Magical QR Codes and Your Marketing

I have been asked about QR codes a few times now so maybe it’s time to put it out for public discussion.

First, what the heck is a QR code? If you understand store scanners you probably have some idea. In short it is a symbolic means of making information available to someone equipped with the ability to scan the symbol. QR codes differ from bar codes in their ability to hold more information, greater scanning accuracy and a smaller footprint.

So now that we know that a QR code connects people, who have scanning ability, to information, the question is begged, how can these be used to increase the customer experience? 

There’s a lot of “kewl” factor involve with using QR codes. I’m hoping this will be short-lived and they will eventually go into the pile of marketing fads. Yes, I’m not a big fan of QR codes and for good reason. I’m seeing them being used in stores, tradeshows, and lots of other wrong places.

Think about the process involved for someone to glean information from a QR code, assuming they are even equipped to do so.

  1. Locate their phone from their purse or pocket
  2. Activate their phone
  3. Drill down to their scanning application and launch
  4. Point at code and wait for it to focus
  5. Press “scan”
  6. Acknowledge the information received and approve the action (e.g. visit web site, insert contact information)
  7. Look at and assimilate this information or somehow save for later review (e.g. bookmark)

It’s a bit of a nuisance really to encounter a QR code and go through this drill, especially while pushing a shopping cart or in an exhibit hall of a tradeshow where people are trying make ultra efficient use of their time and there are people backing up as you stand there staring at your phone.

And what of your prospects who are annoyed because they cannot afford a smart phone or do not want a smart phone or even do not know how to install the needed scanning application and use it. I’m pretty sure you don’t lock out those who are not equipped with smart phones or do not know how to use them from your company’s offerings. So why would you start now?

Are there good applications for QR codes? There absolutely are and I would not have such a bad taste in my mouth about them if they were used. Good use of QR codes relies on having a presence with the intended audience while they are not moving about and when time is not at a premium. Some examples include print advertising, mailers, business cards, point-of-sale takeaway cards, drink coasters, etc. The ultimate goal with all of these is to make the most efficient use of premium space. The messaging motivates the prospect to scan the code to receive

  • More information (including video, audio) than could be provided in an ad, on a mailed postcard, sign outside a home or car for sale
  • A promotional offer provided from a web page and traffic through the QR code is metered.
  • A vCard file containing contact information to be easily imported into an address book rather than requiring it to be typed

So feel free to use QR codes with my blessing, just as long as you do so in ways that don’t annoy or assume everyone has access to read them.