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Presents Get (more) Personal

It seems the department store push for QR code integration has continued. You may remember last year when Macy's launched Backstage Pass. Supported by in-store 'how-to-scan'? posters, Backstage Pass codes let shoppers view fashion tips, designer interviews and other video content based on the store's holiday wares. Fast forward to the 2011 shopping season. Department store giant JCPenney believes 'tis the season to try their hand at QR code integration. Supported by the 'Who's your Santa?'? advertising campaign, 'Santa Tags'? decked with QR Codes will allow gift buyers to record personal voice messages up to one minute long. Instead of simply connecting you to a URL, Santa Tags QR codes create a very merry mobile experience that connect you with friends and family in a fun, surprising and intimate way. And let's face it: you can say a lot more in one minute than you can in a Tweet, on a lo-def paper gift tag or a pre-canned holiday card. This innovation in personalization has the potential to make holiday spirits and sales soar. This new use for QR codes doesn't just add value to customers' lives, it gives JCPenney an edge on the competition. Customers can buy gifts in a click, but Santa Tags give them an extra reason to step away from the computer and into the store ' their store. From heartfelt wishes to inside jokes, every gift can be accompanied by a super-personal stamp ' even if the gifter shipped it across the globe or picked it up last-minute. So while Dad may already have 50 ties, he'll always remember #51 because it came with a special voice message from his little girl. Indeed I think this season's Santa Tag will challenge shoppers to 'think outside the tag'? and find the time to step into a JCPenney to make a purchase. Now, what do you say?   How Santa Tags work: The gifter scans the Santa Tag QR code using a smartphone, records a personal message and attaches the Santa Tag to the gift. When the giftee scans the code with their mobile phone, the message plays. Holiday cheer enjoyed by all!

R2D2 Goes Out to Dinner

You may have noticed the abundance of QR Codes lately ' it seems you can't go shopping, open a catalogue, or even eat a box of cereal without the square, black checkered box begging you to scan it. While many big brands are starting to incorporate these everywhere, they can also be created by individuals for personal or professional use. I've seen them on resumes that link to an online profile of the candidate, and I've also seen them on my local Mom and Pop takeout menu providing a web address to order online, but I was pleasantly shocked to find that one of my restaurant neighbors in Boston's North End has started incorporating QR Codes on plates. Chef Jose Duarte at Taranta learned about the technique five years ago while in Japan, and since then chefs have been using the technique all over Asia and certain European countries. It appears as though Duarte is using it to help diners learn more about their meals. 'Imagine being invited to a sustainable seafood dinner where each plate had a QR code made with calamari ink. The codes could link to websites that educated the diners about the origins of the food they were eating.'? (Quote taken from BostInnovation article) It's a pretty great concept with endless possibilities. Restaurants started incorporating QR codes on menus last year to enhance the dining experience by adding detail to menu items, like how a dish is prepared or where a certain bottle of wine is from, but this has been the first time I have seen the chefs themselves actually incorporating the technology in the their dishes. Most chefs, while adventurous in their own separate ways, will not take many outlandish steps to compromise the integrity of their plates, taking full ownership for what they present. That said, I can imagine a chef like Wylie Dufresne placing a QR code to show which molecular gastronomy techniques were employed, or Jamie Oliver linking to the health benefits of an ingredient, or even one of my favorite zany chefs Martin Picard showing a video of the butchering process for what you're about to consume. While I am excited about these new advances, it is certain to raise some issues within the 'foodie'? community. A restaurant is supposed to be a relaxing atmosphere where diners are distracted only by their taste buds, not by the screens of their cell phones. I can imagine my father saying, 'Can't you take a few minutes to turn that thing off and enjoy your meal?'? It is inarguable that this interesting new technological integration has the potential to revolutionize the dining experience, but whether or not it's a good idea is up to you.

