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Austrian Postal Service enhances branded Advent calendars with mobile bar codes

The Austrian Postal Service has brought Christmas cheer to Austrian households by sending Advent calendars filled, not with chocolate treats, but instead with exclusive prizes and promotions from brands accessible via mobile bar codes.

The 2D bar code campaign, developed in collaboration with mobile bar code scanning specialist NeoMedia Technologies Inc. and Austrian mobile marketing agency IQ mobile, was designed to promote APS’ online services whilst offering customers exclusive offers and deals in the run up to Christmas.

“This initiative is a pretty innovative use of what a bricks-and-mortar company can do around the holidays, with a different featured brand and a different offer each day,” said Laura Marriott, Denver-based CEO of NeoMedia Technologies. “APS sent out a direct mail postcard to 3.2 million households in Austria letting them send an epostcard by scanning a bar code with their handsets, which takes them to a Web site.

“Having that interactivity with the consumer and having a dialogue with consumers is definitely the future of marketing,” she said. “What the mobile channel enables for them is having them be able to interact at the moment of interaction, which helps increase response rates.”

Mobile bar codes on the rise
The 2010 Christmas season experienced a surge in mobile marketing and mobile commerce worldwide as consumers turned to their mobile phones for easy and convenient wish-list creation and shopping.

One area in which there was particular growth this Christmas was the use of mobile bar codes.

Brands and retailers have embraced bar codes in their marketing, from advertising and promotional tools to applications that make it easier for consumers to compare prices and read product reviews.

Just last month, U.S. retail giants Best Buy, Home Depot Inc. and Inc. ramped up efforts to allow shoppers to scan bar codes in order to get discounts and find product information on their phones, while eBay Mobile merged buying and selling applications and introduced a new app that incorporates a feature to scan a product and compare its price on eBay.

Similar innovation has occurred in Austria driven by the APS, IQ mobile and NeoMedia Technologies.

APS sent a letter-sized Advent calendar containing 24 windows to 3.5 million households in Austria before the start of December.

Each window contains a brand logo and a Web address with most windows featuring an embedded 2D bar code which, when scanned, links directly to special deals, discounts and sweepstakes offered by a range of brands.

Participating brands include Canon, Raiffeisen Card Service with a Visa card promotion, Nokia Ovi, Intersport eybl, Walbusch, Schladming Dachstein ski resort, Bramac, 3x, Münze Österreich, BauMax-x, Interspar, ÖAMTC, Weltbild, ATU and

Prizes include a daily sweepstake for a chance to win €500 (approximately $664), a first prize draw for an Opel Meriva car with a value of €21,000 (approximately $27,880) and more.

Mindful of the need to make the process of scanning the windows as easy for consumers as possible, the advent calendar also contains a comprehensive user guide on 2D bar codes, including a step-by-step illustration of what to do.

The explanation contains a SMS short code service for requesting a response SMS including a link to the download service, NeoMedia’s NeoReader bar code scanning application.

Ms. Marriott said that the Austrian Postal Service campaign has been successful, which is testament to the growing appeal of mobile bar codes and how they can enhance traditional marketing tactics.

“Consumers’ ease of interaction with 2D bar codes reduces the need to include URLs or phone numbers and reduces the amount of real estate required to communicate a call-to-action,” Ms. Marriott said.

“It doesn’t rely on consumer to do data entry access, which makes it immediately actionable,” she said. “This innovation around the holidays and 2D bar codes is something we have never seen before.”

Final Take
Mobile payments