Categorized | Technology

QR Wine Codes are All the Rage—the 2011 Prediction

I get excited when companies find new ways to (re)use existing technology. Take for example Quick Response (QR) codes—that’s that funny looking box on the redbox movies they call a barcode. Although initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, companies use them in a much broader context—from tracking applications to mobile tagging.

Let me explain a little bit more about what this means. They sometimes call this the 411.

Essentially, anyone can use a camera phone as a bar code reader. There are plenty of Smartphone applications on the market that scan code and return information; everything from online pricing to coupons, nutritional information, video, audio, pictures—you name it.

Now on to the cool part, a genuine case study on how the wine industry utilizes it. Kendall-Jackson prints QR codes for their new vintages and uses a free smartphone bar code reader called ScanLife, which takes a snapshot of the QR code—a two-dimensional image that consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background.  Once you take a picture of the QR code,  the application captures the image, retrieves information and sends the data back to the Smartphone.

If you want to take this for a spin, start by downloading the free ScanLife application to your phone. Walk into a store and find a bottle of Kendall-Jackson. Hopefully, you will see a shelf talker tag hanging from the neck of the bottle—it looks like the picture to the left.

Open the ScanLife application and take a picture of the QR code—no need to focus and click because the application will automatically take a snapshot when it is clear enough for it to read the image. What appears on your screen after processing is the Kendall-Jackson page with tasting notes, accolades and a food pairing video with Chef Justin Wangler, who is often filmed by a friend of ours, the international dance sensation and revolutionary crunkster, aka Hardy Wallace of NPA and Dirty South Wine. Pretty cool, eh?

What happens if you cannot find a QR code on the bottle? Take a snapshot of the UPC code. It’s a far cry from the information you’d receive from the QR code but it will give you basic information about the retail price and (if you are lucky) reviews on the product. On the downside, most wine bottle UPC codes I tested lacked reviews, which made me wonder how one would add a review to the ScanLife application.

Now on to my 2011 prediction—I see QR codes exploding in the industry. It’s a marketing tool not fully being utilized in the wine business. It is the future of marketing, but it will take a considerable amount of effort for wineries and others to embrace it. Why would the industry want to use it? Because it’s much easier for consumers to take a snapshot of an image to get to a landing page than it is to Google a term or remember a brand name or a long URL.

My word of advice for anyone wanting to brand a product is to think outside of the box. Using QR codes on business cards would be a good start, but why not think big by plastering your code on the side of a building, a company car, a delivery truck or a bus? I bet Young’s Market, Southern Wines & Sprits or Columbia wine distributors would consider such an offer. …and how about adding your QR code to a magazine ad or an employee tee shirt? Go wild, get tattooed—but for that one you had better be in it for the long haul unless you live in Oakland.

~Pamela Heiligenthal

This post was written by:

- who has written 284 posts on Enobytes Wine Online.

Editor and co-founder of Enobytes.com, Pamela is a former restaurant manager, wine buyer, and sommelier with WSET, CMS & Center for Wine Origins certification. She has contributed to or been quoted by various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sommelier Journal, Vegetarian Times, VIV Magazine, UC-Berkeley Astrobiology News, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and USA Today. True to her roots, she seeks varietal and appellation integrity and is always passionate about finding the next great bottle of wine.

Contact the author

78 Responses to “QR Wine Codes are All the Rage—the 2011 Prediction”

  1. Rick Bakas says:

    Have to disagree with this… in fact, I’m working on a bloggity about this subject. QR codes seem useful as a way to engage, but imagine a retail environment (or any environment) littered with these things. It’ll be like visual spam.

    QR codes are the gateway drug to the real deal, which is photo recognition. Google Goggles and the like will accomplish the same thing by taking a photo of an object and having it be recognized, kinda like in Snooth’s new iphone app.

  2. Kyle Travis says:

    I agree with Rick.
    Although it seems like QR codes are the new hot tool recently, the more popularity it gains, the more you will start to realize the intrusiveness of them. Image recognition can do the same, bridge the gap between offline and online content, except without compromising the visual appearance.

  3. Lee says:

    As a wine marketer, I would be happy with either or both QR codes and visual recognition. We all know point of sale materials are expensive, get dated quickly and on more than one occasion, just gets thrown away without being used. Save trees, promote product. It’s a win.

  4. Gerry says:

    Personally, I agree with Pamela that this technology hasn’t been fully utilized. I like the image idea too, but the QR codes can create a unique marketing experience that images can’t. For example, instead of explicitly saying what the product or message is, you simply have a QR code with a mystery saying below it. People might go out of their way to figure out what the campaign is about.

