Cause Marketing Trends: An Interview With Laura Marriott

In January I posted on my idea of putting QR codes on paper icons as a way to bridge the digital and print worlds. So far as I know no one has yet done so. But do call me if you want to try. I’ll help you put the campaign together for a bargain rate!

But companies and causes are using 2-D barcodes in their marketing. (A QR code is a kind of 2-D barcode). And one of the leaders in the software that makes this bridging possible using mobile phones is NeoMedia Technologies, led by acting CEO Laura Marriott. Ms. Marriott, at left, kindly consented to an interview on what’s trending now with mobile barcode technologies, how causes and sponsors are using it, and what’s next.

Today in the first half of our interview, she gives a quick overview 2-D barcodes and explains how causes are using the technology right now.

For rookies like me, what's the difference between 1-D and 2-D barcodes?
1D, linear barcodes such as the Universal Product Code (UPC) and European Article Numbering (EAN) codes, have been around for years and are widely used in retail. 1D codes are comprised of a sequence of vertical bars and spaces and when read by a scanner, they generate a product identification number that can be recognized by a point of sale (POS) system so the checkout assistant does not need to key in the number by hand. However, the 1D barcode can only contain 10-20 characters and are also easily damaged, which often makes them unreadable.

The 2D barcode on the other hand was invented in the 1990s to combat these problems, meaning that the size and capacity vastly increased and opened the way for applications that had never been considered previously. As 2D mobile barcodes stores information both vertically and horizontally, it can store thousands of characters of data. Part of this extra capacity can be used to store data-correction information that can be used to reconstruct any data should the barcode pattern be partially damaged. This is similar to the technology that is used to restore damaged data on computer disks and digital broadcasts.
How many phones have the capability of reading 2-D barcodes?
In order to be able to read 2D mobile barcodes, phones must have a scanning application installed on the device. This can be done in two ways: 1) the handset manufacturer has an application preinstalled on the device or, 2) the consumer downloads a scanning application from an app store or from the scanning provider’s website. For example, many Sony Ericsson and Samsung devices already come pre-installed with NeoReader™ NeoMedia’s barcode reading software, which is also on all app stores and available from We expect that consumers will download multiple readers, as well as some specialized readers, in order to scan 1D and 2D codes.
NeoMedia talks about using 2-D barcodes to bridge the gap between traditional and digital media. What are some innovative ways marketers are using it?
We’re seeing a range of marketers using 2D barcodes to bridge the gap between traditional and digital media. One example is in the fast food industry for a campaign that we launched for Papa John’s for its mobile ordering website, enabling consumers to order pizza directly from their mobile phones. Wanting to encourage consumers to sign-up for this new service a 2D barcode was integrated into a direct mail piece. When the barcode was scanned with a mobile phone, consumers were directed to Papa John’s mobile ordering website where they received a promotional code for free pizza. Papa John’s generated more than $1 million in sales from mobile Web orders in less than six months after offering that option to consumers. Moreover, Papa John’s was also able to gain valuable information regarding mobile registration and consumer preferences to be used in refining mobile programs moving forward. The full case study can be seen here.

Kodak has also been implementing mobile barcodes to great success in its business to business communications, creating interactive experiences for tradeshow attendees, for example at the Consumer Electronics Show, by incorporating barcodes into its booth that deliver a variety of experiences and supplied augmented product information, linking to web content or videos with detailed examples, specs, and more.
Why would causes or their sponsors want to explore the option of 2-D barcodes?
Mobile is becoming an increasingly common channel for consumers to support and donate to causes that they value, and 2D barcodes are a great way to encourage donations, creating a quick and simple way for them to link to the charity on the back of marketing or advertising campaigns to gain more information about where their money would be going and to link through to m-payment facilities. Barcodes are much easier to engage with then other means of donation – whether call center or internet site.
What is you sense about the number of causes currently using 2-D barcodes in some fashion?
We have done a number of trials with 2D to support cause marketing but the integration of 2D on a mass scale is still in its infancy.

In tomorrow's post, specifics on causes using 2-D mobile barcodes right now, and what Laura Marriott thinks causes might want to try.

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