I really hate advertising. I like to think I’m immune to it. While I’m sure marketing experts would say that’s impossible, I’d reply, “Try me.” Yet I do realize that without successful advertising strategies laudable endeavors will fail. So, how to make advertising truly worth your time and attention? Enter Kevin Fullerton and Max Baptiste. Kevin sat down with me at the Frontier last week to tell me how their brainchild, Bitcoin Warlord, is engaging the people of Albuquerque with local businesses through the "gamification" of advertising.

Kevin explained that this gamification is occurring through a citywide scavenger hunt for “quick response,” or QR codes. You know, that square, blocky, bar code-type thing that can be scanned with a smart phone, usually leading one to a website for a company. But, in this case, a scan of a Bitcoin Warlord QR code on a telephone pole, in a bar, or beside your barber’s desk, will get you prizes ranging from coffee, clothing, and art to bitcoin in various denominations and even pieces of silver.

Bitcoin Warlord provides clues to where these QR codes are on its WEBSITE and FACEBOOK PAGE. There are basic codes and rare codes. Basic codes are most common and might get you a freebie that will entice you into visiting one of Bitcoin Warlord’s partners: Adieux Cafe, Zendo, Ace Barber Shop, Microwave Skateshop, and many others. Rare codes are fewer and more difficult to find, but the reward is larger. Some bigger companies are getting involved as well, such as Citilink and RE/MAX Select, and their contributions are subsidizing the involvement of some smaller businesses. Kevin hopes to be able to give away something massive someday like, say, a Ferrari.

What do you need to play? Just a phone with a QR code reader. There is a Bitcoin Warlord app for Android, but it’s not necessary. Incidentally, there is not an app for the iPhone, because Apple wants no involvement with anything that has “bitcoin” in the name. Speaking of which, while bitcoin, currently the most popular (and controversial) alternative currency, provides a nice anti-establishment spin, it can also be viewed as a hook to attract people to the larger mission of helping Albuquerque businesses raise their profile. In fact, the name "Bitcoin Warlord" was inspired by dumpster graffiti.

After only nine weeks, Bitcoin Warlord is attracting serious attention. Kevin says the official launch isn’t until September, but there are already run-up events, including Yelptropolis at Sister Bar a couple weeks ago where Quelab did live 3-D printing of bitcoin. So the alt-currency angle isn’t entirely for show. If you do win bitcoin, note that you’ll need a virtual bitcoin wallet to claim it. There is also an Indie-a-Go-Gp campaign that launched with the goal of raising $500. With almost 2 weeks left, $720 has been donated. This idea might have legs, as they say.

So, check out the website or Facebook page for the latest clues. Go out and get to know the nooks and crannies of your city where QR codes might be lurking. Scan the codes and e-mail photos of the locations to Bitcoin Warlord so they know you didn’t cheat. Reading the QR code will automatically bring up the proper e-mail address for that. Right now, there are six rare codes unfound around town (one is pictured above right) and many more basic codes.

Then support some local efforts that deserve a chance. If you like what you see/eat/drink/wear the hope is that you’ll return and everyone will benefit. In fact, even I’m willing to give this a try. I’ve donated a framed 4" x 6" print of the old schoolhouse in Cuervo (at right) to be given away through Bitcoin Warlord to promote City of Dust and my ghost town photography. Honestly, it doesn’t even feel like advertising!

Thanks to Kevin Fullerton for explaining all this to me. I've still got a flip-phone and can barely take a photo with it, let alone scan a QR code. Thanks also to David Pike for logistical help.

John Mulhouse is an Albuquerque-based frequenter of gravel roads, ghost towns, and empty buildings. His blog, City of Dust, features photos and hidden history from all corners of New Mexico and beyond. He publishes a NM-ghost-town-photo-a-day on Facebook.

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Tags: Albuquerque, Bitcoin Warlord, QR codes, bitcoin, gamification, local businesses, scavenger hunt

Comment by Izquierdo on May 29, 2014 at 9:42am

"Glory to the newborn bling."

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