Anymore, it seems that you cannot have a conversation about mobile marketing without discussing QR codes. While they’re (finally) beginning to gain some traction domestically, QR codes elicit an array of opinions from die-hard believers all the way down to intractable naysayers. Are QR codes here to stay? Are they useful for consumers? Are they beneficial for marketers?
I’m not going to opine on the overall sustainability of QR codes. What I do want to address is this: marketers have been thinking about QR codes all wrong. We’re completely effing them up.
When it comes to QR codes, everyone always asks, “How can we execute this in a creative way?”
And the answer tends to be something along the lines of, We’ll put the code on:
- Business cards
- Vans/cars (ugh, seriously? You’re not giving users time to scan!)
- Magazine ads
- Direct mailers
- TV commercials (again with the not allowing for scan time!)
- (See FastCompany’s “13 Creative Ways to Use QR Codes for Marketing” for additional approaches)
And usually, the code is slapped onto these collateral without any acknowledgement, direction or integration with the rest of the piece – almost as if it’s an afterthought. And marketers wonder why QR codes aren’t working for them…
Tsk, tsk. We’re asking the right question. But giving the wrong answer.
Execution of a QR code extends beyond the manner in which you apply the QR code.
Where and how you place the code is just one piece of the entire customer experience. To deliver something truly unique and creative, you must also consider:
- CONTEXT. Not all users will know what the code is and what to do with it. You will need to provide some instructions to address this. Additionally, you should tell users what experience they can expect from scanning the code. Finally, consider including a bit.ly or SMS short code that users can also use to access your content. I recommend a prompt along the lines of: “Scan to get behind-the-scenes video! Don’t have a scanner? Download ‘QR Reader’ for iPhone or ‘QR Droid’ for Android & scan using the app. Don’t have a smartphone? Text VIDEO to 12345.”
- DESTINATION. This is arguably the most important component of the QR code experience. If I see one more code point me to a regular web site with no clear call-to-action, I will drop-kick a small animal. (Okay, not really, but you get the point) Your QR code should point users to a mobile-optimized page or site with a CTA and functionality specific to your campaign and tailored to your audience.
- INTERACTIVITY. THIS is where the real creativity comes into play – NOT in how/where you plaster your code. If a user takes the time to scan your QR code, then they likely have a healthy appetite for the interactive. Don’t disappoint by sending them to a form that will collect their info for email updates or something lame like that. The following themes tend to perform well in terms of engagement and ROI: exclusivity, rich media, downloads, social sharing, prizes/contests. I’d recommend steering clear of promotions, discounts & freebies – those are for a different type of user that you’re apt to deal with in this space. Both you and the user can extract value beyond discounting or giving away product.
The bottom line: it’s important to plan a holistic experience. Examine every touch point through a user’s lens and deliver an experience that surprises and delights, instead of one that confuses and frustrates.
Additional Reading, for my Bookworms
An example of QR codes working for television: HSN Tests On-screen QR Codes to Encourage Sales
Love this store display concept: Inside eBay’s Physical Push for Mobile Sales
Oh, and you may also want to pay attention to some of the common wrongs that brands commit when executing with QR codes. Avoid making these newbie mistakes.