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QR Codes: useful professional tool or just a gimmick?

29 Jul, 11 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

QR codes are becoming more and more prevalent in our daily lives. Now commonly used for digital boarding passes, interactive shop windows and advertisements in newspapers, magazines and billboards, they are appealing to our inherent desire to access further information as quickly as possible.

Notably, rather than remaining the domain of entertainment and retail marketing strategies, QR codes are increasingly used as a serious means of information recall in professional and scholarly circles. more…

Quick Response (QR) codes: what, why and where?

18 Mar, 11 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

When we notice something in the real world that we’d like more information about, it’s no longer necessary to make a mental note to look it up later on Google. We can simply point our smartphone at the object and obtain the desired effect without typing or speaking. The Quick Response (QR) code is said to offer the quickest and easiest link between curiosity and information retrieval and its value is recognised by businesses and consumers alike.

How do they work?
If you’re not yet familiar with Quick Response codes, they’re akin to the ubiquitous barcodes used by retailers to track inventory and price products at the point of sale. The key difference is that QR codes store a much larger amount of data, including URL links, geographic coordinates and text. While  still considered a novelty in many places, QR codes have been actively used for over a decade in Japan where they were invented.

When users scan or read a QR code with their iPhone, Android or other camera-enabled Smartphone, they can link to digital content on the web; activate a number of phone functions including email, IM and SMS; and connect their mobile device to a web browser.

Where are they being used?
QR codes are becoming more prevalent in marketing circles and have been integrated into both traditional and interactive campaigns across the globe. Media where QR codes have been deployed include: billboard ads  (see a recent Calvin Klein campaign), websites, email marketing, business cards, print ads, guerilla marketing campaigns, event ticketing and tracking, in-store displays, trade-show management, contests, direct mail campaigns and couponing just to name a few. See more novel uses of QR codes below:

  • United Airlines – Many of the major airlines are now using 2D codes as digital boarding passes.  By the end of 2011, it has been reported that all carriers will be required to provide this service for international flights.

  • Geo-based reviews and tours – A pilot program between CitySearch and Antenna Audio began in Spring 2008. Reviews and audio snippets were embedded into codes on San Francisco historical landmarks and restaurants. Foodies and tourists enjoyed self-guided tours of the Bay.
  • Ralph Lauren interactive windows – These allow users to purchase items when the shops are closed. Consumers pass by, see something they like, scan the QR code by a particular product and are instantly taken to the relevant product on their site. This uses two trends perfectly : QR codes and mobile commerce.

The future
What’s most exciting is how QR codes take what social media is doing well now (bringing people together with technology) and extend it to enhance that experience. The next generation of barcodes will hold even more information – so much that an Internet connection will not even be necessary.  The content will be effectively embedded in the code. Imagine scanning a digital code to manifest physical reality?

Try it for yourself!

  1. Download a QR reader from your handset’s app store.
  2. Hold your smartphone over the code shown below.
  3. You will then be forwarded to the BMJ blog homepage!

Facebook and Google predict the future of internet marketing

4 Mar, 11 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

The annual Technology for Marketing and Advertising exhibition took place this week at London’s Earls Court, bringing together some of the UK’s leading Internet marketing innovators. Amongst more than 200 exhibitors, keynote speakers included Facebook’s UK commercial director, Stephen Haines, and Nic Cumisky, Google’s Senior Industry Manager.

Impressive statistics

The keynote speeches were dominated by startling statistics.

  • 124 years of Angry Birds are played every week.
  • 40 % of all Tweets are from mobile devices.
  • There were 2.4 billion UK internet visits to social networks in January 2011.
  • Facebook is now the second most visited site in UK (after Google) – every 6th page viewed in the UK is on Facebook.
  • On Christmas Day 2010, Facebook traffic exceeded Google traffic for the first time ever.
  • On average, we pass 3,254 pieces of personal information into databases each week.

Interesting trends

Microsoft and Experian teamed up to discuss a number of trends that are sweeping the online realm. Social networking users have now surpassed email users. Demographically, younger internet users often only use email when communicating with adults. When speaking with their peers, they prefer to use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Robin Goad from Experian Hitwise (a proprietary software that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use to analyse website logs created on their network) revealed clear profiling patterns in social media usage. By cross-referencing this information with Experian’s Mosaic consumer classification data, they were able to identify a trend for more affluent members of society to use Twitter, whereas Facebook is much more mainstream and skews towards the upper working class.

Emerging technologies to keep an eye on

  • NFC (Near Field Communication) chips were described by Google as ‘bluetooth on steroids’. NFC allows a device, usually a mobile phone, to collect data from another device or NFC tag at close range. In many ways, it’s like a contactless payment card that is integrated into a phone. In other ways, it’s similar to Bluetooth, except that instead of programming two devices to work together, they can simply touch to establish a connection.
  • QR codes can be scanned and read by anyone with a smartphone, just by clicking their camera. By scanning the codes, you can access images, websites and text. QR codes allow for more data than the standard 10-digit bar code and scanning requires less effort than typing a URL. Click here to view some novel uses of this technology.
  • i-Ads – AXA have recently released the first i-Ad, which integrates newspaper advertising with an iPhone. The video below explains the process in more detail, but the gist is that you come upon an engaging picture in print and are asked to place your iPhone on a blank space on the page which brings the story to life, and keeps eyeballs on the i-Ad for a full minute.

  • Third life – It is becoming increasingly hard to determine what is offline and online. Google and many others are in the process of seamlessly combining the real world and the online world into something entirely different. Industry experts predict that we will soon experience an indistinguishable mashing of our real physical first life and our second virtual life into a ‘Third Life’. Both General Motors and Ford are integrating augmented reality technology into their windshields so that GPS directions will be layered on to the road in front of you, along with directions to your local Burger King or HSBC branch. A car has even been released with voice-activated Facebook newsfeed updates: watch a demonstration in the advert below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seKnxwzF2DU

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