Think Before You Use That QR Code!

Open a magazine, drive around town, eat a box of cereal…and you will find a QR code. QR codes are becoming ubiquitous and aim to merge the online and offline worlds. But are companies using QR codes correctly and to their full advantage?

An example of a QR code fail (in my mind):


qrcodepepsi-179x300I recently purchased a fountain soda from a gas station. I should have known not to trust a Pepsi cup (I’m a Coca-Cola aficionado)…but I was in dire need of a caffeinated beverage. The only printing on the outside of the cup was the Pepsi logo and a QR code, so of course, I scanned the QR code and dismissed the Pepsi logo.

The QR code took me to a video of an interview with someone from the X Factor who had just won the chance to star in a Pepsi commercial…what? There’s no real Pepsi branding in the commercial and Pepsi’s name is only mentioned a few times. What was the point of taking me to this commercial? (Note: the link has since been updated with more useful content.)

I’m not against using QR codes if they’re used correctly and purposefully. So, if you’re considering using a QR code in a marketing campaign, here are a few things to contemplate:

  • Why are you using a QR code?
  • What happens when the QR code is scanned? Where are you leading your audience?
  • Can you track where you’re leading your audience? How will you know if your QR code is a success if you don’t measure it?
  • What other ways are driving traffic online? Not every consumer that sees a QR is going to know what to do with it. It’s important to include a website URL alongside the QR code.
  • Where will the QR code campaign appear? A few examples:1) If you create a graphic that includes a QR code and it’s placed in an elevator, will the consumer have good cell phone service when they go to scan the QR code? Or will they be unable to scan the code?2) If you create a billboard campaign that includes a QR code and the billboard is placed along the interstate – are people really going (or should they) scan a QR code while driving at high speeds? (Campaign stats: 2 scans. 47 car accidents.)

Five tips to take away:

  1. QR codes are better suited for print mediums. Don’t put a QR code on the interwebs. It just doesn’t make sense.
  2. Make sure you are able to scan and view your content using both iPhone and Android platforms before you print/launch the campaign.
  3. If you are driving the consumer to access your content via the web, make sure your content is mobile friendly.
  4. Visit this website and learn from other people’s mistakes. Bonus: the commentary is highly entertaining.
  5. Take notice of Shazam, (hat tip to Nathan T. Wright) an app that recognizes audio clips in radio ads, commercials, ect. and allows the user to tag the audio spot and receive additional content – such as brand information, recipes, free downloads, and more. Here’s a nifty example from Pillsbury who uses Shazam in their ads to drive users to view holiday recipes, to receive mobile recipe alerts and to visit the Pillsbury mobile website. (Play along: get your phone out and tag the Pillsbury jingle to see what happens!)