Leveraging QR codes

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LBS and QR codes leave an impression on the mobile marketing landscape
LBS and QR codes leave an impression on the mobile marketing landscape

Mobile marketing has become an essential component of the overall direct marketing experience as more consumers adopt smartphones and tablets. As the technology has evolved, run-of-the-mill mobile marketing practices such as SMS and push notifications have given way to more sophisticated practices such as quick response, or QR, codes and location-based services (LBS).

A recent comScore report showed that of the nearly 98 million U.S. smartphone users — which represents 42% of all U.S. mobile users — one in five scanned a QR code in December 2011. LBS marketing is also projected to increase to $6 billion by 2015, according to a 2010 Borrell Associates report. This includes laptops, tablets and GPS, in addition to mobile phones. A Berg Insight report, released January 2012, had a lower prediction of LBS marketing revenue in North America at $710 million by 2016. LBS was defined as location-based apps and ads.

Hence, the opportunities for marketers are many, but a well-conceived strategy is crucial.

Location is key

QR codes are cropping up on just about everything, from magazines to packaging, from billboards to moving vehicles, the bikini bottoms of Britain's female Olympic volleyball team to tombstones in Germany.

Some placements obviously work better than others. “I've never understood why codes would be placed in TV ads,” says Chia Chen, SVP of digital at Digitas. By the time a consumer opens the app needed to scan the code, the commercial is probably over, he explains. Codes on moving vehicles are another head scratcher.

Proximity to codes plays an important role in their success. Chen says codes should be within arms' reach and big enough to register easily. While codes placed on subway ads seem like a good idea, the size of the code may not be big enough to scan unless the person is sitting directly by the poster. The same goes for codes on billboards — people will be too far away.

Additionally, a person sitting next to an ad on the subway might be underground and not have an Internet connection. The same goes for codes placed in airline magazines.

Still, Chen says codes in magazines have been the most successful placements.

“When we talk to publishers doing this, they're saying they're getting hundreds of thousands of people snapping codes because consumers are able to hold the magazine close enough to see it,” Chen says.

Last year, Digitas worked on the Eclipse ad campaign for Jenn-Air, a high-end kitchen appliances company, for the March/April edition of Architectural Digest. Brian Maynard, Jenn-Air's director of marketing, says the four-page magazine spread featured a 3-by-3-inch die-cut piece of an oven that invited consumers to remove it, stand in front—but several feet away — of their current ovens and hold the die cut to block or “eclipse” their oven so they could instantly see what the Jenn-Air appliance would look like in their kitchen.

The cutout had a QR code on the back where buyers could snap to learn more about the product.

“People still read magazines — especially in this segment,” Maynard says. “The trick is to drive them to go online and go to the retailer.” Maynard says the percentage of people interacting with the ad was greater than a typical ad in Architectural Digest.

The campaign was further enhanced by creating a mobile app with similar functionality, allowing people to take a photo of their kitchen and insert a Jenn-Air image of an appliance. Maynard says consumers have started to have fun with the app by taking photos of their friends lifting “heavy appliances,” and the appliance manufacturer is considering inviting people to share the photos on Jenn-Air's Facebook page to further keep consumers engaged.

Chen says clients are using location to get a sense of what consumers are doing, to see if there is a moment relevant to a brand and to see how marketers can engage consumers in those moments.

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