to ‘high passion’ sectors such as sport—or entertainment, enthusiast-hobbies and topical debate. In appreciation of this, we integrate with the popular social platforms through in-app mechanics—whereby every ‘blipp’ experience is one tap shareable via email, Facebook, Twitter—to actively encourage peer-to-peer sharing content. These mechanics are particularly attractive to groupings and communities such as sports fans who wish to share exclusive content around teams, results, latest news, fan-games and the sports personalities they idolize. Recently, we worked in partnership with Southampton FC to create a blipp that allowed their fans to ‘Join the Huddle’ as well as purchase memorabilia and tickets from their m-commerce site. We are continuing to expand on this with a number of other sporting brands in the pipeline.
SUB: What are your target markets?
Butcher: Our target market is anyone with a smartphone—the youth through to the older ‘late’ adopters, both male and female. It is the content that is of course critical to the attraction of our technology to each demographic—whether a compelling game or exclusive piece of music content for a teenager or a valuable coupon for a grocery-shopping mother. Offering exclusive content from gaming, m-couponing to live feeds and polls we always aim to provide content targeted to specific segments.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Butcher: We don’t really perceive ‘competition’ as such. There are other image-recognition and augmented players in the market but business models and technological solutions are widely divergent.
SUB: What differentiates Blippar from the competition?
Butcher: Although there are other businesses exploring the fields of image recognition and AR and utilizing them for gaming, educational tools and fun, Blippar alone has successfully seen the scope to use the technology to breathe life into the somewhat ‘tired’ traditional advertising mediums of press advertising and outdoor—plus reinvigorate on-pack and in-store branding efforts. By focusing on these channels and this usage, we are building a targeted, aware audience of consumers who expect and indeed seek brand and media engagement through the platform.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
Butcher: The company was founded in April 2011. There was an extensive period of product testing to research the capabilities of the tech and with some rough early demos we started courting early advertising partnerships. The culmination of this effort led us to our launch partner Cadburys in which we produced ‘Qwak Smack’, an AR gaming mechanic played off their product packaging. The rest, as they say, is history.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Blippar? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Butcher: Blippar, the platform for brands, was conceived in the pub when ‘playing’ with a £10 note on which we’d managed to augment our CEO’s head… then potential for users to engage with brands was explored and the hard work began.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Butcher: Inertia and lack of creativity. The former is the ‘wait and see’ approach by some brands unwilling to take too many risks. The latter is just as dangerous—as doing boring things with the technology will not aid its mass consumer adoption. We don’t want to be in the position of QR codes where three years down the line, there is still less than 15 percent adoption. We have to push constantly for our partners to push the opportunities and give us great content to shout about.
SUB: You recently raised a Seed funding round. What are your plans for the funds?
Butcher: Our seed funding will allow us to scale up, increase head count and invest in more scalability for the platform, with a view towards expanding internationally.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Butcher: Very possibly! We are very open minded at this stage.
SUB: What are your goals for Blippar over the next year or so?
Butcher: Global growth and mass consumer-adoption through the continued adoption by great brands, offering really great experiences and content through the technology.
Blippar – www.blippar.com