QR Codes And TV Campaigns Connect

Slowly but surely, the U.S. is catching up with the rest of the world in the use of QR (Quick Response).

As I discussed in an earlier article, QR codes – those printed square black-and-white boxes that look something like barcodes – have made their way into American media channels. More and more, we’re seeing them on print ads and occasionally on outdoor posters and billboards. Google has used them to increase usage of its local business directory. Still, our usage of the QR code is in its earliest stages; in Japan, QR codes are everywhere.

In the U.S., the QR code has been slow to take off because of lack of standardization, along with the fact that only some smartphones have the necessary software to read them. That’s starting to change, however. Michael Becker, Managing Director for North America of the Mobile Marketing Association, tells the New York Times:

“Using bar codes is starting to spread because more people are using smartphones, and many of those phones have the scanning application to read the codes.” Adding that the codes “are simple and quick to use and they trigger a richer, quicker and more interactive experience for the user.”

That’s why, as television’s fall season begins, QR codes are starting to appear in television ads. For example, an ad appearing on the Bravo channel for Bluefly, an online retailer of designer clothing, features interviews with celebrities and designers in a series the company calls “Closet Confessions.” The QR code appears in the ad. When the viewer points her smartphone at the code on the screen, it links the phone to a full episode of “Closet Confessions.” Typically five minutes, the extended ad includes a discount offer.

Bradford Matson, Chief Marketing Officer of Bluefly, tells the Times, “We see this as a great way to expand our audience in a measurable way. This is new for us, but we expect our page views to double.”

According to the New York Times, Bluefly is the first national retailer to use the QR codes on television ads; however, the Weather Channel, HBO, and ABC have tested the idea to promote television programming. The Weather Channel, for example, used a QR code to promote local weather data via an application for the Android phone. The Weather Channel saw a twenty percent increase in downloads as a result.

At this early stage, it’s difficult to tell how many television advertisers will jump on the QR bandwagon – or, for that matter, how many smartphone users will recognize the codes and know what to do with them. In terms of the technology adoption life cycle, the QR code is clearly in the early adopter stage here in the U.S. But if the QR code becomes increasingly popular with a group of smartphone users, and they like it and tell their friends, then we could potentially be seeing a lot more of these things pop up on television.

Philip Warbasse, founder of Warbasse Design, a California-based multimedia firm that created a QR code campaign for HBO’s “True Blood” television series, tells the New York Times,

“For now, this is a clever way to make the commercial last longer. It’s in its infancy now but within a year or two, this will be mainstream with bar codes becoming the preferred method for television advertisers to deliver extras to interested viewers.”

Ultimately, the QR code may prove that mobile devices will play an increasingly important role as the link between quick hit marketing messages and the more detailed information consumers want to make a purchase decision. Applied correctly, the QR code could provide an early competitive advantage to marketers who make it part of an integrated media strategy.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

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