Too shy to hook up in a bar? There's a QR code for that

  • Cheil Singapore creates an interactive communication tool using beer bottles and QR codes
  • QR Codes remain relevant but creative and innovative uses must be offered

Too shy to hook up in a bar? There's a QR code for thatA QUIRKY campaign is making its mark with Singapore’s bar hopping crowd, born out of a simple request to help shy locals out.

Harry's Bar, a chain of 30 premium pubs across the island nation, wanted to create a campaign that could increase beer consumption during happy hours, and most importantly, make its bars more social.

To achieve this goal, the company engaged advertising agency Cheil Singapore to come up with a solution.

Aaron Gomez, head of Interactive Marketing at Cheil Singapore, said after visiting many bars and clubs in Singapore, the team observed that some Singaporeans have a hard time initiating a conversation with someone they have never met.

“Especially when it is someone from the opposite sex, so in many cases they go to bars and just stick with those whom they came up with in the first place. However, when it comes to social media and interactive tools, Singaporeans are very open and experimental,” said Gomez.

Thus the Bottle Message concept was born, an interactive communication tool that helps people to easily start conversations anonymously with anyone at Harry's Bar.

“We turned a plain beer bottle into a 'new-way' communication medium with no fear of rejection or embarrassment attached,” said Gomez.

Too shy to hook up in a bar? There's a QR code for thatThe Bottle Message campaign was launched in mid-August at Harry's Esplanade outlet, with customers receiving Quick Response (QR) code tags that came with the purchase of a beer. After downloading the Harry’s Bottle Message app, users scan the QR code with their smartphone and write an anonymous message.

Users then place the tag on a second bottle of beer and ask the bar’s staff to send it to their target of choice. The recipient then scans the same code to read the message and the pair can then begin to chat over the app’s built-in chat function.

Since the campaign’s launch in mid-August, the Cheil team has reported “astonishing” results.

In less than three weeks, more than 120 people have downloaded the app in just one of Harry's outlets. People using the app were buying on average twice as much beer as they did without the app.

“But most importantly, we see much more interactions at the bar. Guys are more confident in starting a conversation with girls, and girls are surprised with a cheeky but fun and safe way of socializing,” said Alvaro Bruch, user interface designer for Cheil Singapore and South-East Asia.

Due to the campaign’s success, coupled with great feedback received from the target market, plans are underway to try and expand this communications offering to other Harry’s Pub outlets in the country.

To QR or not to QR

The mobile platform has proven tricky for many advertisers, with Vishal Bali, managing director of Nielsen’s Telecom Industry Group in the APMEA Region (Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa) stating that the research company is seeing a significant level of resistance among smartphone users towards mobile advertising.

“Hence, it becomes important for advertisers to understand various factors that can help to improve acceptance levels and provide a better ROI,” he said.

The use of QR codes was initially flaunted for aiding those ROIs, but remains a topic of debate over its relevance in lieu of newer technology and continued difficulties companies have had in correctly executing it for commercial purposes such as marketing.

Too shy to hook up in a bar? There's a QR code for thatSocial communications blog Lewis PR notes that despite the technology being born in Asia, the only companies in Asia Pacific successfully using QR codes nowadays are those who leverage it for marketing loyalty rewards.

However QR code generator site reports that Singapore enjoyed a 564% jump from Q1 2011 to Q1 2012 to rank 10th overall in its QR Code Activity Chart. The same chart ranks Malaysia in 12th place, with a 943% increase in activity during the same 12-month period.

When asked why the agency chose QR codes over other similar technology such as Augmented Reality (AR) or even Near Field Communications (NFC), Bruch said the decision was made based on QR codes being relatively simple in production and execution.

“QR codes have been around for some time, and we believe that ensures the reach and availability of our Harry's Bottle Message,” said Bruch, adding that the team did not use AR because it is “infinitely more tedious and time-consuming” to create individual unique markers.

The campaign required the creation and printing of unique identity codes for each tag, and training the staff of Harry's Pub in its use. The solution needed to have a simple process. The accompanying app also had to be lightweight in terms of file size to help users get started quickly.

“With QR codes, a direct QR code decoding results in a faster and less cost-intensive transaction,” said Bruch.

Former Cheil creative director V.J. Anand who also worked on the campaign said that Cheil has an established history of pushing the boundaries in incorporating technology in its campaigns, such as the work done for Korean retailer Homeplus.

In 2011, the Tesco Homeplus Virtual Subway Store campaign in South Korea involved the setting up of billboards in train stations and other strategic locations with selections of products featured on them.

Next to each product was a QR Code that the shopper would scan using an app on his or her smartphone. Selected items were then deposited into an online basket and consumers could pick up their items at the store on the way home.

“They say QR codes are ‘so yesterday’ but the fact is it’s just used for the wrong reasons. With this particular execution, it can trigger a conversation and not just a link,” said Anand.

Check out the case study video below:


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