Four Easy Tips for Mobile Interaction

There's no question that integrated social media programs generate awareness and buzz, give you a say in the existing conversations about your brand, and allow you to provide immediate customer service. The next step is to not only be social, but mobile as well. Encouraging mobile interaction at the point of purchase with mobile couponing/QR codes and giving users a reason to come back for more with a branded mobile application is key. Integration is crucial ' Brands should leverage their Facebook page, Twitter handle, and existing website to promote/drive mobile initiatives. Here are a few tips for starters: 1. Build your mobile opt-in database Getting people to opt in will allow for testing. This is where you can play with different innovative push messages and optimize high-performers. Tactics like mobile-only sweepstakes and coupons can entice consumers to join, which ultimately increases opt-in rates. 2. Use QR codes Brands can do so much with QRCs, from incentives to building a community, or both: P-O-P example ' Have packaging encourage consumer to scan the code for an immediate discount > QRC takes consumer to your Facebook page > Facebook page prompts consumer to 'Like us'? for a coupon. Now you have a new fan in your database to whom you can push content. 3. Create a branded app your target audience will find beneficial Although I said to create a 'branded app,'? it isn't about pushing your brand agenda. It's about providing a tool that will prove valuable to your target. If it truly makes consumers' lives easier in some way, they will interact with the app more often and thus have longer exposure times with your brand. 4. Mobile loyalty program Build a program where consumers can opt-in to scan their receipt after purchasing the brand's product(s). Give away a free or discounted product throughout their membership depending on frequency of purchase, as with any loyalty program. There's no question that integrated social media programs generate awareness and buzz, give you a say in the existing conversations about your brand, and allow you to provide immediate customer service. The next step is to not only be social, but mobile as well. Encouraging mobile interaction at the point of purchase with mobile couponing/QR codes and giving users a reason to come back for more with a branded mobile application is key. Integration is crucial ' Brands should leverage their Facebook page, Twitter handle, and existing website to promote/drive mobile initiatives. Here are a few tips for starters: 1. Build your mobile opt-in database Getting people to opt in will allow for testing. This is where you can play with different innovative push messages and optimize high-performers. Tactics like mobile-only sweepstakes and coupons can entice consumers to join, which ultimately increases opt-in rates. 2. Use QR codes Brands can do so much with QRCs, from incentives to building a community, or both: P-O-P example ' Have packaging encourage consumer to scan the code for an immediate discount > QRC takes consumer to your Facebook page > Facebook page prompts consumer to 'Like us'? for a coupon. Now you have a new fan in your database to whom you can push content. 3. Create a branded app your target audience will find beneficial Although I said to create a 'branded app,'? it isn't about pushing your brand agenda. It's about providing a tool that will prove valuable to your target. If it truly makes consumers' lives easier in some way, they will interact with the app more often and thus have longer exposure times with your brand. 4. Mobile loyalty program Build a program where consumers can opt-in to scan their receipt after purchasing the brand's product(s). Give away a free or discounted product throughout their membership depending on frequency of purchase, as with any loyalty program. Path:

Animation in Print Ads?

I recently came across an article titled 'U.K.'s Wallpaper Magazine Makes Pictures Move on Page'?. Of course this caught my attention right away. I mean who would honestly pass over an article that would explain how animation works within a print magazine? For their October issue, Wallpaper, a UK design magazine, teamed up with the London office of Dentsu, a Japanese ad agency, to turn some of the editorial content into animated features. The inspiration for this issue came from a pre-cinema French technique call ombro cinema. Ombro cinema turns still images into animated pieces to add value and increase insight into a feature. Dentsu has used this technique in Japan in the past for newspaper and magazine ads, but could only incorporate this technique into Wallpaper's editorial content due to limited turnaround time for advertisers. How Ombro cinema works: The reader is provided with a sheet of acetate (imagine a clear sheet of plastic) and positions it above the ad or piece that they want to see animated. The reader then moves the acetate back and forth to make the image move. The only tools/technology needed to view the animation are provided within the magazine ' no cell phone scanners or computer cameras needed as required with QR codes ' but it still keeps the reader engaged in the content they are viewing. While Wallpaper also included QR codes in the magazine for readers to watch video portraits of Isabella Rossellini and Brad Pitt, their use of ombra cinema showcases the technique as a viable option for print advertisers to reach consumers while the popularity of scanner enabled handsets continues to grow in the U.S. There is little to no news of ombra cinema debuting in the U.S.; however, imagine the buzz and exposure a brand would receive if they were one of the first to implement this type of print advertising. For more images/examples, check out Dentsu's blog: http://www.dentsulondon.com/blog/2010/09/08/moving-wallpaper/.

