Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's raining and it smells like Spring!

Not smell like dog poop either.
That special aroma of hope springing eternal.
The scent of freshness, renewal, rebirth and growth.
Just had to take a moment from writing another web site architecture to notice and share.
Little pleasures.
Life is worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why are we lagging in the introduction of this technology?

In the past day or so I've sent an email to over 100 of my contacts on LinkedIn asking if they new of Canadian/North American packaged goods marketers who were using QR coding on their packaging.

It surprised me that several of the responses I got from these people who are leaders in the industry were, "What the hell is a QR code?"

Granted, until I started looking into it as a response to a recommendation from one of our clients I wouldn't have know a QR code from a Graham Cracker!

However, now that I've done some research and will in all likelihood help our client introduce this to their packaging, I'm confused why this hasn't been adopted at the retail level.

So, what the hell is a QR code? The following is an excerpt from a website I found greatly useful -

QR codes are 2-dimension bars, which means that they encode data in two directions, allowing information to be decoded at a much higher speed. First created by the Japanese corporation, Denso-Wave, in 1994, QR codes were designed to allow its contents to be decoded at a high speed and even if partially damaged, the data can still be extracted. In comparison to some of the barcodes you may be used to, individual QR Codes can hold as much as 50 times more information and up to 16 QR codes can be linked together, creating series of codes for even greater capacity or simply using a series smaller codes in place a larger one.
Great, so what does that mean?
The main purpose for QR Codes is to automatically input information into a phone (such as the data from a business card) having to type it in. That means no more typing! Perhaps the most popular service, has been providing QR codes that can link users to a website. This service is simple, forward and to the point and since QR codes can be printed on almost any media, any person or company can add a QR code to their products and direct a user to a website, where they can provide information or initiate other processes that provide simultaneous feedback to whoever deployed the code. For advertisers, this might generate real data on the visibility of their ads, while manufacturers might consider initiating warranty registration or identify further products or services. Each industry will determine its own use but the initial priority will be the transfer of information from paper to electronic form. However, the potential is far greater.
So what else do they do?
Just think of all the credit and debit cards a person has to carry around with them. Why not just use your phone? Just walk up to a vending machine and pay with your phone. Or purchase goods in a convenience store the same way. Not possible you say. Try telling that to the Japanese. QR codes, utilized in paperless transactions, have allowed major retail chains in Japan to enhance distribution efficiency through cooperative technology with their shippers in key areas such as apparel and cosmetics. As well, automated reporting has provided additional efficiencies for suppliers and wholesalers, who can better manage their logistics through monitoring feedback. At exhibitions, seminars, and trade shows registration and entry can be streamlined by using a QR coded ID badge or displaying a QR code on your phone. Better still, what about planes, trains or any other queue? In large companies asset management is commonplace and QR codes facilitate inventory control and loss prevention. Now, with the phone as the reader, anyone can benefit by placing QR codes (either visible or hidden) on their own property.

Real estate on packaging has become a very valuable commodity. So much space is required for beneficial nutritional information, legal stuff and simple brand communication there is little opportunity to engage the consumer in an emotionally relevant story. Now, while this code itself seems only to work efficiently at approximately 2cm square it does provide an on-site immediate link to a website/microsite where the complete tale of the product can be told aurally, visually and with links to additional information about the company.

It's popular in Japan and while penetration is pretty low even there this is an emerging technology that I can't see doing anything but become as ubiquitous as UPC bar codes are today. Particularly for companies wishing to actively engage the Millennial market this seems a no-brainer to me. They're incredibly easy to generate (if you shoot the one above with your phone it will bring you to this blog). The readers (yes, you need to download one to your phone but that's easy too...I used a free app on my iPhone called BeeTagg - and it adds some entertainment value to packaging - or could if anyone was using it.
I think Pringles, Dove and a few other major CPG outfits are using it but there's tons of opportunity out there still. Governments and airlines and the like use it and it's widely used in the shipping industry.
I'll keep you advised on what happens with our client but for now this seems like a very exciting opportunity. In the meantime, if you know of reasons why this technology is slow to be introduced to N.A. I'd love to know and would also like to hear about any companies using it in packaging.