A few days ago this WSJ article on QR barcodes caught my eye and I included it in the “On the Net” rubric on the blog. Having lived in Asia in ‘05-’06, I was familiar with marketing uses of QR codes, but the article spurred me to learn more. So I went to the source. Mark Binns is CMO of Mobio, the fastest growing company in this fast growing space. I asked Mark to describe the QR code revolution and its marketing implications. He had been interviewed for the WSJ piece, and kindly agreed to write the following primer for Just Marketing readers.
Mark Binns is the Chief Marketing Officer at Mobio Technologies and an Ivey MBA (class of 2004). Mobio is an identity management company specializing in mobile commerce and mobile marketing applications. Using patented security technology and open source QR barcodes, Mobio allows consumers and businesses to transact and interact anywhere, anytime. Mobio cloaks credit card and identity details during all transactions and interactions thereby protecting the user's identity. The Company is headquartered in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. Mark can be reached at this address.
Say Coca Cola wants to collect customer segmentation data using a simple contest (Win free Coke for a year!). So, they place a QR barcode on a giant digital billboard in Times Square.
Consumers point their smartphone at the billboard and scan the code from the street. That scan brings up a page where they share their name and email with one touch of a checkbox to throw their hat in the contest. They may also agree to share their birth date (also already stored in their QR reader profile), rate new Coke products, and vote for a new Coke spokesperson (Rihanna or Katy Perry?).
That billboard just collected valuable market segmentation data, and created a two-way dialogue with the consumer. Oh, and after the consumer hits submit, they get a Coke coupon emailed back to them instantly, creating product trial or deeper loyalty.
|This QR barcode will take you to the Just Marketing Blog|
The QR (Quick Response) barcode, originally designed in Japan to track auto parts, was quickly adopted as a way to connect the physical world with the online world. A typical QR code is decoded by camera-based smartphones, and points the phone’s browser to online content.
In North America QR barcodes were slow to take off, but have exploded onto the scene in the past 12 months. Growth of QR scanning in North America in the past year is pegged at ~5000%. Fortune 1000 brands including Intel, Kraft Foods, AT&T and Calvin Klein (and dozens more) have started putting QR codes into their print ads, billboard ads, and even TV commercials.
But what’s all the fuss about? Isn’t it just a fancy barcode?
Fact is, QR codes are transforming the way brands engage and interact with consumers in the physical world. QR codes are doing for billboards, TV, and magazines what Web 2.0 and Social Media did for the Internet. QR codes are turning static media into interactive media. They’re creating a conversation between a consumer and a brand that has never existed. Plus, QR codes are allowing a trusted data exchange during these interactions that enables deep customer segmentation and targeting for brands.
The marketing applications can be jaw dropping. They range from contest entries, fan/consumer voting, instant couponing, and digital content delivery (web/video) to real time product sales. The QR code turns static real world communications into a dynamic, interactive, mobile online experience for the consumer.
Consider this. Dyson wants to sell more vacuum cleaners in the US. They place a QR code in their TV commercial which hits 300 million pairs of eyeballs in a 4-week period on NBC. Consumers, sitting on their couch, scan the barcode and instantly buy a Dyson for home delivery. No credit cards need to be entered; no names or addresses need to be typed. The scanner software keeps this purchase info in a profile on the Smartphone, and each purchase can be made in under 10 seconds without leaving the couch. The TV is now a direct Point of Sale – actually 300 million points of sale.
Or this. Pepsi releases a new product called Pepsi Lite, a healthy alternative for the sugar conscious consumer. The barcode on the can takes the smartphone to a page that seeks consumer feedback and allows them to enter a contest to win a trip for two to Italy. The unedited feedback is displayed live on Pepsi’s Facebook page, the consumer enters the contest with one touch, and Pepsi has created a three-way dialogue between the consumer, brand and social media followers that could never exist previously.
So, where is this all going?
If brands and consumers continue to see value in real time engagement and simple purchases, enabled by QR, this could lead to a fundamental change in consumer targeting. Just as the web has evolved, QR codes are becoming smarter as more consumer data is collected. Each consumer can now receive a different offer (different coupon, or different contest or content) based on their history with the brand, based on their profile, or even based on their history of interactions with multiple brands. QR codes are giving brands the ability to segment on a 1-1 basis, in the physical world, on-the-go or at home, and based on actual consumer behavior or desires.