Q(ui)R(ky) Codes – useful or a gimmick?

You’ve probably heard of QR codes but have you used them?  If you’ve never used it, you will need a QR Reader. Once you’ve loaded it, to see it in action simply scan the header image of this post.

QR codes appear to be gaining momentum and traction within the marketing fraternity (and largely thanks to the proliferation of smartphones) as another means to get your audience to interact with you.  But for most people this is still a new tactic.

I thought I would give my take on it; its uses, its downfalls and its benefits for companies.

QR codes were originally developed in 1994 by Denso-Wave (Toyota subsidiary) to keep track of car parts during the manufacturing process (merci beaucoup Wikipedia). Today they are being used for distributing all manner of information and as a means to keep the conversation with consumers going.  Traditionally they are found in analogue 2D advertising (billboards, print advertising, etc).

The reason they are used is that they give marketers an opportunity to give engagement beyond ‘the page’, activity can be measured in real-time and (depending on objectives and UI) ROI calculations.  With the increased penetration of smartphones scanning a QR code is much easier than asking someone to remember a URL or typing it in so the engagement is much more immediate.

So how could businesses use it?

  • On adverts, QR codes could be used to lead people to microsite that would give them more information on a specific product
  • On a till receipt, a code could act as a money-off coupon
  • At events, a QR code on the official programme could direct people to your stand
  • On a piece of DM, a code could lead people to a personalised landing page with bespoke information
  • On a business card, the QR code could direct people to your personal website/blog/twitter feed
  • On medicine, a QR code could take you to an application where you enter your first time of taking the medicine and then app then automatically reminds you when you next need to take it
  • On websites, a QR code could open up a ‘members only’ area
  • In Japan, they even have them in cemeteries as a means to provide additional information (again, thanks Wikipedia)

So the ideas and execution opportunities are there, but that is not enough.  You also need to think about:

  • Where does this fit in the overall strategy? I.e. what objectives do I ultimately want to meet?
  • Does the content I’m leading people to add value to what they are doing and their interaction with what I’m ‘selling’?
  • Will this be the only means of accessing that information? If so, am I ok with alienating those who do not have a smartphone?
  • Am I using QR for the sake of using some new, fancy technology? Or does it support the customer journey?

QR codes can be useful, engaging and novel. But use it wisely and you will use it well.


3 thoughts on “Q(ui)R(ky) Codes – useful or a gimmick?

Add yours

  1. I think that QR codes are really cool, I have never personally used one, because I haven’t upgraded to a smart phone yet. I also think in order to not alienate people without smartphones, because the technology is so new in most places other than Japan you still have to include a URL.
    One question that I have is if there is a QR code on a billboard, how do people access it? Wouldn’t the billboard be too far away for a smartphone to scan it?

    The Green Guerilla

  2. I think they are a good way of keeping customers engaged, especially because of the immediacy and being able to move them from offline to online. It all comes down to strategy; as long as it makes sense to drive them online then this is a good way of doing so. I wouldn’t use them for the sake of it. For example, in the project you’re doing you could consider using QR codes for access to exclusive content such as interviews, competitions, ticket promotions, even videos to gee people up for the next game etc… you could then distribute those in coffee houses around campus, etc
    On a billboard it would have to be a huge QR code – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_N559yMLZc – but the scanners will read it.
    that’s a great call on the URL as well

    1. Yeah we are already looking into building QR codes for the campaign, then maybe I will get to see a lot of my work around the city once our campaign is done and starts into execution, that will be really cool. Awesome video. thanks for sharing that.

      The Green Guerilla

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