About 2 years ago I dubbed QR codes* a dead concept outside of Japan.
To take off, the technology would need to be embedded in every smartphone operating system and two years ago this did not happen. Even though it is easy to download an app that reads QR codes using the phone’s camera, the app needs to be opened separately every time. To make it simple and encourage people to us it every day, the reader must be fully integrated with the camera.
Today penetration of QR code readers is as low as 1% in the US and Europe while it amounts to 70% in Japan (Source: IMC). This is slowly changing while more device manufacturers embed QR code readers directly to the phone. Based on current trends I might have been wrong. Examples of devices with embedded QR readers are the Motorola Droid and all Blackberry OS 6.x+, though slightly oddly placed in Blackberry App World rather than in the camera menu.
The big advantage of QR codes -when they work- is that they provide an instant method to interact with a brand without having to type a single letter or number. Just point your camera at it – that’s all!
Where to use QR-codes
1. Product Packaging
As they are still relatively new for the masses, QR codes on a product raise curiosity and call to action. Curiosity and the flair of “new and cool” increase the willingness to interact with the brand – a great opportunity that shall be rewarded from the brand side.
The code can redirect to a website or microsite, providing relevant information about the product without interrupting the package design too much. Or it can extend the brand experience in-store as well as outside. Coca Cola for example added QR codes to coke cans this spring in Germany, redirecting customers to a music portal. Selected music of participating bands added another sensual dimension to the coke experience and at the same time promoted the Coke Sound Up campaign they were running at the time. Read article
2. Outdoor and posters, TV ads
QR codes on posters or billboards can, just like in-store, provide more information about the car, TV-show, movie or whatever the product might be. Other than in- store though, users will expect something fancy to happen and might be disappointed to “only” find plain product info and package slips. The code can be used to distribute coupons, unveil videos or other digital gimmicks. Important is to raise curiosity for the content and give an idea what to expect.
Calvin Klein for instance got loads of media attention with giant billboards on popular places around the US, like Times Square, New York, featuring a QR code with the headline “Get It Uncensored”. The code gave access to a sexy mobile video with model Lara Stone and was a huge success. Read article
Paramount Pictures used QR codes to give by passers instant access to the trailer of the new Indiana Jones movie and at the same time provided coupons for popcorn at the theatre to drive traffic to theatres. See example
3. Magazines, Brochures, Business cards
Other than leading to a web- or microsite, QR codes can be used to invoke writing an e-mail, call a phone number or send a SMS message. “Scan to win” campaigns require the user to fill in personal information. Magazines and brochures therefore are the perfect medium since they are mostly read at a quiet, private place, where people feel save and are more likely to share those kind of info.
4. Indoor & Outdoor points of interest
Points of interest like Museums and parks can let the visitors decide for themselves when they want more information about a painting, the place or other exhibitions. It is a fun way to engage younger audiences that are already tight to the mobile medium and extend the available information, providing media like audio guides, videos, text and images.
The World Park campaign for example invited visitors of New York’s Central Park to interact with the park’s history and offerings. Over 50 QR Codes were placed all over the park and provided user with multi- media information about the current location. This includes former exhibitions, concerts, film scenes shot at the exact same spot, but also information about flora and fauna or the history of the park. Watch video
You want to share a great app or mobile website with someone right next to you. Rather than sending a text message or email with the link the app displays the QR code which the other person reads using the camera and the download starts or mobile website is displayed almost instantly.
In conclusion there are some great opportunities with QR codes for mobile but we don’t see a big boom in usage uptake in the near future. First device manufacturers must integrate the functionality into the core camera function of all their devices. In the meantime we recommend using a combination of SMS short codes, mobile website address, search and QR codes to help people easily find and access your app or mobile website.
QR codes are can work as a bridge between different marketing channels. It is an easy way to provide a multi- media and therefore more intense brand experience. Curiosity can be an engaging factor en be turned real interaction with the brand. Important to keep in mind though, that the delivered experience shall be coherent with the brand’s image. If you redirect to a website, it should be optimised for mobile, since otherwise the user may get frustrated.
- Call- to– action with coupons, vouchers, store locator, etc.
- Redirect to other media website, social media sites, etc.
- Give added value such as games, videos, pics, etc.
- Provide more information
* QR which stands for “Quick Response” was created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code).
For further reading Proximity London has a great article on QR codes available here