Girls and parents shopping for Bratz Masquerade dolls will find their packaging emblazoned with QR codes that lead to a video hyping a 3D interactive makeover. MGA Entertainment, maker of the spunky fashion dolls for girls over six, hopes the codes, and the augmented reality game associated with them, will make holiday sales sparkle.
"After evaluating the research and penetration of mobile devices, especially smartphones, and QR code penetration across our major retailers, it seemed that the timing was right," said Richard Saito, director of digital marketing for MGA.
The toy maker noticed that retailers like Toys R Us and Best Buy have been using QR codes regularly, and the codes are popping up on a wide variety of packaging. "But we didn't see any in toys, so we decided to take the leap and integrate them not only in the product but also in other marketing materials," Saito said.
Bratz Masquerade dolls come with two masks, one for the doll and one for the girl, as well as a makeup kit. The masks act as a stencil the girl can use to paint her face or the doll's; she can also hold the mask up to a web cam to trigger an augmented reality game created by Total Immersion. Onscreen, she can digitally paint the mask or her face and then save or print the digital image.
A QR code on the box leads to the online product video, including the complete line of dolls and a tag for the augmented reality game. TV spots and a custom Bratz channel on YouTube also promote the experience.
Since the augmented reality game launched in August, MGA has seen average time spent on the website increase by 1.5 minutes, while bounce rates are down 15 percent. Overall visits have increased over the past couple of months, according to Saito, and he thinks it's a direct result of the campaign.
MGA hasn't tied website visits directly to sales, but Saito says the company does see a correlation between sales of product and online usage. The ROI metric is simple, he says: "That we sell at least twice as much product as the amount we invested."
The augmented reality game is part of a trend in providing better connections between online and offline, according to Dan Schock, Google's retail industry director.
"A couple of years ago, no one knew what they were. This year seems to be the year that marketers are using them to connect the in-store world to the online world," Schock said.
Mobile phones have become personal shopping assistants for consumers, Schock says, and the introduction of QR codes helps people find out even more about products. For example, toy shoppers who use the QR code to find out about the Bratz Masquerade augmented reality game might be more likely to choose the doll.
Meanwhile, according to Google, searches for "Bratz masquerade" have jumped 65 percent since September.
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
March 19, 2014