Harper's QR code for
Lauren Conrad's
L.A. Candy.

As publishers continue to hunt for ways to use new technology to draw the attention of teens to books, HarperCollins has been extremely pleased with the response it has received to the use of QR (quick response) codes, which it first used for recent releases L.A. Candy and The Amanda Project. To access the codes, teens (or anyone else) take a picture of the code with a smartphone, which then links the user to a mobi (mobile) site developed by HC. In the case of L.A. Candy, the Web site allowed users to watch a video, read a portion of the book, share it with a friend or buy the book.

Carolyn Pittis, HC senior v-p, global marketing strategy and operations, who talked about QR codes at the BISG annual meeting and again in an interview with PW along with Diane Naughton, v-p, marketing, HarperCollins Children’s Books, said HC sees the use of the codes as an effective way to integrate all forms of print marketing with online promotions as well as a way to differentiate HC titles by creating a package that teens consider “cool.” In addition to the codes on the Candy jacket, QR codes were featured on posters used at the book launch party, and HC did a cross-promotion with Mark Cosmetics on the Mark site that drove consumers to the harperteen.com site. While QR codes can be used to buy books directly, Naughton sees their value in “building buzz about books without sending the books out.” HC has developed distinct sites for each QR code, featuring shorter bits of information than a Web site, but Naughton noted the codes can be linked to a regular Web site.

HC is now cross-promoting the re-packaging of its Vampire Diaries series with the CW channel, which began airing the television series this fall. HC created postcards that feature the codes that were handed out at the CW booth at Comic-Con. The codes and the mobi site will begin to be printed on all of the books in the Vampire series and in back ads promoting the series. The codes, Naughton said, “are a perfect match for our plans for mobile platform marketing.” Pittis isn’t concerned that teens may not be entirely sure what QR codes are, noting that lots of marketing to that age group includes edgy material to entice teens to get involved early with some new technology.

HC is taking the code idea one step further when the multimedia Amanda Project launches this week. HC has used the last page of the first Amanda Project book to create a special QR code that ties back into the editorial. Readers who take a picture of the code will be given exclusive clues to what is going on in the story from one of its characters, Cornelia. Since the concept of the Amanda Project is to to marry print and multimedia into a book, Naughton thought the use of QR codes to complement the editorial, as well as to promote the book, was a perfect fit. All advertising for the Amanda Project, both print and online, will feature QR codes.

One drawback of using the codes is finding partners who know about them and are using them. In addition to CW, HC hopes to work again with Mark Cosmetics to find ways to use QR codes to cross-promote Conrad’s next book. On the adult side, QR codes will be used to help promote Superfreakonomics, for which HC is creating a separate, trackable QR code for the new hardcover and will change the mobi site URL to freakonomics.mobi/super by September 30. New codes are also being created for New York Times and Wall Street Journal ads, which will include new content that will feature links to a video and an interactive quiz.