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二维码:营销利器还是时髦玩意

 Alex Kantrowitz 2011年09月20日

在时代广场,从高端精品商店到广告牌,这类黑白代码几乎无处不在。营销人员喜欢这类代码,但是它们到底能发挥多大作用?

    

    它们随处可见:在杂志里、商务名片上、以及T恤衫上,甚至在海报和公告牌上也到处都是它们的身影,更别提现代艺术博物馆(The Museum of Modern Art)里的展览上了。显而易见,这类所谓的二维码(QR code,Quick Response code)现如今已随处可见,它采取小小的正方形图案,看起来就像用立体表现的传统条码。但我们还没搞清楚的是,这类黑白方框到底是重大的市场创新呢,还是只不过是种新兴的时髦玩意而已。

    上世纪90年代中期,丰田公司(Toyota)的一家子公司为了追踪汽车配件而发明了二维码。问世之初,二维码提供的信息就多于传统条码。这类新代码就像今天的硬盘驱动器,而传统代码则像过去的软盘,二者的容量不可同日而语。无论从哪个角度看,二维码都远远优于传统条码:它们不仅可以防尘、防损伤、还能从任何方向读取。(QR是快速反应的意思,意指代码中的数据能够迅速解码。)到2002年,日本的市场营销人员已将此技术据为己有,利用它来锁定消费者,因为越来越多的消费者已配备了先进的二维码扫描仪——手机。

    对于市场营销人员来说,二维码的应用潜力不言而喻。这类代码几乎能按任何尺寸,打在任何地方。消费者使用专为苹果(Apple)iPhone和搭载谷歌(Google)安卓(Android)系统的智能手机而设计的特殊应用程序,将其设备指向二维代码,只需短短几秒钟,就能登录到相关网站或者交互式广告上。这类代码甚至可以拨打1-800电话或者编辑手机短信。市场营销人员利用二维码,可以轻易地在在线广告中增加数字元素,并能像在线一样,在现实世界中追踪消费者。

    广告客户对二维码简直是一见钟情。两年前,大凡重要的美国公司无不全身心地拥抱二维码。时代华纳公司(Time Warner)的美国家庭影院(HBO)电视网在其吸血鬼题材的剧情片《真爱如血》(True Blood)第三季的电视广告中,就使用了浸血的二维码。梅西百货公司(Macy's)则将汤米•希尔费格和玛莎•斯图尔特提供时尚建议的视频做成代码,装饰整间百货公司。美国娱乐杂志Vibe则在跨页时尚广告中使用二维码,读者凭此即可登录一些站点,购买该杂志图片推介的服装。其他以别出心裁的方式使用二维码的品牌还包括可口可乐(Coca Cola)、达美航空公司(Delta)、福特(Ford)、盖普(Gap)、家得宝(Home Depot)、星巴克(Starbucks)、以及威力众(Verizon)等,不一而足。

    但是,这些代码对市场营销人员来说到底有多大的价值,却很难说。事实上,尽管这项广告创新技术意味着广告客户能更好地追踪客户,但它却缺乏可靠的公共数据。大型广告客户将从自己主办的活动中收集到的信息牢牢抓在手里。同时,应用开发人员则希望增加下载量,他们和小型市场代理机构发布的数据集,就算往好里说,也靠不住。

    市场研究机构Comscore公司今夏发布了其针对二维码的首份研究报告。报告显示,有1,400万人,也就是6.2%的手机用户,在今年6月份扫描过二维码。更妙的是,其中近37%的用户处于25~34岁这个最佳年龄段,而且他们中有三分之一的人家庭收入超过了10万美元。“有很多方法可以将移动营销有效地整合到现有的媒体和市场活动中,以便接触到目标消费者群体;二维码只不过是其中之一罢了。” Comscore移动高级副总裁马克•多诺万指出。当然,上述数字会如何随着时间的推移而改变,对此我们还需拭目以待。

    此外,二维码还有其他不足之处。由于二维码采用的技术标准或多或少是开源的,因此几乎任何人都可以开发自己的代码和读取器,因此,消费者难免深感困惑。(扫描本文开篇处的二维码,将被重定向至Fortune.com。)同时,只要有过多次扫描二维码的人都深有体会,有些营销人员完全是出于“时尚因素”的考虑,不假思索地就在所有产品中贴上了二维码,在扫描结果上根本没有花心思。许多二维码只是简单地将用户重定向到了公司主页上,换言之,这不过是个死胡同。总部位于纽约的二维码扫描技术提供商Scanbuy的首席执行官迈克•威尔斯坦承,在这种情形下,“多数公司都对营销活动的效果心生不满。”