  5. MissSyrah says:

    I think that Rick is missing the point of the QR code. While image recognition (such as Google Goggles) is fascinating technology it simply acts similar to a search engine, bringing up a variety of sources related to that image. What makes the QR code so much more valuable to marketers is that you can control the information that the consumer gets when they scan that code. As the company sharing information about your product you make the decision of whether it is done through your latest, app, a YouTube video or by directing them to a Web site. This control is clearly what makes the QR code stand out from image recognition as the valuable marketing tool that it is.

  6. Rob M. says:

    I love this idea! I’ve seen these odd little boxes and had no idea what they were. Now I’m excited to seek them out wherever I’m at!

  7. Brett says:

    I work in the restaurant industry and I think we could use this for a secret menu or something in that fashion—maybe bar drink specials…seems like the possibilities are endless. Thanks for the cool marketing idea.

  8. CaroleB says:

    Rick, I’m not sure I understand your logic behind proliferation of QR codes. I mean, we are littered with UPC codes – do you feel spammed with those? I don’t think they bother anyone.

  9. Rick Bakas says:

    This is a good blog post because it starts conversation. QR codes will have their day for sure. My first comment was more of a walk-before-you-run response.

    QR codes are to photo recognition what web 1.0 is to web 2.0. We will use the QR codes for a while as described here, then we’ll move on to photo recognition.

    CaroleB- good question. UPC codes serve a utilitarian need which is to scan a product. QR codes have a different intention—they serve a marketing need. UPC codes are usually hidden on the back of a product. QR codes will be overtly plastered all over the place to prompt a shopper to scan this one over that one. They won’t be hidden, they’ll be obvious and there will be many of them.

    In 2011 Pam’s forecast is right, in 2012 and beyond is where I’m bullish on the evolution of photo recog to replace QR codes.

    Either way, the overall function is useful. A consumer can interact with a product or service via their smart phone by easily recognizing the product with one action. Photo recog. does the same thing a QR code just differently. More importantly, the consumer wins because they do very little, but get back a lot of info from the cloud.

    Well done on the bloggity, Pam!

  10. Lar Veale says:

    A couple of things. I think there’s great potential in them. What I like is the connection of the physical and digital. So there are fantastic possibilities for them, on a wine shelftalker, let alone a bus or big outdoor adspace. The great thing too, is that they are free. Just head over to http://goo.gl, Google’s shortening service which creates them for every link you shorten AND provides metrics on how many times they’ve been used (and on what phones!).

    So, with limited label space on wine bottles or any other packaging, you can do lots with it.

    However, the barrier to entry is the third party app you need to use them on most phones.

    For it to go big I think the native camera app will need to recognise a QR code, then fire up the necessary app to read it and follow the link or present the content.

  11. Bruce says:

    To me the story is more about the in-store intersecting with the online. QR codes are just one way to facilitate this though I agree image recognition is easier (for the wine drinker).

    Anyhow I’ve just posted about this opportunity including 9 ways a wine store can use QR codes:
    1. Provide Online Information
    2. Share with Social Media
    3. 24/7: Customer turns up after hours?
    4. Share with “Check In”
    5. Cross Sell / Up Sell
    6. Inventory Availability
    7. Loyalty Programs and Tracking
    8. Advertising and Direct Mail
    9. Mobile Payments, maybe

    Augmented reality – now that’s the future! Check out this video about a retail complex in Japan called “N Building”: vimeo.com/8468513

  12. Karen says:

    photo recognition / QR codes, it all sounds good for marketing. It will be interesting to see where this all goes in the next few years.

  13. DrDrew says:

    I’m glad Lar brought up the fact regarding the native camera. If you don’t have a smartphone you can’t scan the QR code. But the last I heard, nearly 30% of mobile users have high-end devices and that number will continue to grow exponentially in the coming year.

  14. Tom M. says:

    Every business wants to move forward with technology, be it a magazine with a scannable QR barcode or a phone company pushing smartphones. It’s a nifty little feature and I’m excited to see how the creative businesses work with it.
    http://www.qualityupc.com

    Tom

  15. Rodney G. says:

    I agree this is a great, useful tool. I’m not in marketing but I’ve been wondering if I should talk to the folks that do our promotions at the hotel I work at but wasn’t sure if it was a good idea or not. I think I have the ammo to bring it forward!

