NEW YORK: Brand owners such as Buick, Diageo and PepsiCo are using new mobile tools to engage consumers.

Online giant Google introduced a smartphone app last year enabling users of devices like the iPhone and those run by its Android operating system to photograph objects and generate search listings.

It has now extended this platform, called Google Goggles, so people taking pictures of ads, QR Codes and other materials will be directed to websites or similar information specified by marketers.

Buick, Delta Air Lines, Diageo, T-Mobile and Walt Disney have all signed up to participate in the test phase of the project.

"It's a learning experiment for us more than an opportunity to make money," Michael Slinger, Google's head of mobile search advertising sales for North America, told the New York Times.

"We've got the distribution and interesting visuals. Everything hinges on whether the users will adopt this or not."

According to Google, queries on its mobile search engine have surged 500% in the last two years and the standalone Google Goggles application has been downloaded 250,000 times.

Carmaker Buick is hoping ads in Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, Fast Company, Forbes, People and Time - and posters at events in New York - during November and December could reshape popular perceptions.

"This is really about positioning Buick in a progressive marketing space so that people think of Buick as a progressive company overall," said Craig Bierley, director, advertising and sales promotions at Buick/GMC.

"People still equate us with big floaty, boxy cars that are driven by people in their 70s and 80s."

When consumers "snap" the appropriate content with their phone, they are then forwarded to a mobile site containing videos, photos and details of local dealers.

To monitor the results, Buick will track the number of individuals viewing creative material, and follow feedback on social media.

Disney is using this technology on 30,000 posters in 5,000 movie theatres as part of the publicity campaign for the film Tron: Legacy, offering a trailer and the facility to buy tickets from or

T-Mobile has incorporated the system in titles including Spin, Glamour and Rolling Stone to stimulate interest in its G2 handset.

Spirits group Diageo also added labels to selected bottles linked to a portal hosting guides cocktail recipes and wine reviews.

Food and beverage specialist PepsiCo recently launched a programme with location-based mobile service Gowalla, for the Tazo tea brand.

For a six-week period, members "checking in" at Whole Foods through the Gowalla application stand to win three bottles of Tazo and a $25 gift card.

Another such effort, utilising Foursquare, gives visitors to Hess gas stations the chance to acquire certain Brisk and Frito-Lay items for a combined $1.99.

Shiv Singh, PepsiCo Beverages Americas' director, digital engagement and social media, suggested "check-in-o-graphics" may yield useful data regarding customers' current attitudes and changing preferences.

"We're extremely excited about mobile. We feel that it's different, as we enter 2011," he said.

"For the first time digital is not at arm's length from the consumer when they're at the point of purchase. And that's incredibly valuable to us."

Tyson Foods, Energizer and Seventh Generation have forged equivalent tie-ups with mobile loyalty scheme CheckPoints, providing everything from games to vouchers after shoppers scan goods via their phones.

"The goal here is to deliver targeted messaging at that precise moment a purchase decision is made," said Mark DiPaola, CheckPoints' ceo/co-founder.

Data sourced from New York Times/AdAge; additional content by Warc staff