Several weekends ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to Boston to attend a family wedding. While there, my immediate family and I visited Bertucci’s for some brick-oven pizza deliciousness.
I happened to be sitting at the end of the table with my father, who is CIO for a national food service chain. Whenever I get together with my dad, it’s an exercise in absolute and extreme nerdery, as we catch up on the latest social media, mobile and tech news and trends. Dad noticed that there was a QR code on the back of Bertucci’s menu with instructions to scan it to visit their Facebook page. In a frenzy of geeky excitement, we whipped out our phones to scan it.
Admittedly, I was doubtful about the execution of this effort. I expected to be taken to their Facebook page without any clear call to action or compelling offer for being the forward-thinking, tech-savvy consumer that I am. However, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by this:
My, my! Doesn’t that Roasted Artichoke Fonduta look divine?! You mean, here I am, about to place my order, and all I need to do is click the Like button to get a free appetizer that I can (presumably) redeem immediately? Hell. Yes.
You’re quite welcome for liking you! There’s that fonduta again… teasing me with it’s gooey, melty goodness. I WANT! So. I download my coupon.
I am mere moments away from fonduta heaven, when I notice the “Print this e-coupon…” instructions. Nonsense, I declare! It’s an e-coupon, generated by scanning a QR code and completing the desired actions on my mobile device. Surely if I show the server the coupon on my phone she can accept it. There’s even a handy code (“FB611″) that she can manually enter into the register to track the coupon.
Well, it didn’t quite happen like that.
In fact, I remained fonduta-less! Our server insisted that she needed a print-out of the coupon. In a moment of pure spite and sass, I tongue-lashed her with a sharp, “Well that kind of defeats the purpose of pointing people to it from a QR code on the MENU!”
Okay. She did not deserve my pissy attitude. She was just trying to do her job and had clearly not been trained on how to handle situations like this. This got me thinking about all that it takes to execute a seemingly simple QR code-driven campaign. While each campaign is unique and may require a variety of tactical considerations, I think that, in general, it boils down to 5 simple things:
1) Don’t create a QR code just because your competition has one.
Slapping a code on piece of collateral – without any strategic plan or integrated campaign – just to say you’re progressive enough to have one, only makes you a social media douche bag. Without purpose and a set of criteria I refer to as “SHIFT” (see below), pushing a standalone QR code out to your customers is like listening to a Coldplay song – it leaves you feeling mildly confused and epically disappointed.
2) Give some thought to what the customer experience will look and feel like.
Seriously. Do your campaign a favor and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Even better, test it out on other employees to see if the experience meets the SHIFT criteria (Straightforward, Holistic, Intuitive, Fun and Transferrable [think Shareable]).
3) Be obvious: tell customers what will happen when they scan your code.
Let them know what they can expect, and set yourself up to win. Chances are, they are more likely to scan that little graphic if you tell them where you’re taking them as opposed to leading them blindly into a digital fun house of marketing propaganda.
4) Make the call-to-action explicit, compelling and sensible.
What is the ONE THING you want people to do? What is the ONE COMPELLING THING you can offer them in exchange for completing that action? It drives me crazy when I scan a QR code and I just get dumped onto a mobile web site. What am I supposed to do with that? So. Maybe you want users to like your Facebook page. In exchange for a like, you’re willing to offer some type of exclusive offer or discount. Rock on. Now make that very clear and easy, and avoid layering it in with other marketing noise and seemingly important branding messages.
5) Ensure alignment with customer-facing employees.
If you’re going to include some offer or promotion to support your campaign, make sure all front-line associates are on board with the plan – and that includes accounting for contingencies when customers ask for exceptions to the process (and they will!).
Added on 07/26/2011:
6) Do not put a QR code on a mobile site or other digital platform where users will live the experience via mobile device.
Hello! You cannot scan a QR code when viewing it online from your mobile device. I’m seeing a lot of Twitter users replace their avatars with QR codes now. This is dumb for two reasons: a) It’s tacky and impersonal, and b) Over half of users access Twitter from a mobile device, rendering your QR code un-scannable and useless. This is a QR code rookie mistake that unfortunately happens all too often.
That said, I also happen to think that QR codes are hugely underutilized in their potential. I’ve mostly seen businesses use them to point people to mobile web sites and social networking sites. There are so many more creative approaches to explore (e.g., augmented reality, e-commerce, etc.). But that’s another post for another day!