    Rodney

  16. C.Lawrence says:

    Funny. We’ve used these in Japan for at least the past five years. Not at all new marketing tool, just new to yanks. Old hat here mates…nice to see the states joining in on the 21st Century…

  17. enobytes says:

    Thanks for getting the ball rolling Rick. It’s always good to hear opposing sides and different perspectives. I still think photo recognition is a little bit different in terms of the capabilities of a QR code. I agree with MissSyrah and Gerry on the uniqueness QRs bring to the table. How would a marketer control the information that the consumer gets when they scan an image? Maybe a winery would rather direct a consumer to a specific landing page (e.g. the KJ example above) rather than a default (home) page. I might not want the image to return a gazillion results. Also, I like the element of surprise that markets can create with QR codes, as Gerry stated. Anyway, we can agree to disagree.

  18. enobytes says:

    Lee – “Save trees, promote product”. Love it! ~Pamela

  19. enobytes says:

    MissSyrah and Gerry – thanks for your insight. I agree with your thoughts… ~Pamela

  20. enobytes says:

    Rob M. Glad to see interest in the codes. Now go out and find um! :)

    Brett – If you decide to use the codes for your bar idea let us know how the program works out for you. I definitely think it is a great idea.

  21. enobytes says:

    Lar – yes! I forgot to mention QR codes are free! Thanks for bringing that up.

  22. enobytes says:

    Bruce, thanks for the insightful info and link!

    Karen, indeed. Technology is always fun to watch whether you are on the sidelines or in the middle of it :)

    DrDrew – do you have a reference to the stats?

  23. enobytes says:

    Rodney G – would love to hear how your proposal goes. Good luck.

  24. dean collins says:

    Image recognition is NOT a good solution as there are no indications if an item IS scannable or IS NOT in the database.

    The way i explain it is no one needs instruction when you walk up to a door, you instinctively know, reach over-turn the handle-pull or push the door-walk through.

    This is why QR codes are a much better way to hyperlink objects.

    Check out http://www.Cognation.net/QR for my 60 second overview to QR codes.

  25. enobytes says:

    dean collins – thanks for the stellar overview of QR codes. I really appreciated the section on the “analytics” platform section. I’m sure many interested in using these codes will find this valuable.

    Readers – check out Dean’s overview here http://www.Cognation.net/QR (make sure to SCROLL down the page for the overview).

  26. enobytes says:

    C.Lawrence – Ha! We are definitely behind the curve on this one.

    I found a good article posted in early 2009 on how Japan uses QR codes and complaining about how slow it is for Australia to adopt QR Code usage(some good examples with product pictures): http://tinyurl.com/24dvd47

  27. Brett says:

    Will do!

  28. Jeff Lorton says:

    HI All,

    I work with my creative clients in the wine and real estate worlds to use this technology and frankly it is amazing. There are so, so many uses for QR, Data Matrix, Scanlife’s EZ and even the new souped up destination forwarding UPC codes.

    The wine industry is defined by the variety of marketing models employed and I have been able to find exciting and relevant uses for 2D scan codes for every brand. Today I had three meetings with wine makers and marketers and heard many great ideas.

    Some code uses will support a brand through more staid channels like mobile tasting notes while others will think up fun consumer igniting marketing initiatives.

    For those interested in utilizing 2D Codes, I would be happy to help you get started. My company has been working with Scanlife for over a year and we love working with them.

    One cautionary note about free QR Codes: You get what you pay for. Unless you are purchasing a scan code from a reputable and secure source. You have no guarantees that your code will not be hijacked and pointed at a less than desirable website (porn). this has already happened to a national brand. My prediction for 2011. Many people using “Free” QR codes will have marketing headaches.

    Great enobytes.org subject! Thanks!

  29. Jeff Lorton says:

    HI All,

    I work with my creative clients in the wine and real estate worlds to use this technology and frankly it is amazing. There are so, so many uses for QR, Data Matrix, Scanlife’s EZ and even the new souped up destination forwarding UPC codes.

    The wine industry is defined by the variety of marketing models employed and I have been able to find exciting and relevant uses for 2D scan codes for every brand. Today I had three meetings with wine makers and marketers and heard many great ideas.

    Some code uses will support a brand through more staid channels like mobile tasting notes while others will think up fun consumer igniting marketing initiatives.

  30. Greg Gordon says:

    As a wine consumer and tech geek, I love this sort of stuff. I’ve been following QR codes for a while now and I’m surprised at the lack of interest and engagement in the U.S. As a commenter mentioned previously, Japan has been using this technology for a while now and a recent survey showed rapid growth of QR Code awareness: 700% increase in mobile barcode scans in 2010. This is a number not to be ignored.

