Pongr Tells Brands to Remove Goggles, Respond to Customers


A ping for a pong. Mix one part camera-phone with image recognition technology with one part brand loyalty and social engagement, and what do you get? Pongr, a mobile photo-sharing game based on brand logos.

Snap a picture of an ad, a television commercial, a billboard, a packaged product, send it in to Pongr and earn brand rewards. Earn enough points and become virtual CEO of your personal favorite brands. Consumers can earn and trade virtual stocks, propose deals, collect a virtual paycheck, and crowdsource deals.

Pongr CEO Jamie Thompson tells brandchannel that “every picture sent through Pongr expresses consumer interest in some product or brand. We give brands the ability to respond immediately (with a call-to-action) when pictures of their brand are photographed.”[more]

Out of several hundred brands regularly receiving user-generated pictures, the most active are Ford, Apple and Starbucks. Pongr delivers “intelligent rewards” enabled by proprietary AI. The US edition of Marie Claire magazine, for instance, used Pongr to create a digital shopping incentive for its Fall 2010 fashion issue.

Thompson told BC, “If you take a picture of the Ford logo and send it to ford@pongr.com you will get a response message that is different than if you take a picture of a Ford truck and send it to ford@pongr.com. If you take a picture of a bottle of Tide and send it to tide@pongr.com you will get a message that is different from what will happen if you take a pic of the generic brand and send it in.”

Perhaps most notable, Pongr prides itself on “transcending” QR code technology.

“Instead of using a QR code to “recognize” what should be sent back, we use brand logos and advertisements without any need to mark them up.  That’s what our image recognition and object detection is all about; recognizing existing brand assets, knowing how to parse the content, and matching a desired brand response,” says Thompson.

Pongr, for now at least, is trumping Google Goggles as a brand marketer’s best friend: it works on all global networks and 90% of handsets making it a carrier agnostic brand mobile solution. Pongr supports Facebook Connect and Twitter platforms.

“Google Goggles is mostly a horizontal visual search engine,” says Thompson. “Pongr is an entirely brand-oriented, vertical, visual search engine. By being vertically focused on “objects” that represent high probability of purchase intent, Pongr is able to wrap a game around the service that makes it inherently more social.”

As for the name, “We were inspired by the simplicity of Pong as an early innovator in video games.  We were equally inspired by what Flickr did for photos on the web.  We figured there must be a way to pay some homage to both. And that gave birth to Pongr.”

Is mobile social advertising with AI the next level of brand gaming? Or a viable entrepreneurial challenger to Google, Facebook and other tech giants wooing brands?