What do Flashdance and Microsoft Tag have in common? Welding, my friend. Welding. Lincoln Electric is a Cleveland-based manufacturer of welding equipment – and, as it recently announced, the first in its industry to use Tag on its products. Welders will be able to access a mobile-optimized site with instructions, videos, and product specs just by scanning Tags on product nameplates. Lincoln Electric Portfolio Manager Bruce Chantry and Marketing Communications Specialist Matt Schuler recently spoke with me by phone about why the company chose Tag.
First of all, why connect welders with mobile content? Lincoln Electric just redesigned and relaunched their website earlier this year and wanted to tie in mobile too. Chantry sees using Tag as a strategic move that gives the company a competitive advantage. "If you look at the trends, the percentage of phones that will be smartphones in the next few years is going up exponentially, so why not get ahead of that?" he says. The company is thinking several years ahead – a customer who buys a machine today might buy a smartphone in a couple years (if s/he doesn't have one already). The company is "anticipating that shift in the communications technology world," says Chantry.
They began researching Tag and QR codes last year and liked the option of using color Tags in magazine ads (they're "more visually appealing," says Chantry) and also using black and white Tags on equipment, saving money on printing. A big deciding factor was that Lincoln Electric could change what the Tag links to anytime. While they don't plan on changing the end location, if they run a month-long promotion on a product, they can temporarily reroute the Tag to a promo site or announcement, giving the company more flexibility than QR offered. "The tracking metrics were also of great interest to us," Chantry adds. "The fact that it came with its own tracking method was obviously quite appealing."
In addition to product nameplates (six welding machines currently have Tags; soon they all will), the company plans to use Tags in trade show collateral and future print ads, says Schuler, as well as integrating their social media channels. They previously used Tag in print ads, as a means to connect users to microsites and YouTube videos. Check out their video about their use of Tag:
So what kind of response is the company getting? Schuler and Chantry say the welding industry isn't usually associated with cutting-edge marketing tactics, as the audiences can be slow to change, so people are surprised that Lincoln Electric is taking the lead. "They expect this stuff out of computer guys," says Chantry, not necessarily welding pros. They're blazing the trail for others in the industry to use mobile tagging. And while it's too soon to gauge the customer response, distributors have been really encouraging so far.
Overall, Lincoln Electric is using Tag to make its customers' lives easier. Although people are getting more comfortable with web research, sometimes they aren't sure what to search for. On the showroom floor, scanning the Tags unlocks information that can help them decide which welding product fits their needs; after purchase, it gives them tips, instructions, and ways to reach out to Lincoln Electric – no more searching for the instruction book. (How many instruction manuals have you lost?) And using mobile means it's at the customers' fingertips, making it far more convenient than lugging a laptop out to the garage. Jennifer Beals, how do you like them apples?
Do you think mobile tagging has a place in the welding industry? Can you imagine even more ways that Lincoln can add this new-age technology to an age-old craft? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.