Creativity and insights can emerge from the most unlikely of places.
Today is a unique date: 2.1.12. The numbers 2.1.12 immediately bring to my mind one thing, and that is the much-heralded Rush album “2112.” In “2112,” a man discovers an ancient guitar, learns to play it, and his subsequent enthusiasm and excitement are crushed by the ruling classes of this dystopian future, where technology is routinely abused to control the society and repress its inhabitants.
While I was thinking of this album, I was also at a restaurant with my family -- and in front of me was the familiar visage of a red Heinz ketchup bottle (you know, the new ones stored upside down so the ketchup comes out even faster). On the plastic bottle was a QR code. One of the people I was with had not seen this before and wanted to know how the code was used. Being a technology and marketing geek, I immediately extracted my iPhone from the pocket of my jacket and scanned the QR code to see what magical wealth of information it surfaced.
I held the phone still, waited patiently for the “click” of the scan, and the delivery of the content. However my payoff was sub-par, as it returned the message “Sorry, the sweepstakes ended 9/30/11.” That seemed like a missed opportunity, one that could have been avoided with some basic planning.
In that future world imagined by the members of Rush, technology was used for repressive purposes, while in our world it is used to provide more information and create more connections. The entire advent of social and mobile media is intended to create faster connections between people, as well as between people and brands.
The use of the QR code exemplifies that connection, making it possible for brands to provide more detailed information and unique experiences for their consumers. That being said, when you employ these tools you need to make sure you plan the consumer interaction carefully and fulfill its implied promise.
Upon further review I noticed that the Heinz ketchup bottle said there was a contest and I could enter by scanning the QR code, which was obviously outdated. Either the restaurant was holding onto the ketchup too long, or the decision to run the message on the packaging wasn’t thought out well enough. I checked the ketchup bottle, and the date was still far enough in the future, so I return to the missed opportunity for the mobile interaction. If you promise a contest, you need to deliver that contest.
In a dystopian future, technology can be used to lead along the masses, and create a singular vision that allows for the government to mold and shape the minds of its inhabitants. Of course, a contest can be used in the same manner, but hopefully with more positive benefit!
Or it might be a stretch to try and unite the two into a common theme.
Either way, it’s fun to be inspired to think about a mundane occurrence (like a QR code) from a new perspective, and that is what the Rush album had me doing. In the case of the Heinz QR code snafu, why not rotate in a new contest, with regular winners and more information to keep the QR code active and fresh? What about having information about the contest initially printed and placed as a sticker on the bottle, so it could be removed after expiration? More than three months after the contest had expired, do you think Heinz should have replaced the contest with something better than the “trivia game” content placed there? There’s no payoff to the new trivia contest, and that left me kind of bummed. I took the time to interact with the company through its bottle, and got nothing in return for it -- not even a coupon.
CPG companies tend to try things in the digital space, and only invest halfway in them. If you are going to commit, you should commit fully to driving that engagement to ensure the return is a strong one.
All that being said, I got over being bummed about the lost interaction. I went home, kicked up my Spotify account and listened to “2112” for the first time in a long while.
Here’s hoping that my next social/mobile interaction is a good one!