In previous articles I've casually mentioned QR (Quick Response) codes. Now it's time to provide some details to those of you who aren't familiar with this groundbreaking technology that's adding a new dimension to marketing in Japan.
The image you see above is an example of a QR code. Essentially, QR codes are a new type of bar code that can hold hundreds of times more information than in the past, including alphanumeric characters and Japanese text. Most Japanese cell phones now come equipped with QR code readers that quickly scan using the phone's camera lens.
Why is this important?
Because brands are using them in all kinds of new ways to reach consumers.
For instance, QR codes are widely seen on posters and billboards, providing anyone with a cell phone immediate access to everything from information on consumer prize campaigns to addresses and maps for retail outlets.
For example, in the below TV ad, NTT DoCoMo explains to viewers how QR codes work. The commercial employs the example of a QR code printed on a poster to provide consumers with information on a special retail sale.
QR codes are also handy for various branding purposes. They can be used to direct mobile phone users to special websites to download brand ads, ringtones, character logos, viral videos, branded flash games and more. Similarly, movie studios make it easy to view coming attractions by printing QR codes on posters that are hung all over Japan. Scan the code and voilà—you're watching previews of films right on your phone.
That's not all. Fast food brands are now printing these codes on sandwich wrappers. One quick scan and you're instantaneously provided with nutritional and/or ingredient information. As you'd expect, QR codes increasingly appear on packaged goods too.
The uses for QR codes are almost limitless. Retailers print them on receipts. Event producers employ them to provide exhibit information. Doctor's offices and beauty salons use them to let people make appointments over their mobile phones. Companies print them on business cards so clients and suppliers can suck contact info right into their cell phones and PDAs. I've even seen TV shows where QR codes appear on the corner of the screen to provide product information.
In other words, they're a great tool for marketers!
So, if QR codes or something similar are not yet available where you are, start thinking ahead. Cell phones are only becoming more ubiquitous. The day will soon come when you're going to need to add the use of phone scanning technology to your toolbox of marketing approaches.
p.s. If you're wondering what data is incorporated in the QR code at the top of this page, it's the web address of this blog: www.japanmarketingnews.com.
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