Q&A: Cynthia Artin on QR Codes in Direct Marketing

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November 9, 2010

As we discussed recently in our post Guide to QR Codes for Direct Marketers, 2-dimensional barcode technology is making inroads into the United States after becoming mainstream in Asia and Europe. For direct marketers, these mobile-friendly codes offer a new way to integrate offline and online communications. Direct mail, print and TV ads, business cards, billboards… anything that can carry an image can now serve as a link to a response page, purchase page, contact information, video, or any other online content.

To help us stay on top of this ever-evolving technology, we recently interviewed Cynthia Artin, a thought leader in the QR Code community who helps organizations integrate QR Codes into their communication strategies. With Cynthia’s permission, we’ve included her responses below…

Q: How did you first become aware of 2D Barcodes and their potential use in direct marketing?

I began studying mobile codes two years ago, when one of my clients who made a substantial investment in the area asked my opinion on how the economics might play out. After spending time researching through the many special interest groups around the world as well as reading up on all the companies offering readers, platforms, campaign managers, campaign creative and more – I was hooked!

Q: What’s the most exciting use of QR Codes you’re seeing right now?

Embedded enterprise applications – B 2 C – which are tightly integrated into existing information systems, such as marketing, CRM, Point-of-Sale, publishing, ticketing, couponing and redemption.

Q: The U.S. has lagged behind Europe and Asia in use of QR Codes; when do we catch up?

We catch up when mobile devices come pre-loaded with readers that scan every type of code and when the applications become more useful and less “flash-in-the-pan.”

Q: What are the big hurdles you see towards QR Code adoption in the U.S., and how can they be changed or overcome?

Open vs. closed systems work – and they always win out. As long as we have providers whose mobile codes work only when scanned by their readers, we will continue to frustrate consumers and deliver poor results to marketers.

Q: Is standardization of 2D Barcodes necessary? If so, which one will win out?

Standardization is an often subjective term! Open is necessary – decoding is key. The winners I am seeing in the market are delivering readers that read all of today’s codes – and tomorrow’s. Ultimately all codes could work if code providers agree to open decoding. At that point, the best codes will win – those which are most intuitive, those that are most easily and quickly read by the cameras, those that do not destroy graphic design integrity.

Q: What companies do you see as leaders in their use of QR Codes?

Google’s “Favorite Places” campaign sent out more than 100,000 store-front stickers to businesses across the country. When a user takes a photo of the personalized QR Code using a QR Code reader, they’re directed to a description and reviews of the store or restaurant.

The leader in integration is Mobile Data Systems.

  • The leader in creativity is Renu Mobile.
  • The leader in cross-platform campaigns and luxury goods is Tappinn.
  • The leader in retail is Launch Media.
  • The leader in coolness is QM Codes.
  • The leader in support and documentation is Microsoft(though I am not happy about their attempting to perpetuate their closed system – they will not monopolize this industry!)
  • The leader in innovation is Packrads.
  • The leader in friendly, accessible solutions for small to medium businesses is Unity Mobile.
  • The leader in attracting awesome brands is JagTag(though their technology is dated).
  • The leader in getting global traction is ScanBuy.
  • The leader in having established the IP In the first place is NeoMedia.
  • The leader in tier one operator business models and services is Brand Extension Mobile Solutionsworking with Telefonica.
  • The leader in social networking is Facebook.
  • The leader in creating mass interest in mobile codes is Google, with Favorite Places and more.
  • Finally, the leader in working to ensure mobile codes work at scale and sustainably – is Neustar. I have lived through history with Neustar: interconnects, number portability, short codes. We have seen this movie before, and we know that in order for any new mobile capability to “move into the millions,” utility partners are essential.

Q: So let’s say a direct marketer is ready to get their feet wet; what are simple, low risk ways for them to start using QR Codes?

Add a mobile code to a direct mail piece with a simple, compelling call to action that immediately “gives back” a coupon, a virtual prize, something cool! Pick a great company, such as those in the above list, and have them walk you through the process – it is so easy, and the feedback is immediate!

About Cynthia Artin

Cynthia Artin, President of ArtinArts, has been helping companies grow through sound investment, strategy and market positioning for 30 years. She supports a range of companies, from start-ups to multi-billion enterprises, in positioning mobile innovations and solutions, including mobile codes. Her primary passion is identifying and developing mobile applications that help people live happier, healthier lives – at scale, by bringing together teams from for-profit companies with teams from non-profit organizations to create communications and service delivery channels on a global scale.

To learn more about Cynthia or connect with her, visit her LinkedIn Profile.

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