The InterACT! conference is aimed at solving how marketers should bring traditional media and digital media together to reach consumers who've become increasingly mobile and good at avoiding or ignoring marketing messages. QR codes (QR codes on Wikipedia, if you're not familiar with them) are the technology being talked about most as a way to catch up with those moving — or fleeing, to hear some of the presenters describe them — consumers.
"A lot of people are using QR codes in Japan," explained Brian DeWitt, managing director of Prism Digital, in the session "Implementing Mobile Codes to Drive Interactive Campaigns." In fact, the patent is held by Japanese megafirm Denso — but it can be used royalty free — and because it's been used extensively overseas, many of the bugs have been found and worked out. QR is not the only code — in fact the second presenter, Michael Becker, North America managing director of Moblie Marketing Association (MMA), pointed out there are over 40 photo-recognizable codes out there — but it is catching on.
The codes are hot because there are multiple marketing applications, but most of those connect printed materials with digital interactivity in some way. Vic Walia of Hotels.com showed VirtualVacay.com, the site's virtual vacation website in the morning keynote. It works off of a QR code the user prints out, but could just as easily be sent on a mail piece. Marc Fors of Print Worthy Advice spoke about his company's on-demand QR greeting cards, which can be sent to your list on-demand loaded with whatever content you want the QR code to link to (a mobile website, video, PDF, your resume, etc.).
QR codes are also showing up in very public places, like billboards, where they can spark immediate, measurable actions from consumers passing those advertisments on the street or being handed a flier.
There's still a sizeable gap in the QR technology. In mass-media, it's often difficult to track specific users because it's impossible to use PURLs when everyone's interacting with a single QR code. The most impressive applications generally require the user to download a specific app; so if you want your ad to sing to prospects through their smartphones, you're probably going to have to provide an app for that and hope your targets have the patience to download and install it. (The market is begging for one company to put out a single, standardized app that would allow every cool interaction marketers can think up.)
The goal has clearly become to catch up to consumers who are far less interested in reading traditional ads. A quick snap of the phone camera is a pretty slick, hi-tech way to spark that interraction. QR codes have the feel of the times, even if the technology hasn't quite caught up yet.
InterACT! is the first educational forum for marketers, brand owners and service providers on cross-media direct marketing opportunities and strategies organized by InfoTrends and North American Publishing Company (NAPCO) being held Aug 10-11, 2010 in Rosemont, IL.