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Print comes to life.

The really fun thing about being a media geek is keeping up with the new technology.  In this blog I will explore the use of two relatively new marketing tools–bar codes and iPad interconnectivity.

Have you seen them? Bar codes are showing up in marketing. They are good for more than price checks.  Brands are beginning to use this technology to help consumers gather more information, connect them to the brand’s website, interact with them and, therefore, build relationships.

The consumer simply scans the bar code with a smart phone, which then directs the consumer to the desired content.   Bar codes can be on print ads, direct mail pieces, point- of-sale posters and even out-of-home advertising, such as drink cups, popcorn bags, etc. 

In the cover article for the August 9 issue of DMNEWS, Shahnaz Mahmud gives some insight on how brands are using bar codes in print advertising to boost interactivity. (See http://www.dmnews.com/barcodes-boost-interactivity/article/176616/.)   “We live in a content-driven world,” says Sandra Crawford Williamson, CMO of SuperMedia, a small business marketing interactive shop.  “People have zero patience in getting the information they want.”   The story gives examples of brands using bar codes, such as Universal Pictures, Brooks (athletic shoe company) and Axe (men’s body spray.)  I encourage you to read the article.

But how do we apply this technology to local business?  Let’s think about how local businesses can use bar codes in advertising.  Some local media have already started to integrate this process into their publications.  Shout, a weekly entertainment magazine in Omaha, encourages clients to include bar codes in their advertising, using them to direct readers to their own site to get more information on a particular topic.  Marketers can direct consumers to interactive websites, videos, contests, and even directly to shopping carts within their own websites.

The possibilities are endless.  Smart phones are fun, and more and more consumers are getting hooked on them every day.  This use of a simple bar code can allow you to expand on your sales message, give more detailed information, and further entice your already interested customer.   The trick here is to integrate this extension into your campaigns, linking together all of the elements of your campaign and its message.  I have said it before and I will say it again: make sure all of your communication materials are working together.  This new method of linking someone from a simple print ad or direct mail piece to a more extensive sales message, such as coupons, how-to videos or even directly to your shopping cart on an e-commerce website, is exciting to think about.

Another new technology to watch for is the use of the iPad or digital versions of subscriber based publications.  This is more than the typical publication website. This fall, Husker Illustrated will begin offering its publication digitally on the iPad. Consumers without iPads can still access the content on the web, of course.  This subscriber based opportunity gives advertisers the ability to bypass the need for a bar code because, with the click of a button, a subscriber can receive more photos than ever could have been printed in the print version of the magazine. Or, they can watch actual video of the play of the game.  But this tool also provides advertisers the ability to offer more content, video and digital coupons, as well as link them directly to shopping carts.   The subscriber based publications will begin offering additional content within their digital versions of the publication.  Advertisers within this marketing space will also be able to offer consumers more content.  Jeff Tudor from 1 to 1 Sports Marketing commented about Husker Illustrated’s use of this new technology: “The beauty of digital, other than the added features, is our ability to attract a younger reader.  Our print magazine reaches 35 and older. Web is across the board, but includes a younger audience.  We hope the digital version will bridge the gap and bring the younger reader back to the magazine, while still maintaining our web numbers. Certainly our site will be the place to congregate on the message boards.  Fans can be very vocal and want to be heard.”  The following link will allow you to see what a digital version of the publication will look like on your computer screen or on your iPad.  This example includes links to Facebook pages, allowing you to see how easy it will be to take the reader directly to additional content, your social media community or directly to your e-commerce shopping cart. (Check out  http://issuu.com/waldo21/docs/2010yearbook . Watch for more interconnectivity from Husker Illustrated this Fall.

As I said earlier in this blog, our society is content driven.  Consumers want more information and they don’t want to work very hard to get it.  Therefore, the use of bar codes or digital publications on iPads allows marketers to offer additional content that builds relationships.  So keep your eye out for these new ways to offer content to your customers.

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