Branching Out to Cereal Boxes

As I was reading my daily dose of Ad Week, I came across an article titled 'Kellogg, 'Lucky' Try On-Box Video Codes.'? The headline immediately caught my attention, mostly because Lucky is my all-time favorite fashion magazine. Lucky teamed up with Kellogg's to put a QR code on Special K cereal boxes. Consumers can take a photo of the code with their smartphone and then launch a video that shows Lucky editors revealing tips on how to find the most figure-flattering jeans. In my opinion, the partnership with Lucky and Special K is a seamless fit (no pun intended). Based on statistics from 2009 Doublebase Media Research Intelligence, the Special K consumer is more likely than other women her age to consider herself fashion-forward and rely on magazines to keep her up-to-date on trends and styles. Special K consumers are likely to be interested in Lucky Magazine, especially if they are not already aware of the publication. This partnership should increase awareness of Lucky Magazine among the magazine's target consumer as well as drive magazine subscriptions. It seems like a no-brainer, but when two brands partner, there should be a common thread: the target consumer. This isn't always the case though, and it is those instances where partnerships fail. Brands should choose partners that can help leverage their key brand equities and strengths. Only time will tell whether this Lucky/Special K partnership will increase magazine subscriptions, but Lucky is definitely on the right track.

What's a QR Code?

It's simply a graphic device, similar to the ever-present UPC code, currently referred to as a 'quick response'? or QR code. The term describes any 2-D bar code that can be encrypted with large amounts of data that can be scanned by the consumer to retrieve information from it. So what exactly does this mean? Best way to explain it is this: picture yourself standing in the shampoo aisle at your local retail store trying to determine which shampoo to buy for your unruly thin, flat hair. Suddenly you notice a new shampoo for 'fine'? hair with a sign advertising that this shampoo is perfect for thin hair and will add a ton of volume to it. You hold up your cell phone and snap a picture of the black-and-white, matrix style bar code printed on the corner of the sign. Immediately, on your phone, a web page appears that contains testimonials from other consumers with thin hair saying how much they love this shampoo. There is also a message that the product has a 100% money back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied with the product. Happy with what you have read, you make the decision that this shampoo could be the solution your hair has been waiting for! You are now heading to the register feeling better about your purchase decision because of the additional input you have gotten from the QR code. Just gaining momentum in the US now, marketers have been intrigued with QR codes for years because of their ability to reach consumers instantaneously at the point of purchase. These codes are commonplace in Japan as well as Europe. Within the US there have been some technological barriers, the biggest one being the standardization of code readers in handsets. It's said that standardization will come in time but the consumer will ultimately determine the standard if they perceive the codes to be beneficial. In order for the codes to be effective, they need to solve a problem for the consumer. The positive news for manufacturers and retailers is that progress is being made with U.S. wireless carriers. By early 2011, between 40 and 60 million phones will have a bar reader built into the device compared to 2010, having a mere 5 to 10 million devices with the technology. Predications have been made that consumer scanning of 2-D codes in the future will be as common as texting. Once it catches on and consumers see the benefits, the technology will be there to follow. Currently companies such as Ralph Lauren and Gucci have chosen to use QR codes in mailers and in-store advertising to deliver mobile based information regarding new products and even events. Most recently, Johnson and Johnson used QR codes to promote its new Zyrtec liquid gels with on-site ads at CVS. The ads invited consumers to text or scan the code to redeem a $4.50 coupon off their next purchase of the product. Coke and Pepsi have already placed QR codes on product packaging overseas. It's just a matter of time before these beverage kings start using QR's in the U.S. Even though companies are still uncertain what type of investment they want to make regarding QR codes, consumers are hungry for anything that will help them make a better informed decision. Anything a company can do to provide additional information at minimal or no cost will be a home run for the consumer. Who knows, QR codes may someday even replace the small plastic rewards card we all have dangling from our key chains. Time and technology will tell. If your interest has been piqued regarding QR codes and you are now wondering how to incorporate QR codes into your marketing efforts, contact AMP and we can provide a POV on how to best use the codes for your business.

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