Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Viral videos, QR codes, and late night connections

As business owners, we're all looking for new and innovative ways to connect with customers. NBC's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" managed to do just that with a well-placed QR code held up during last Friday's broadcast. On the show, host Jimmy Fallon, guest Stephen Colbert, former "American Idol" Taylor Hicks, and a bevy of others (including house band, The Roots) sang an over-the-top rendition of "Friday," a song which came to fame recently in a viral video by Rebecca Black. Near the end of the performance, a staffer held up a card containing a QR code.

QR (quick response) codes are special barcodes you can print anywhere that "translate" from a simple block pattern to a predetermined website address when photographed (or scanned) and "read" by QR-code-enabled devices, such as many smartphones. They're kind of like a graphic version of a bit.ly or tinyurl.com link.

Anyway, observant viewers, who photographed the QR code on their smartphones, were treated to a video in which Fallon thanked fans for helping raise money for the charity DonorsChoice.org. But it didn't end there.

At the beginning of this "hidden" video, Fallon held up a QR code, which he led fans to believe was the same QR code his staffer had held up during the show. However, it wasn't the same code, and those who photographed that second QR code were treated to another video, in which Fallon provided a quick "tour" of the contents of his desk.

A third QR code (held up by Fallon in the second bonus video) led to a final video, again featuring Fallon at his desk. In this video, Fallon offered a sneak preview of some upcoming features on the show and thanked viewers for their loyalty.

So, could you or I recreate this kind of elaborate media campaign for our own brands or companies? Probably not to the same extent Fallon was able to. After all, we don't have the funding of a major media company (NBC) at our disposal. But that doesn't mean we can't find equally innovative ways to use technology to our own advantage. All of the basic tools Fallon used -- QR codes, video, and social media -- are available to us, as well. We just need to find ways to use those tools to reach our own "audience" and grow our brands.

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