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Consumers 'get in touch' with products.
By Rob Cummings

It's an age old question - how can a Brand or Product Manager get a product into the hands of a consumer and keep it there for a little while?

Bar Code Service is a very effective way to get a product in the hands of a consumer - and to inspire consumers to take a closer hands-on look at products.

A consumer told to 'enter the bar code at keyword.com' has to touch, feel, and look at the product - or if the bar code number appears on the coupon, at least spend a few more moments looking at the coupon.

If the 'reward' promoted (on the coupon or via other means) is enough to inspire the consumer, the consumer will then spend time looking at the product web page. All of this leads to increased brand interaction, brand awareness, and brand loyalty... at very low cost.

There's a great difference in the degree and intensity of consumer
interaction with the product when you compare the process of redeeming a coupon to the process of finding and then typing in a bar code number.

Judging from how much time consumers will spend to find, clip, save and
redeem coupons (including the time and effort they spend seeking the
product in the store), it seems they will spend the time to find and
type in a bar code - and the web page that launches as a result may have greater impact and be more rewarding.

An inexpensive and highly flexible marketing tool, the phrase 'enter the bar code at keyword.com' coupled with a single product-specific web page, accomplishes many key marketing objectives - with unlimited flexibility and with a far longer lifetime than coupons or product sampling.

To enter the bar code, the consumer must have (or have had) the product in hand (since the bar code appears on the product packaging), or at least come in contact with a promotional coupon.

Even if the consumer never actually enters the bar code at keyword.com yet looks for and handles the packaging to find it, one very meaningful marketing objective - a strong impression - has already been achieved.

Once a consumer can see and feel a product, the consumer is far more likely to consider buying it - especially if the product packaging is enticing - and in particular if taking it home includes the added bonus of being able to enter the bar code for some reward.

In a very real way, Bar Code Service is the opposite of (or compliment to) cents-off couponing, since the consumer gets a reward after purchase (or for simply jotting down the bar code in the store).

In-store product sampling attempts to get the consumer to try the product but often does not involve any extensive interaction with the product or the packaging. The consumer is already in the store yet probably not in the store for the sampling, and there is little further incentive other than perhaps a coupon.

Getting the consumer interested in a product, and interested in looking for it at the store, has far more impact than product sampling or coupons, if orchestrated properly and with some consumer reward.

Bar code promotions can do everything coupons do (and more)... provide incentives, motivate consumers to purchase, generate awareness, encourage trial of new or improved products, help maintain or increase market share, attract new users, build relationships, increase repeat purchases, reinforce brand-positioning, deliver advertising messages, enhance brand image, increase or decrease brand switching, move short-term volume, and gain trade support. The difference is that bar code marketing can do all of these things better and at less cost.

It's easy to think of incentives for first-time purchasers as well as brand loyal consumers.

The 'reward' in a bar code promotion may be simple or complex - a contest, a coupon, a new recipe, a sweepstakes - or simply the reward resulting from the adventure of finding the bar code, then finding the 'secret' web page as a result. For kids, this might be a character from the packaging that they can print, or a game.
The 'value' of the 'reward' can be greater than any coupon since far more can 'fit' on a web page than a coupon, and a web page can offer far great possibilities. 

There's a huge difference between Bar Code promotion and coupon promotion - in the process, the level of consumer involvement, and other important aspects.

Coupons encourage consumers to clip them, find the product at the store, buy it at a savings, and relinquish the coupon to the clerk to redeem it. The life of a coupon is short and ends upon redemption.

Coupons are not a great deal of fun, they must be clipped, to some they carry a stigma, and the greatest 'reward' typically involves saving a few cents. The 'reward' at the web page could be just about anything - and it could be ever-changing. The Bar Code Service number can even be the coupon number, making the coupon more valuable and rewarding.

Bar code promotion (telling consumers to 'enter the bar code at keyword.com) encourages and accomplishes much more than coupons by the way it works, and how long it works.

Unlike a coupon, bar code promotion enables the consumer to tell others about it, spreading the bar code promotion by word of mouth. Not only that, but the bar code always produces a web page (unlike the coupon that is gone when redeemed and/or becomes outdated).

Word of mouth has always been the best advertising and marketing technique, though it's often been elusive - and nearly impossible with coupons. Buzz marketing, a term roughly defined as getting people to talk about the product or brand, achieved some word of mouth promotion yet only works if the consumer can easily find the product the 'buzz' generates.

With bar code promotion, a consumer told to 'enter the bar code at keyword.com' - with incentive or without - is inspired out of curiosity (if no incentive is offered), or out of desire to obtain a reward (if an incentive is offered). Either way, bar code promotion is targeted and product-specific. 

Smarter bar code promotional pages will also let consumers locate stores where the product is sold - perhaps in other states - so that people they tell long distance can easily find the same product.

Bar code marketing incentives can be much more fun, provide far greater adventure and entertainment, and appeal to a much broader consumer base. Entering a bar code and 'finding' a web page is a lot more fun and intriguing than clipping a coupon and redeeming it. 

Keeping in mind the incredibly low cost of bar code marketing - requiring only a simple web page that may already exist, and a means to tell consumers to 'enter the bar code at keyword.com' - let's assume that only a small percentage of consumers actually look for the bar code on the product, and then even fewer enter it at keyword.com.

Bar code marketing and promotion still works long after a coupon has been redeemed or expired since the bar code can be entered at keyword.com at any time - and the web page it generates can be changed forever.

By searching for the bar code number, the consumer spends far more time with the product than via a coupon. By entering the bar code, the consumer spends far more time on the web page it launches, receiving an impression that is more persuasive than any coupon could be.

Each bar code is unique to each product, yet keyword.com can enable a string of bar codes to launch a single web page - or - enable just the one specific bar code to launch one specific page. So JELLO could promote every flavor, or just promote the raspberry flavor (for example).

Bar Code Service enables retailers to take full advantage of their web presence without affecting the home page since any bar code number can launch any web page.

Sometimes the simplest ideas are best. Bar Code Service is a concept with legs that is easily implemented and works immediately without anything other than a computer and a product with a bar code.

What else can Bar Code Service do to help promote products?

Think of how much easier it is to tell a friend to 'enter bar code 01232507 at keyword.com' to let them know that Starbucks Mocha Lite Frappuccino coffee drink in the 9.5 ounce bottle is the greatest. A search in GOOGLE for 'Starbucks Mocha Lite Frappuccino' does not produce the results you may expect, and that's assuming everyone can properly spell Frappuccino. Bar codes are unique to each specific product making them an ideal way to tell others about specific products - as long as the bar code is registered by the owner at keyword.com.

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