Since the mid-1990s, Japanese consumers have used their cell phones to scan unique-looking bar codes for information about their favorite products, movies and businesses. These barcodes reside on everything from Tokyo billboards to individual business cards.
No, this isn’t something out of a sci-fi movie. This is a real marketing tool created by Denso Corp., an auto components manufacturer that clearly has talents in mobile technology development as well. Now, nearly 20 years after the birth of mobile tagging, many U.S. businesses are adopting the technology as well.
What is Mobile Tagging?
Mobile tags, also called quick response codes or QR codes, look similar to the bar codes you see on a bag of potato chips, for example, but tend to be square and have fewer straight lines. In order to scan the code, users need to download an application to their smartphones. Once scanned, your phone will bounce over to a specially-made webpage, called a landing page.
While mobile tags can be used as a marketing tool, few marketing agencies can create the QR codes on their own. Most rely on a software development company to complete the task.
Why Businesses Should Consider Mobile Tagging
All sizes of Japanese companies have integrated mobile tagging into their marketing campaigns. For example, Northwest Airlines placed QR codes on billboards, posters and light boxes around Tokyo. The campaign was so successful and created so much buzz that the company extended it and was later recognized at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival for Best Use of Outdoor [Media] in 2006. (See www.mindshareworld.com/what-we-do/case-studies/@north-west-airlines-qr for a case study of this campaign.)
It goes without saying that mobile tags present a new way to market a business, but that’s not the only reason businesses should consider mobile tagging. Cost-effectiveness, customization and competitive advantage should weigh heavily on the decision.
- Cost-effectiveness. Because the user scans the code, you can easily track your marketing dollars and the tactic’s effectiveness.
- Customization. QR codes allow businesses to customize a marketing message to someone who has demonstrated an active interest in the product, business or idea.
- Competitive advantage. The technology may not be “new,” but it’s likely your competitors have not yet caught on. Now is the time to get a step ahead of the rest.
The Content Behind the Mobile Tag
Experts tell businesses not to create a mobile tag for the sake of creating a mobile tag. The technology may be impressive, but it does little to promote a business on its own. The most successful QR code campaigns inform, entertain and/or incentivize users.
Here are a few examples of how companies have successfully backed mobile tags with content:
- ESET, a company that produces anti-virus software, created a four-part scavenger hunt for attendees of the South by Southwest Conference in Austin earlier this year. Players scanned QR codes to obtain clues that led to specific destinations (where exposure to the ESET brand was unavoidable). The first 200 to complete the hunt received free software were entered to win a Sony VAIO laptop. (See imediaconnection.com/content/26320.asp.)
- 2,200 New York City Department of Sanitation trucks have been decorated with a QR code. When scanned these codes take you to a recycling video that tells you how to recycle in New York City. (See adage.com/digitalnext/article?article_id=145221.)
- The ticketing website Eventbrite tested a program for party and concert admission in order to reduce paper waste and get people through the door faster. (See mashable.com/2009/01/07/qr-codes.)
It’s not just large, international companies that can benefit from mobile tagging technology. Local small businesses can just as effectively capture the attention of their market and provide quality content behind that mobile tag.
Consider providing your market with interesting facts, helpful tips, coupons or other incentives by way of mobile tagging. The technology, while complicated, is not too sophisticated for the average user, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you see results. iBi
InfoCom Marketing (ICM) is a division of Ferotech Solution Services Inc,
a software development company out of Peoria, Illinois.