July 7, 2011, 12:35 PM

Massive Valpak campaign shows rapid uptake of 2-D bar codes

The coupon king is printing QR codes on 80 million mailers.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

Direct mail coupon giant Valpak Direct Marketing Systems Inc. is pulling out all the stops on a 2-D bar code campaign that will hit 80 million households over the course of the next two months. The regular Valpak mailing, in a blue envelope familiar to many consumers, is sent to 45 million households, the company says.

For the July and August special mailings, Valpak has placed QR, or Quick Response, codes on the outside of envelopes and inside on individual inserts that, when scanned by a smartphone, will lead consumers to mobile web-based information about the cable television industry and various TV programs on cable channels. The codes will also lead to a mobile web-based form consumers can fill out to enter a sweepstakes.

Interest in 2-D bar codes is on the rise among merchants, consumer brand manufacturers and other companies in retail. 2-D bar codes are squares, typically black and white, that contain a pattern. They can hold far more information than their 1-D counterparts, such as the common Universal Product Codes, or UPC. A QR code, for example, can hold up to 7,089 characters, much more than is needed for even the longest URL. 1-D bar codes cannot link to mobile web content.

A consumer downloads a 2-D bar code scanning app—there are many free ones in the various app stores—onto her smartphone. She opens the app, which opens the smartphone camera. She holds the camera over the code and the app scans the code and links her to mobile web-based content.

“This huge initiative is a great example of the power of print and digital working together,” says Michael Vivio, president of Cox Target Media, a cable television, radio and newspaper company that operates Valpak. “It harnesses the best of both worlds to create an entirely new experience for users.”

The Valpak QR codes are designed by Sparq.me, a mobile marketing firm.

This is the first national QR campaign for Valpak, providing consumers a new way to engage with its trademark Blue Envelope. The 43-year-old company has done extensive work in the field of mobile commerce, including using augmented reality and text messaging, and offering mobile apps for devices running the iPhone, Android, Palm, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms.

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