Every business is charged with finding ways to increase consumer loyalty and awareness. In a world where consumers are overwhelmed with marketing clutter, beverage manufacturers and distributors need to aggressively seek out solutions that position themselves as category leaders and a brand worth loyalty. While this goal can be accomplished through a number of different channels, today a popular choice is investing in technology that provides a more interactive outlet for engaging customers.

One of the newest mobile marketing initiatives is Quick Response (QR) codes. QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes featuring URLs that drive users from printed material to the Internet and quickly connect print marketing initiatives with an interactive response, allowing static messages to become a hyperlink to just about anything — print-to-mobile-to-Web messaging. Leaders in the beverage and alcohol industry already are taking notice of the benefits QR codes can provide to their marketing initiatives and incorporating them as a medium to leverage their signage.

The process of using a QR code is simple. Consumers use their smartphones to take a photo of the barcode placed on a promotional poster, advertisement or display, and through a pre-downloaded QR code reader application on their phone, are immediately taken to the Internet without having to type in the URL personally. The information embedded in the QR code will launch the mobile phone’s Internet browser and connect the consumer to a pre-designated site selected by the brand.

A recent example of a beverage manufacturer incorporating QR codes into its marketing initiatives is Heineken, which placed these barcodes on all packaging, including six-packs and 12-packs. Consumers who scan the 2D barcode can win a free application, music download, T-shirts or guitars. Other companies can choose to use the bar codes on a smaller scale — simply directing the consumer to a website with recipes or pairing advice for a wine or liquor. The creative possibilities are truly endless.

Connecting with consumers at a higher level by integrating QR codes into proof-of-purchase (P.O.P.) materials is fast changing the way marketers in all industries create campaigns. Specific benefits beverage manufacturers and distributors can experience by integrating QR codes into their marketing campaigns include:

• Greater level of connectivity with consumer — QR codes allow for a level of connectivity with the consumer that is not available in traditional ads or other marketing pieces. For example, a tequila manufacturer may include a QR code on its P.O.P. materials so that when the customer scans the code with a smartphone, they are taken to a website containing drink recipes using the tequila, or a site listing various food items which would complement those drinks opens. This increased consumer engagement and ability to connect with consumers on a deeper level can help strengthen the dedication to that particular brand.

• Advanced traceability and tracking options — The growing interest in QR codes has prompted the development of various software programs designed to track the individual code. Using these software options, it is possible for a brand manufacturer or retailer to know the number of scans per day, what time those scans took place, the type of device being used to scan the code and even the location each scan took place. This knowledge can then help businesses see what’s selling and what’s not in retailers and allow them to make educated choices regarding the placement of products.

• Gauge consumer interest at quicker rates — QR codes allow companies to connect with consumers in real-time and gauge interest in a particular product or campaign immediately. For example, a wine manufacturer could integrate a QR code onto a promotional poster announcing a contest to win tickets to a local wine tasting. By monitoring how many consumers scan the code and enter the contest, the manufacturer has access to real-time feedback on how well the campaign is being received by the consumer.

QR codes can serve as a bridge between P.O.P. displays and a brand’s mobile campaigns. The display becomes an interactive experience for the consumer and delivers relevant content immediately. QR codes also provide a unique way for brand distributors and manufacturers to create dialogue with their consumers. Additionally, the visually enticing appearance of a QR code integrated into displays and signage has the ability to spark curiosity, making the consumer stop and take notice of the promotional materials while in-store. That, in itself, may be one of the biggest benefits of all. BI