Have you seen the trailer for the movie “Branded” yet? I would link you to it on YouTube, but the producers would prefer I send you to their Branded-branded website instead at www.brandedmovie.com — you’ll have to avoid the giant QR code and instead hover over the tab on the right side to find the GO button. When you get to the end of the video, see how many brands you can identify in their montage of logos.
It got me to thinking about non-branded products, the so-called generics. If you are old enough, you might remember a time in the early eighties when it was hip to buy “no name” products in no-frills packaging. If you watched LOST on ABC, you’ll immediately recognize the style used by the Dharma Initiative (link shamelessly snatched from an image search).
Times sure have changed. Standing in the grocery check-out aisle, I see rows of chewing gum in an assortment of flavors and formats, colors and styles, packaging and brands. And yet, most of those gums are produced by the same corporation! Wrigley makes a variety of gum simply called “5” which competes alongside its own other brands — I see at least eight different gum names in the USA alone. (Just for fun, I like to scroll down the list of countries and see how far they’ve infiltrated the international markets.)
I had been a big consumer of chewing gum in high school and college, but then outgrew the habit. Decades passed and I never missed it, never even thought about gum until last summer. When Wrigley 5 Gum first rolled out, they aired some spiffy TV commercials, but that didn’t make me want to start chewing again. It was a game that caught my attention, launched via a mysterious URL appended to some of the ads. After following the trail, you are led to the main site where you can see videos, read a graphic novel, and play computer games, but to access most of the site you need to buy gum. Specifically, you need to find packages of 5 Gum marked with an icefly emblem, to get the codes inside. I became obsessed with it! I finished all levels of the games many months ago, but I still have unchewed gum, their packages opened for their codes and now wrapped in bags to seal their powerful mint aroma.
I no longer want to buy their gum, but I still look at the backs of packs in the grocery check-out aisle, to see whether the icefly logo is still out there for more players to use. I now have a personal connection to their brand, so the campaign worked as far as gaining a fan if not a loyal customer.
A big part of that game also involved the matrix of black and white squares known as a QR code. The imagery of those grids cropped up in several levels, and the meta puzzle involved assembling pieces to form a larger QR code, which then led to a grand finale. I don’t own a smart phone, so I cannot scan the codes the way they are intended to be used, but I notice them everywhere thanks to that one campaign. Seeing the codes pop up in the “Branded” movie trailer is a perfect fit.