QR codes hit the market a couple years ago with high expectations of becoming the next genius marketing tool. The QR code, short for Quick Response code, was created by DENSO in 1994 to help track automotive parts (disclosure: Identity has worked with DENSO in the past). Fifteen years later, these two-dimensional, pixelated bar codes started taking root in mobile marketing. However, they haven’t taken off quite yet. The reason for this is two-fold: People don’t know what a QR code is (or what they are supposed to do with it), and marketers often don’t use them strategically.
When deciding to use a QR code, placement and product are equally important. The QR code must be easily accessible where the user can be standing still with enough time to get his/her phone and scanner ready, scan the code, open the link and view the content.
Also, the QR code needs to provide value – exclusive content, helpful information needed on the spot, or a special offer. It’s also helpful to briefly explain how to scan the code, if space permits. To encourage use, QR codes should make accessing content easy and exciting, not difficult or pointless.
Here are some creative and effective uses of QR codes:
Macy’s Backstage Pass – Macy’s put a twist on the QR code and incorporated a colored one into their famous red star logo. The QR code links to exclusive videos of famous designers, like Tommy Hilfiger and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. Furthermore, their Backstage Pass commercial explains how to use it. Macy’s employees were also equipped with lanyard cards explaining how to scan the Backstage Pass code.
Taco Bell – Taco Bell has been experimenting with different QR code campaigns to provide fresh content that customers can use and enjoy. In spring 2011, a QR code on the large drink cups linked to free music downloads in partnership with Mountain Dew. In summer 2011, the QR code on the $5 Big Box linked to exclusive MTV Music Awards mobile content that changed every week. A QR code on the company’s career recruiting materials links directly to a mobile optimized site where you can fill out an application on your phone. Most recently, I spotted a QR code on the “Taco Party Pack” box and on the back of my receipt, directing me to a customer feedback survey.
Identity 2011 Holiday Card – Shameless plug, but nevertheless a relevant example! If you received our holiday greeting card this year, it simply had the URL to our holiday video, followed by a QR code that linked to the video on a mobile-friendly landing page. We kept it simple and fun, and I bet you didn’t receive any other holiday cards with a QR code on it!
Business cards – Especially relevant for those who work in the digital space, business cards with QR codes can link directly to an online portfolio site, simple company profile mobile page or contact information. About.me, a site where you can create a custom homepage to house links to all your Web content, offers free business cards with a unique QR code that links directly to your personal site. You can easily pull up your online portfolio on the spot. If this sounds up your alley, here are 30 creative QR code business cards ideas.
Real Estate Sale Signs – Putting a QR code on a “For Sale” sign is a great way to ensure that anyone with a smartphone can immediately access information about a specific property. However, realtors should check with their clients to make sure they have a compatible device and know how to scan the code.
Here are some places QR codes do not belong:
Outdoor billboards – Drivers cannot scan a QR code while driving. Passengers are usually moving too fast for them to have time to get their phone ready to scan the code. This seems obvious, but for some reason, I still spot QR codes on billboards by roads and highways.
Websites – QR codes link to a mobile site for when your audience is not near a computer. Unless the QR code on a website links to content like an app or ringtone specifically for use on a phone or a tablet, stick with hyperlinks rather than transferring users to a phone.
Television ads – Commercials are only 20-30 seconds long, and by the time the viewer has time to recognize there is a QR code, get the phone out, then zoom in or get up close enough to scan the code, the commercial is over. For example, I tried to scan the one on the GoDaddy.com Super Bowl commercials three times, but because it was so small, by the time I got close enough to the screen and opened the scanner, the QR code was gone. As someone with a smartphone always on hand and always down to scan any QR code I can find, even I was unsuccessful with grabbing this one.
As marketers, let’s remember to take a step back and really think about whether using a QR code makes sense for the campaign. And if it does, make sure you’re sending people to valuable and interesting content that lives somewhere other than your website. If more marketers used QR codes strategically, I’m confident they would become more prevalent and relevant.
What are some other creative ways you’ve seen QR codes used? Do you have any failed QR code attempts?