Harold says: Everyone is moving to the QR Code as a great new approach to
marketing. You’ll see these codes on business cards, in advertising and
on signage as a way to get existing and future customers to take a step
to learn more about your company.
The Truth: While there might be a couple of acceptable uses for these
scannable codes, most people we see using them are looking like
amateurs. Some of the largest companies in the world are making this
Let’s think it through. Someone hands you their business card, and along
with their name and professional details sits the code. You shake their
hand and while they are introducing themselves to you and asking you
about your products and services, you decide to pull out your phone and
scan their code. Who gives a crap about what they are saying – just
ignore them for the sake of technology.
Here’s another scenario. You are driving down the interstate at 80 mph
when you see a great billboard with a QR Code on it. You grab your ph…
never mind… you just ran off the road at 80 reaching for your phone
(thanks Mr. Advertiser).
Here’s another example. I’m sitting in the waiting room at my
physician’s office thumbing through a magazine. Voila, there is your ad.
I glance at the page and your headline is clever and the design
compelling. That’s when I see your fancy QR Code at the bottom of the
ad. I immediately scramble to take my phone out of my pocket because I
don’t want to miss the opportunity to take the next step… because I
REALLY care. I grab my phone, navigate to my scanner app, and start
scanning. Thanks to my 3G data speed, 4 minutes later your page loads
where I get to read MORE exciting information about your company, except
that I wasn’t THAT interested to begin with, so I left the page so I
could check my Facebook while I had my phone out – and, they just called
In advertising and marketing, the best approach considers a common
sense, human approach to the problem (we call it the “human sense”
approach). And that is the argument here. In case you are in love with
the QR Codes, let’s talk about some acceptable practices and how to use
them if you are going to use them.
1) Information Mode: If you believe the code is for you, then we
advise that you use the code when your customers are already in
information mode. They must be genuinely seeking to learn and gather
information on your product or service. Imagine, if you will, standing
by a painting at a museum. You are enjoying the painting. You are
reading a bit about the artist — the medium, format, and/or technique —
on the plaque next to the painting. You, then, are offered the
opportunity to learn more about that specific painting, it’s author, and
the context surrounding its creation by scanning the code. Perfect. You
are there taking in information (intentionally) and kindly offered
access to more information that wouldn’t otherwise fit on the plaque
next to the painting.
In this example, the user is already engaged. By sharing the QR Code, you ADD value to the experience by sharing more.
2) Transparency: If you want folks to scan the code, be transparent.
Most of the uses I’ve seen almost attempt a sense of mystery behind the
code. Don’t do that. The average consumer doesn’t care enough to take
the next step. Especially if they don’t know where they are stepping! Be
courteous. Gently explain to them the plan. “For more information about
how we create the soles for our shoes, scan the code.” Imagine I am the
kind of guy that only cares about shoe LACES. Then if you trick me into
pulling out my mobile device, scanning your code and then tell me about
shoe SOLES, I’m going to be annoyed.
3) Options: I’ve also recently seen a QR Code with a message that
gives the viewer an option to use ANOTHER communication avenue. The code
I refer to said, “Scan this code or Text WORD to 1234.” This is great.
Users LOVE options.
QR Codes are a trend. They’ll get their 15 minutes of fame. I think
about 12 minutes of that fame should already be up. I can appreciate
your wanting to find new and innovative ways to communicate with your
audience. But the proper litmus tests must be in place to make sure the
information and approach actually add value to their experience.
What adds such value? A human sense approach. Ask yourself what YOU
would do if you were presented an ad or marketing piece about leather
pants. And the leather pant company had a QR Code in the piece. What
would compel YOU to scan?