digiknow and downtown cleveland alliance partner in mobile marketing plan

You're standing in front of a downtown building that is advertising newly refurbished condos for sale. You'd love to learn more about them, but it's 7 p.m. on a Sunday, and the sales office is closed. Out of luck, you head home, perhaps costing yourself new digs and the building owner a sale.

Here's how that scenario plays out now thanks to DigiKnow and Downtown Cleveland Alliance: Before heading home, you notice a sleek little barcode in a corner of the window. Quick-thinker, you whip out your smartphone and scan the barcode, which immediately calls up a webpage offering everything you wanted to know about the condo, including size, price and real estate agent. You make a note to call the broker first thing in the morning, then pat yourself on the back for being so tech savvy.

Thanks to a partnership between interactive marketing firm DigiKnow and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, on-the-go residents will soon have a handy new tool to help them access important information when and where they need it most. Quick response, or QR, barcode technology has been all the rage in Japan for several years, but only now is it gaining a foothold in the States. The increasingly familiar two-dimensional box of black and white squares is used in magazines, in online app stores, and as virtual business cards.

When they begin popping up in Cleveland businesses, the QR codes will connect info seekers to online profiles of downtown stakeholders such as bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, hotels, and commercial and residential properties. Scan the QR code in a restaurant window, for example, to view the menu and day's specials. Snap the barcode of a downtown club to see a video of the band that's scheduled to perform. Optimized for mobile phones, the profiles will reside on the Downtown Cleveland Alliance website. This, in turn, will encourage users to delve more deeply into the DCA website to discover more of downtown's offerings.

"With QR codes, there is no typing necessary," explains Josh Taylor, marketing manager for DCA. "This technology gets the information that people want quickly. We're meeting people where they are, on the cutting edge." (Scan the QR code to the left of this line and see where it takes you.)

If the fast pace of emerging technology makes your head spin, hold on tight because DigiKnow is moving at rapid-fire speed. The Cleveland-based interactive marketing firm has developed online tools, products and campaigns for the Browns, Cavs, Goodyear, Lincoln Electric, Nestle, Ohio Department of Tourism and Cleveland Clinic. They recently created an iPad app for exhibitors at the future Medical Mart and Convention Center to use during trade shows. The company also just launched a spin-off brand, Circle 44 Mobile, which helps companies optimize their websites for mobile technology.

According to King Hill, DigiKnow's founder, mobile-optimized programs give consumers the tools they need to reach out to the services they seek. QR barcodes, he says, are designed to facilitate the interaction between businesses, organizations and consumers. "They're providing a way for people to do their own research and make decisions. The QR codes give consumers and property owners, vendors and restaurateurs a new way to communicate with each other."

Located in a contemporary office in the increasingly high-tech Tyler Village complex, DigiKnow currently employs 55 people. The company's creative solutions to online branding, website development and mobile marketing have kept them at the leading edge of the industry since launching in 1995. Described as "an advertising agency that slammed into a software development firm," DigiKnow excels at precisely the types of technologies that currently are in high demand.

This made them the perfect partner for Downtown Cleveland Alliance's bold new marketing plan. As more and more people replace clunky old cell phones with feature-rich smartphones, businesses, organizations, even cities will need to rethink how they reach out to consumers. "Cities and companies have to market themselves and deliver engagement opportunities through the mobile web or apps on the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and tablet technologies," Hill says.

Like DigiKnow, Downtown Cleveland Alliance knows that staying ahead of the information curve means thinking mobile. 

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