QR (“Quick Response”) codes are 2-dimensional bar codes that have been around since the mid-1990s. They have become widely used in retail loyalty programmes, with shoppers scanning QR codes on a supermarket shelf using their smartphones. Once a shopper scans the code on the shelf, they are taken to a website or some other mobile-enabled content and provided with information the retailer controls. At the same time, a retailer can collect information on the shopper, such as where and when they scanned the code, how many codes they scanned, and what actions they may have taken afterward. Interface this with a retailer’s loyalty database, and the possibilities for connecting in a meaningful manner with the best shoppers become clear.
In marketing communications, QR codes are useful vehicles to connect print communication with online marketing campaigns. At tradeshows, booths nowadays not only carry the company URL, but also these funny square pixel pattern, our QR codes. Visitors are encouraged to point their smartphones to the code, and then comes the surprise! A QR code reader (downloadable as an app for Apple and Android phones) captures the pattern and takes the visitor to a campaign page, such as a brochure download page or a prize draw registration.
QR codes, when first generated, are black, but can be any colour as long as there is sufficient contrast to the background (30% or more). Many resources are now available to include branding, by inserting a logo for example. One is Beqrious, see their link in the list below. The QR codes above all work, test them! (And please email me immediately if they don’t)
It is possible to make the white background transparent and put the code on a picture. Again, the contrast is important. Another tip: the white margin around the pattern is part of the code. So do not crop that off!
Outdoor advertising is another opportunity for marketers to use QR codes and connect the “real” world with the “virtual” one. We have all seen them on billboards, or larger than life on the screens of Piccadilly Circus. Think of a treasure hunt (or easter egg hunt to give it seasonal relevance) where you hide clues in the form of QR codes around a park, or the entire city centre. Great fun! These examples are from consumer marketing. But what is now established in B2C marketing can also be used in B2B. Location is everything, so deploy your outdoor advertising carrying QR codes where your customers go. Canary Wharf or Potsdamer Platz, at the airport or indeed the gym.
Print and online spheres of the QR code world need to work together seemlessly. Print lasts longer than a website, so it is important to remmeber that when the online campaign has finished and the web page expired, the poster/billboard/magazine page carrying the QR code could still be out there, and get picked up by an audience. They see the poster, spot the QR code, scan it with their phones… and then… See for yourself in this example:
You see the poster…
You are interested. You scan the QR code…
Disappointed? A little frustrated?
QR codes have now turned into art. My favourite one, artistic yet commercial, is this:
Latest news: The Dutch Royal Mint is planning to issue QR codes on commemorative coins. The coins will become available on 22 June. Each QR code will reveal a surprise!
Further reading and useful links: