It's that time of year when fashion houses come out with fall fashion "look-books" that showcase their lineup of clothing, collectibles and accessories. One firm, Kidrobot, with stores in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Dallas, and global distribution, is using a different approach to promote its designer toys.
The small New York firm is using a digital idea that is big in Japan to get people engaged in a lighthearted way with the Kidrobot brand: QR codes.
The QR (quick read), two-dimensional matrix, the most popular code in Japan, was used initially for tracking vehicle parts in manufacture. With the advent of smartphones, it is used widely in Japan for mobile tagging, wherein Japanese consumers take a snapshot of the Mondrian/ chessboard-like codes to go to a URL, for instance, get product or retail information or coupons and pricing info.
The codes are central to Kidrobot's five-day scavenger hunt in New York City called "Dunny Hunt." The effort, via New York-based We Are Plus and promoting Kidrobot's 2009 Dunny Series of toys, requires participants to use their smartphones to scan QR codes on Kidrobot promotional items hidden around town.
The company, whose products sell in over a thousand stores around the world, is using the New York program as a test, and plans to roll it out in the four other cities in which it has stores -- and perhaps elsewhere. "This is version 1.0," says Paul Budnitz, principal of Kidrobot.
Kidrobot's newsletter subscribers, community members, Manhattan store shoppers and Twitter feed followers can opt-in for daily clues that lead them to a Kidrobot promotional display (posters, postcards, stickers and/or t-shirts).
People who find the codes and scan them add one of a series of virtual Dunny toys to their digital "collection." They also become eligible for prizes, including rewards for the first person to scan the QR Code from that day's hidden item. The grand prize is a full set of the Dunny Series 2009 designer toys.
To play, participants get a link to a free smartphone application for scanning the QR bar codes in the hidden promotional displays. Posters will go up near the main store on Prince Street on Saturday.
Budnitz says that while the digital scavenger hunt is new, "we do all kinds of interesting events, like scavenger hunts around limited-edition toys, all the time. We have had [launches] where you could only buy the toy at a Chinese restaurant downtown or one where they had to send in a 'junk food' photo of themselves to buy a toy."
He says the QR codes are ideal because they can be put anywhere, "on stickers, t-shirts, billboards -- they can be photocopied on sheets of paper, we can put them on the back of peddie cabs, so they will be all over the city on different places."
Budnitz says thousands are likely to participate based on interest in the company's products. "When we offer new toys, we will have a line of four or five hundred people just waiting to buy it at one store."
Principal Jeremy Hollister and co-creative director Judy Wellfare at We Are Plus got the idea after spending time in Japan. "This technology has been used in Japan for some time, but it's still relatively new here in America," says Hollister. "Creating a nice-looking, mobile-optimized Web site that functions properly was the biggest challenge."