    Will the wine industry be on board before the train leaves the station? Only time will tell. http://www.austin-williams.com/blog/post.cfm/qr-code-infographic

  31. Karen says:

    I’ll be sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens in 2011. Can’t wait to see where all of this goes. This is a very enlightening and eye opening experience to say the least.

  32. enobytes says:

    Jeff, you are freaking me out – your last comment on this site appears on your home page…how do you do that? :) Anyway, great advice and its good to see a company out there looking after its customers… ~Pamela

  33. enobytes says:

    Greg – 700% increase? Is this even possible? My goodness. Thanks for the reference. This puts it into perspective.

  34. Greg Gordon says:

    Indeed. I’m not making this stuff up.

  35. Jumpscan says:

    Much of the move towards QR codes/Microsoft Tags and 2D codes will be driven by the tipping point adoption of web-enabled smart phones. Nielsen predicts that users will access the web more by mobile devices than be desktops by 2014… some say much sooner. Smart phones should be 50% of the market by end of this year. And many of the new phones will come preloaded with QR readers. Interesting times.

  36. Lar Veale says:

    Great to see the discussion flowing. I’ve written two blogposts on the subject as it relates to wine.

    Check out The Shelftalker 2.0 & Mobile Marketing

    and

    An ISBN for wine & dynamic back labels.

    I think the opportunities are there for the taking. A large wine company, Lion Nathan, are already offering a QR-code driven (paid-for) service.

    Lar

  37. Jeff V. says:

    Very timely post Pamela! You are spot-on with your 2011 prediction. I have designed a new product for wineries, restaurants, tasting rooms, wine bars, and private use. The product is coming out in March (maybe sooner). I’ll keep you posted. We are in the same town, so I will reach out at some point and give you a preview.

  38. enobytes says:

    Thanks Lar.

    Jeff – yes, that would be great.

  39. Jeff Lorton says:

    Pamela, Beats me how the home page thing happened! Lucky?

    I am actually redesigning our website this weekend so some of it is offline until Sunday. The 700% increase in US mobile 2D Code scanning that Greg is talking about was between January and July of 2010.

    It is likely that this number is much higher now as UPC code readers have been on the top ten app download list for the Droid and iPhone now for months. Black Friday saw tens of thousands of new downloads of code readers by consumers as they used UPC scanners to search for deals.

    I have read the research study and there are other exciting tidbits like the fact that the 20-30 age demographic is about equal to the early smartphone adopters who are in their 40-50s. Because of the of the high cost of the iPhone 3 years ago, the older working demographic started using the scan apps first. Now with the flood of Droid and Droid imitators, the field of codes scanners has leveled out.

    The Scanlife app has been one of the main features of Verizon’s national “Droid Does” campaign for a year solid and Sprint preloads the Scanlife app on several smartphone models. Your 2011 prediction is rock solid. There already companies that are setting up QR Codes scan to pay systems. Thanks again for this forum.

  40. dean collins says:

    @Lar the issue with Avin is that the “registration body” is goign to be charging for the allocating of the codes correct?

    it makes far more sense to have a free service so people take advantage of it.

    eg each vineyard can self allocate codes BUT they can pay extra to get into the fancy smancy catalogue.

  41. Jason says:

    I stumbled upon a site recently, Youzap.webs.com,

    It allows users to create Personal ID QR codes,as well as QR codes for Flickr images, Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, Buisness cards, and eBay Products.

    Check it out!!

  42. enobytes says:

    Jeff, you can call me certifiably crazy now. I just tried to reproduce the same result and can’t. Yesterday, when I visited your site, the last comment on the enobytes blog showed up in the iphone display screen from your home page. Nope, I wasn’t drinking but now I need one :) Thanks for the additional info.

    Jason, will do and thanks!

  43. I like the idea of these being used more on destinations … bars, restaurants, shops, etc. and tied in with things like FourSquare or the bevy of “I’m here!” check-in apps.

    Also, I think for marketing these could be useful for doing things like scanning the code for special deals when you’re visiting a store, or for sharing detailed info like recipes, wine notes, etc that won’t all fit in a small space.

    I’ve liked the ones that I’ve used to get me to sites quicker or to provide fast info … and I think that image recognition will eventually get there as well … but for focused marketing campaigns I can see the usefulness of QR codes in many industries.

