I had the pleasure of doing an UNTETHER.tv episode with Lloyd Bernhardt, the co-founder of Ethical Bean Coffee, a few days ago. I know, a coffee roaster on a mobile-focused web show? Absolutely! And the lessons you could learn from them about how they use mobile – QR codes specifically – is exactly what this industry needs to have more of.
Ethical Bean is a fair trade roaster in Vancouver, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada, with product distribution to some of the largest grocery outlets in Canada and branching into the US. What sets them apart is their inventive use of QR codes – on their packages as well as on their marketing/promotional materials.
Using QR codes on packaging is something akin to a digital label and allows Ethical Bean to link dynamic content from each bag of coffee beans. For instance, they use the QR codes to tell the story of the beans in the bag – from the farmer that picked them to the roasting methods and the types of beans used in the blend to the taste and acidity of the beans. They use video, text, charts and maps and allow you to sign up for more information about the coffee, the company, the people who picked it or when this particular blend goes on sale.
They also use QR codes on all their marketing materials that, when scanned, let you know where the nearest store is that sells the coffee. This is really the first time that smaller companies like Ethical Bean Coffee can actually start to influence the buying decision and drive foot traffic to larger retailers.
Building a following
The most significant part of what Lloyd and his team are doing is in the relationships they are building with customers through open, honest and transparent practices. Building a brand requires trust and once you scan a QR code and learn the story of the bean you become emotionally connected, may sign up for a mailing list or may want to support the farmer.
Whatever your motivations, Ethical Bean Coffee has found that the use of mobile technology opens up a conversation with their customers they’ve never had before.