In the world of marketing, especially for digital-focused brands, “Break the Internet!” is a badge of honor. Coinbase’s app, a crypto exchange, crashed after it was unable to handle the surge triggered by an advertisement during the Super Bowl. Coinbase blew a QR code on the screen during the National Football League’s annual playoff championship game. It was probably too good a tactic not to be replicated here in India.
Fast trading platform, Dunzo, which rivals Swiggy Instamart, Zepto, BlinkIt, had a similar QR code displayed on screen during the broadcast of the Indian Premier League final which the Gujarat Titans won in defeating the Royals of Rajasthan. The QR code on screen during the show’s commercial breaks had the grainy effect reminiscent of the old days of television and CRT antennas. “Is it a signal problem,” many wondered. This thought was triggered by the two words on the QR code, “Regret inconvenience”. The signal followed under the QR code, “Scan for convenience.” 20 seconds of QR code and jittery on-screen images became an engaging and entertaining aspect for otherwise disillusioned Indian television audiences with cricket.
—Gabbbar (@GabbbarSingh) May 30, 2022
Nowadays, nobody usually watches TV without their smartphone nearby. All you had to do was turn on the camera and scan the code. Lately, the Indian market has seen the number of UPI transactions surge to 5.58 billion in April 2022, or 9.83 trillion rupees. Star Sports, the sports broadcaster from the stable of Star and Disney India, sold 10-second ad slots during the IPL for a reported Rs 15 lakh. For every 20 seconds of QR Code on screen each time, Dunzo was spending around Rs 30 lakh. However, it was a risk that CEO Kabeer Biswas said made Dunzo “buzz”.
“With today’s consumer attention span, engaging content or a vanilla brand message for 20 seconds isn’t enough. We are also a company that has always tried to punch well above its weight,” shares Biswas in his campaign blog.
He points out: “Traffic was multiplied by 10 during the hours of the broadcast of the QR code campaign. Our highest order volume day was exceeded by a massive margin. We now manage 2 million weekly orders – this has doubled over the campaign period. He continues to take a subtle jibe at Coinbase which crashed during the Super Bowl. “Fun fact – Exactly 7 minutes before going live, the QR code stopped working causing people to run all over our office to figure out what was wrong. Our engineering team is a beast Not only was this fixed before the TV spots went live, but we didn’t experience any downtime on the platform when dealing with these spikes in traffic.”
Not just downloads and orders, the social chatter triggered by the QR code is also critically important as it has amplified messaging through “earned media”. However, not everything is positive. Social media was also abuzz, discussing how the ad was a blatant copycat of the successful tactics Coinbase used during the Super Bowl.
Sanjay Tripathy, co-founder and CEO of Agilio Labs found the idea “innovative” for Indian audiences. However, for him, it was too hard to ignore the blatant copying of a hugely successful campaign. Tripathy, a former marketing director for HDFC Life, points out that brands barely get data on the way back from the television association. But, Dunzo, got the customer data directly when the QR codes were on screen.
“India is now much more accustomed to QR codes due to UPI transactions. There was a lot of buzz on Twitter yesterday due to the innovative nature of the campaign. Going forward, more innovative campaigns based on QR code will be present on TV as today people interact with digital through their mobile while watching TV to chat/tweet and QR code is a seamless way to move viewers to digital to one-on-one deals/communication,” adds Tripathy.
Business strategist and investor Lloyd Mathias also found QR Code ads an “extremely clever idea” and “completely disruptive”. Mathias says the moment was exceptional, especially as it featured on the back of the front page print campaign, ‘Adarsh Bharat’.
Some social media posts have mentioned that the creative agency tricked Dunzo into selling an idea that is inspirational at best, or idea theft at worst. Then, these were countered by loyalists quoting: “Good artists copy, great artists steal”.
Mathias says that since Coinbase and Dunzo cater to completely different markets, the similarity in tactics is not a major issue. “Yeah, it might not be 100% original, but it’s effective, running during a time when most users are likely to order.”
Kabeer Biswas himself was quick to accept that the ad was inspired by Coinbase activation. “Gotta thank Coinbase for trying it out first,” he admits in his blog of Dunzo’s announcement. “It helped to give us courage and after rejecting it as part of our Grocery ka Drama chodo campaign, we had to try it. In hindsight, we could have done things differently based on the feedback from the As a young brand coming onto the big stage, we learn quickly and promise to be better next time we try something,” Dunzo CEO concluded.