Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

QR Codes: Friend or Foe?

Way back in 2007 I attended a conference in Houston. The topic was consumer engagement, and I met Tim Williams, who is an author and partner of Ignition Consulting group. In his presentation, Tim kept talking about QR, or Quick Read, codes. They were all the rage in Asia and Europe and could be found on billboards, print ads and mass transit stations. A user scans these little 2D barcodes with their mobile phone and then they’re directed to really cool web content – videos, coupons, etc. I was so excited to take this idea back to the agency, do more research and pitch an idea to a client. On the flight back to St. Louis my head was swirling with ideas and applications for my clients. I have yet to sell a QR idea.

I digress. This post is not about my enthusiasm for QR codes. It’s to educate. Like all “new” technology, marketers and advertising agency folk have the responsibility to understand the application of the technology for their brand strategy and marketing communication goals. Remember, Facebook is not for everyone, neither is broadcast TV or print advertising.


The Pros

QR codes can be effective tools to push new content and create unique experiences for customers. Done correctly, a QR code can do wonders for brand engagement. Take Macy’s for example – they have really jumped on the QR code bus, devoting national TV spots to inform customers on how to use these little codes to unlock designer’s secrets from Tommy Hilfiger and Bobbi Brown. Macy’s also developed a lot of content to support the use of a QR code – key when you actually care about the consumer and not just pushing your next big promotion. Macy’s Campaign

The Cons

For all of their benefits, QR codes pose a lot of challenges. First, people don’t “get” them. Without some sort of tutorial, your customers might not know what to do with this 2D code. And even if your customer knows what to do with them, they might not have a QR reader installed on their phone. Or the reader they have installed doesn’t work with that code. But let’s say your customers “get” QR codes. And when they scan your code and are directed to your content the experience is bad — the website isn’t optimized for mobile use, or there isn’t a unique call to action. They walk away with a bad taste in their mouth and are less likely to scan another QR code.

Are they here to stay?

If you do a Google search on QR codes, you’ll see the jury is definitely still out on their longevity. But, done correctly and within a context that fits with your brand strategy, QR codes work.

Don’t have a reader? Text 2DGO to 368674 with your smartphone and you’ll be provided with a number of 2D barcode readers that work with your phone.