    但是,在二维码应用时间较长的地区,有些企业也取得了相当的成功;许多美国市场营销人员因而满怀期望,希望自己也能同样幸运。比如,在韩国,零售巨人特易购(Tesco)公司在熙熙攘攘的地铁站里推出了“移动超级市场”,消费者们能够迅速地扫描需要的商品。晚上,当他们回到家中时,这些货物早已送达。凭借这一举措,特易购迅速成为了韩国在线零售业务的领跑者。

    译者:大海

    They're everywhere: tucked away in magazines, adorning business cards and t-shirts and splashed across posters and billboards, not to mention on display at The Museum of Modern Art. Clearly, so-called QR codes -- small square patterns that look like Cubist renderings of a traditional barcode (right) -- have become ubiquitous. Less clear is whether those black and white boxes are a major marketing innovation or just a fad.

    Created by a Toyota (TM) subsidiary in the mid-1990s to track auto parts, QR codes were designed to deliver more information than the traditional barcode. The new codes were like today's hard disk drives compared to the old barcode's floppy disk -- a drastic jump in capacity. They were better in nearly every way, resistant to dirt or damage and readable in any orientation. (QR code stands for quick response, a reference to how speedily the data they contain can be decoded.) By 2002, Japanese marketers had glommed onto the technology, using it to target consumers increasingly equipped with sophisticated QR code scanners -- their phones.

    The potential for marketers is obvious. The codes can be printed nearly anywhere, at any size. Using special apps designed for Apple (AAPL) iPhones and Google (GOOG) Android-based smartphones, consumers point their devices at the codes for a few seconds and are sent to a website or interactive advertisement. The codes can even dial a 1-800-phone number or compose an SMS. QR codes promise marketers a simple way to ad digital elements to old-line advertisements and potentially track consumers in the physical world they way they can online.

    For advertisers, it's been love at first scan. Two years ago, major companies in the U.S. jumped in with both feet. Time Warner's (TWX) HBO used a blood-soaked QR code in its television ads for the third season of vampire drama True Blood. Macy's (M) decked out its department stores with codes that brought up videos of Tommy Hilfiger and Martha Stewart doling out fashion advice. And Vibe used the codes in fashion spreads to send readers to sites where they could buy clothes pictured in the magazine. Other brands using the codes in innovative ways include Coca Cola (KO), Delta (DAL), Ford (F), Gap (GPS), Home Depot (HD), Starbucks (SBUX) and Verizon (VZ) to name only a few.

    But judging their actual value to marketers in America is tricky. Turns out, the advertising innovation promising better tracking actually suffers from a dearth of reliable public data. Big advertisers have kept the information they gather from their own campaigns close to the vest. Data sets released by app developers looking to drive downloads and smaller marketing agencies, meanwhile, have been unreliable at best.

    Comscore (SCOR) released its first study on the codes this summer, revealing that 14 million people, or 6.2% of mobile users, scanned QR codes in the month of June. Better yet, nearly 37% of users were in the coveted 25 to 34 age bracket and more than one in every three of them had a household income of at least $100,000. "QR codes demonstrate just one of the ways in which mobile marketing can effectively be integrated into existing media and marketing campaigns to help reach desired consumer segments," noted Mark Donovan, Comscore senior vice president of mobile. Of course, it remains to be seen how those numbers will change over time.

    QR codes have other drawbacks. Because the technical standard behind them is more or less open source, almost anybody can create their own codes and readers, leading to confusion among consumers. (The code in this story redirects to Fortune.com.) Anybody who has scanned more than a few, meanwhile, knows that the 'fad factor' has led some marketers to stick the codes on anything they can find without always putting much thought into the end result. Many simply redirect users to a corporate homepage -- a dead end in other words. Mike Whers, CEO of Scanbuy, a New York-based provider of scanning technology, admits that in those types of cases "most companies aren't satisfied with the performance of their campaigns."

    Still, many U.S. marketers look with anticipation to the very real success of businesses using QR codes in regions where they have been around much longer. In South Korea, for instance, retail giant Tesco rolled out "mobile supermarkets" in busy subway stations, allowing commuters to quickly scan items they wanted to buy. By the time they got home that evening, those groceries had been delivered. In short order, Tesco had taken the top spot among online grocers in the country.

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