tr?id=1952870431624579&ev=PageView&noscript=1 Bar-code billboard engages customers - Mane Image Hair

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Mane Image Hair QR Code

Leslie Robinson, owner of Mane Image, recently had a billboard installed on U.S. 30 in Hobart that uses a quick response code. Consumers can scan the 2-D image and be connected to a website, photo or video. The popularity of the 2-D technology is growing in the U.S. (Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks/The Times.)

Around the time Calvin Klein stepped up its multimedia marketing game by replacing racy billboard ads of seminude models in Times Square with a king-sized pixelated bar code, Mane Image was getting ready to launch its own interactive advertising campaign using 2-D technology.

"The QR code billboard is our crown jewel," Mane Image owner Leslie Robinson said. "I know I love technology, and this was just another way to get our information to the public. Not to mention that within an hour of the board going up, we had a phone call and a walk-in consultation. How cool is that?"

The 2-D bar codes look like abstract art and are called "quick response," or QR codes. The squiggly codes can be scanned by consumers who have smart phones, and within seconds they will be connected to a website, photo or video.

In the U.S., consumers most likely will see them in a magazine or ad.

Robinson said the 24-year-old Merrillville hair transplant business is expanding its surgical center. Marco Perez, director of marketing at Point Imaging in Hobart, suggested using a QR code on one of Robinson's 38 billboard locations between the Bishop Ford Expressway in Illinois and LaPorte County. The QR code billboard can be seen on the south side of U.S. 30 near the Target store just east of Westfield Southlake mall.

The QR code can't be scanned from a car traveling at high speeds on the highway. But travelers can park in the Target parking lot and scan the code.

"We needed that bang," Perez said. "The goal was the wow and buzz factor. It was a gamble. She's the first in this area to do this on this scale. It's scary, and there's a risk because the popularity is just growing in the U.S."

The technology is not yet part of the American mainstream, but in Europe and Asia the codes are an everyday technology for consumers and retailers.

Perez said the codes first were invented in 1994 by a Japanese company, which used the codes to help Toyota keep inventory of car parts. Today, 40 percent of Japan's population accesses at least one QR code daily, he said.

Robinson's code goes to the company's website,, but codes also can be customized to allow a company to see if a certain user accessed a website. This information can be collected and tracked.

Mobile phones must download software to read and receive the information. The Nielsen Co. predicts smart phones will overtake feature phones by next year. By next December, half of the cell phones used will have smart technology, Perez said.

People definitely notice the new form of mobile marketing.

"By nature, QR codes have a curiosity factor that few new media possess," Perez said. "There is a draw to where it's going to take you. At the onset, all of them appear to look the same."

Recent research predicts two-thirds of retailers are planning a digital mobile initiative, and manufacturers are planning to integrate the technology into advertising and packaging.

September data by Scanbuy, a leader in QR code development, show code generation and use have risen 700 percent from January to September, with the number of scans in the U.S. increasing to 35,000 to 40,000 a day from 1,000 to 1,500.



By Louisa Murzyn

News article as originally reported on

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