If you watch the uneven but occasionally hilarious IFC cable series Portlandia, you are familiar with Put A Bird On It: a design movement that enhances objects by adding a bird.
Marketers have their own version of this fad: Put a QR Code on it.
These chunky barcodes are showing up on everything from billboards to, alas, urinals. I recently saw a QR Code on a website which accessed (wait for it) another website.
In theory it’s a great idea. When scanned, a QR Code provides additional content that enhances the host message. A print ad can turn into a full- motion product demo. A real estate flyer can offer a guided tour of a home. A concert poster stapled to a telephone pole can unleash a music video.
Unfortunately, the public doesn’t share the marketing community’s enthusiasm for QR Codes. According to a recent Forrester Research survey only 5% of Americans with smart phones actually scanned a QR Code during a recent three-month survey period. Those that did tended to be young, affluent and male.
Does this mean that QR Codes won’t ever be a viable marketing tool? Not at all. But as with any emerging technology, it requires patience and best practices. Here’s how our agency is using QR Codes for maximum effect.
While it’s easy to slap a code on virtually any medium, be realistic. Are consumers inclined to chase a city bus down the street to scan a code on a transit ad for a casino? Probably not. On the other hand, QR Codes make sense at the point of sale, in print advertising and mobile couponing.
Make the experience worthwhile
Consumers who take the trouble to whip out a smart phone and scan a code should be rewarded for their efforts. Make sure the content is more than a pointless rehash of the host message.
Don’t use the technology for technology’s sake. Make sure the scanned message advances your overall brand story.
Don’t expect miraculous results from a QR Code effort. The percentage of those who scan the code will be low. The technology relies on third-party apps that can be clunky to use. But smart phone penetration will continue to increase and the QR Code user experience get better with built-in readers.
By applying common sense (and some uncommon creativity), there’s no reason why you shouldn’t put a code on it.