Q&A: Brian McClary, social & emerging media analyst, Ford Motor Co.

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Brian McClary, Ford Motor Co.
Brian McClary, Ford Motor Co.

Location-based technology and QR codes are in heavy rotation at the Ford Motor Company. Brian McClary, a social and emerging media analyst at the company dishes.

Q: How is Ford using QR codes?

A: We're using them in multiple touchpoints. We are including them as stickers on car windows in the showroom so consumers can learn more about the vehicles — for example, the exact specifications of the model and the special features. We do this through videos we've created. We have also used them in materials for auto shows so consumers get the behind-the-scenes information for a new vehicle model that will be unveiled at a show. We used them in print ads to promote the new Ford Edge vehicle that launched last year. We used QR codes to link consumers to new information about the new Ford Edge.

Q: What is the rationale behind your QR code strategy?

A: The theory behind the codes is to get people to scan them so they get to the exclusive content inside the code. If we ask consumers to scan the codes, we want to reward them for actively seeking the information. We don't want to simply send consumers to our website. We want the content to be relevant.

For example, for the QR code associated with the new Ford Fiesta that launched two years ago, we developed lots of online video. This was the information you could not see inside the print ad. The method was relevant for the younger audience we were trying to target.

Leveraging QR codes

LBS and QR does leave an impression on the mobile marketing landscape.

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We also look to see if connectivity is going to be an issue. For example, having QR codes displayed in ads in a plane magazine. People won't be able to see the content unless they pay for the Internet. Or, if consumers are at an auto show where there are thousands of people trying to use the same network, will they be able to connect?

Q: How is the company using LBS technology?

A: We don't currently have a national program running on Foursquare, but our dealers use it for their specific functionalities. For example, if consumers check in on Foursquare, then the dealer may reward them with a free car wash. We've used LBS during the big E3 [Electronic Entertainment Expo] gaming convention. We had a booth set up with a foursquare location. The first 20 people to check in got a special edition poster. We knew people were trying to check in, but because connectivity was issue, some people couldn't check in. We eventually let people check in with us through Twitter, so the first people who asked us about through Twitter were given the poster. We're thinking of setting up our own custom Wi-Fi network for the next time.

Q: What are some of the barriers you face when using QR codes?

A: There are a few barriers. For one, there is not one app to rule them all. Also, people are still trying to understand what they will get if they scan a QR code. Some marketers make the mistake of taking users to a website. The QR penetration rate is still low, but we do see the adoption rate increasing. There is now about a 50-50 split between smartphones and feature phones.

Privacy continues to be an issue. People are worried about their security and safety, and don't want to let marketers know where they are.

Q: How can QR codes be improved upon?

A: It would be helpful to have one application that could be used for all QR scanning, or if the ability to scan QR codes was built into the functionality of the phone. Red-Laser has done a good job. It does more than just scan prices; it can be used as a QR code scanner, too.

Q: Where do you see the future of mobile marketing going?

A: Mobile is really exciting. We're seeing users spend more time on their mobile devices. Consumption of digital media is also increasing. The amount of time consumers spend on their handsets is increasing, compared to the amount of time consumers spend on their PCs. It's an important time and exciting to see how to leverage this. We're constantly learning.

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