  44. enobytes says:

    Ryan, I love the idea about special deals and check-in apps! Kudos. It would be great to see the industry use them for this purpose. Cheers! ~Pamela

  45. I think that your post is spot on! QR codes will make a big impact in the wine world over the next few year. What is particularly interesting about them is that marketers can have them point to any information that they want. The applications are endless.

    The mentions above about label recognition software being the next step is well kind of like comparing apples to grapes. The image recognition of the label will be either platform dependent when it comes to serving up information, meaning that the designers of the application will have to decide on what info is served up when a label is identified, or will bring up some much information that it will be useless. QR coded are by their very nature platform agnostic as each code is unique and can be associated with as much or as little information as the creator likes.

    Perhaps the future is a much smaller version of the current QR code that will not be as obtrusive.

    I for one am excited about what lies ahead.

  46. Funny that the QR code you included in your post links to a wiki entry about the Elk!

  47. enobytes says:

    ChrisO – I agree with you, “…designers of the application will have to decide on what info is served up when a label is identified, or will bring up some much information that it will be useless.”

    Agreed! This is where I see differences between to the two technologies (e.g. QR vs image recognition). I think QR codes have the potential to cut through this noise that image recognition may produce. It’s all about returning relevant content that the consumer cares about…right? How can image recognition do that?

    …and I think you are spot on regarding smaller versions of the current QR code–or at the least– disguising it as a form of art so that it does not (as others have suggested) spam the environment.

  48. Wow, great post and comments. I have been messing with QR codes for a little while, and been angaging with some local businesses about effective ways of using them. I see them being crazy helpful in the wine world and realestate. As for how long they will be used, I see them as another tool in the toolbox. All/ most things lose popularity over time due to new technologies, etc., but I see QR codes being valid for quite some time to come, beyond 2011.

  49. enobytes says:

    MatthewLiberty – “I see them as another tool in the toolbox”. Agreed. Its like complimenting current marketing efforts–As with any business plan, mix it up with traditional and out of the box options. Think of it in terms of a 401K – you wouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket. It’s about diversifying! Cheers. ~Pamela

  50. Pat Conroy says:

    Naturally, I completely agree with your assessment of the coming importance of QR codes. My company just launched WineInfoTag which utilizes Microsoft Tag technology — another type of QR code.

    Microsoft is very actively hyping their Tags.

    http://www.wineinfotag.com

  51. enobytes says:

    Thanks for the info and link Pat! It looks like your company offers an awesome marketing concept so I hope wineries take advantage of your services. ~Pamela

  52. dean collins says:

    @Pat, shame you locked yourself into a dog of a technology.

    MsTags area terrible idea and have huge technical/commercial/penetration issues associated with this technology.

    If you aren’t to far progressed with your launch, stop what you are doing

  53. Pat Conroy says:

    Dean: We looked at both QR Codes and Microsoft Tag and while there are advantages and disadvantages to both, on balance we thought Microsoft Tag was a better choice. I guess time will tell. Maybe it’s like VCR versus Betamax.

    I’m curious. Why do you say MS Tags are a terrible idea and what are the huge technical/commercial/penetration issues associated with them?

  54. dean collins says:

    @Pat The reasons are numerous but they include
    - proprietary
    - direct vs indirect
    - application availabilty/deployment
    - interaction types
    - interaction process.
    - license costs
    - continuity.

    Yes they are giving you basic analytics and basic code management but in return the tradeoffs are too great.

    if you want more info get in touch at http://www.Cognation.net/QR

  55. Doug Wilder says:

    I have been curious about QR tags, so earlier this week I created one for a web page on my site and made it the profile picture on my Facebook account. Turns out it works, traffic is up and so are subscriptions :)

  56. Great blog, though you forgot the most important part about QR Codes, which is the fact that they’re nothing more than ‘fancy hyperlinks’, and it’s crucial *where* you send people. QR Codes need substance, just like everything else we do, and where one sends people are the by far most important question …

  57. steveb says:

    Here is a qr code application specifically tailored for wine makers – http://qr4wine.com. Its getting great traction both in the US and internationally ….

  58. demenageurs paris says:

    Je suis constamment à la recherche en ligne pour les articles qui peuvent m’être utile. Merci!

  59. Aceline says:

    je te remercie. Cet article est interressant

  60. Larry Kurina says:

    This is a very entertaining article. I always love reading your blog.

  61. Jory Harris says:

    I think you are on to something. This industry could use this technology to engage consumers and I think its slowly catching on. On a recent trip to the store, I saw a guy use his iphone to scan one of these codes. I use them too.

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