Category QR code

Please, Don’t Put a QR Code There!

A recent report from ScanLife points to the fact that more people are scanning QR codes this year than they were last year, at least QR codes that were created by ScanLife. This can be explained by the increased usage of QR codes by advertisers and by the fact that more people own smartphones now than they did last year.

It is noteworthy that according to ScanLife, 60% of people who scan QR codes do so at home. This might indicate that QR codes are less effective when people are asked to scan them while they are on the go.

However, I need to point out that these findings are probably biased based on what brands hire ScanLife and how they use QR codes in their advertising campaigns.

Not Everyone Is in Favor of QR Codes in Advertising

In general, using QR codes to market a product or service is a very polarizing topic among marketers. Either they love them or they hate them.

As Margie Clayman points out in a recent blog post, “Truthfully, there is some bad feeling about QR codes, but the main reason for those bad feelings is that many marketers have not used QR codes in the most effective way possible. In fact, a lot of people have used QR codes in a way that creates annoyance and frustration versus happiness and joy.”

In the post, Clayman gives some good advice about what not to do when using QR codes in your marketing campaigns.

Where the Ad Is Placed Makes a Difference

There is a lot of advice out there about how to use QR codes in your marketing campaigns if you do a Google search.

However, sometimes, a brand can do everything correct when creating the campaign, only to have it fail when a employee at the store level puts the sign in a location that might not be appropriate.

For example, earlier this week I stopped in a local gas station to use the restroom and noticed a QR code on a sign on the wall. The sign was for a good cause, and the QR code was big enough to be scanned.

As I waited, I thought about taking out my smartphone and scanning the ad. But then, I looked over just a few feet to the left at the urinal and realized that I might look a little perverted pulling out a smartphone and using the camera in the men’s room.

Remember, not everyone knows how to scan a QR code. In fact, some people might not know what they are. Therefore, in this instance, scanning the QR code might be more trouble than it’s worth.

In this case, the negative feelings that I had were more powerful than the good intention of the ad. (I know that I am only one person, but I’d bet others have felt the same way.)

If the sign with the QR code was placed in the bathroom stall where people would scan behind a closed door, then I think that would be acceptable. If the bathroom had a separate area for washing your hands in another room, that might be an okay place also. However, if it is placed right by the urinals, it could cause problems for both the business and its customers.

Just to see if I was overreacting, I Googled the topic and found out that Dave Delaney wrote a similar blog post last year.

Conclusion

There are a lot of marketers who think QR codes are ineffective. Others disagree.

Both might be correct, depending on the situation.

If your business does choose to use QR codes in their marketing campaigns, there is a lot of good advice out there if you do a Google search.

However, no matter how well you plan your marketing campaign, if the advertisement is placed in an inappropriate location at the store level, all your efforts could be wasted.

Therefore, it might be appropriate for chain stores to have guidelines as to where to put certain types of advertisements within the store.

Furthermore, if not that many people are scanning QR codes that are placed in your advertisements, you might want to check to see if there are other factors that might be discouraging people from scanning the QR code—including the location of the advertisement.

So, what do you think… would you scan a QR code in the restroom?

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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QR Codes Aren’t Secret Decoder Pins

Little Orphan Annie OvaltineIn the holiday movie classic, “A Christmas Story,” there is a memorable scene where Ralphie, after receiving his secret decoder pin in the mail, rushes to the family’s bathroom to decode the top-secret message that was entrusted to the listeners of the “Little Orphan Annie” radio program who were also members of Annie’s Secret Circle. Ralphie decodes the message one letter at a time, with the hopes that he will receive some really important information, only to be disappointed when it turns out to be an advertisement for the show’s sponsor.

Note: If you scan the QR code at the bottom of this post it will take you to a YouTube video of the scene from “A Christmas Story” that I just mentioned. (Click here if you don’t have access to a QR-code reader.)

The disappointment that Ralphie felt after decoding this top-secret message is exactly the same kind of letdown that I was talking about in my post about QR codes a few weeks ago. (If you Google it, you will find out that there are other bloggers out there who have made the same comparison.)

As I mentioned in the post, I like the idea of using QR codes for marketing purposes in certain cases.

However, in this post, I want to highlight some of the other possible uses of this technology by listing some of the other ways that businesses are currently using QR codes.

Not Just Another Crummy Commercial

Remember, QR codes were originally created by Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota, in 1994 for use in tracking vehicles during the manufacturing process. The Denso Wave website has a few case studies that highlight how QR codes can be used in other areas of a business.

But, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

For example, there is a blog post on techsavvyagent.com that lists some interesting ways that QR codes can be used to help facilitate the sale of real estate.

QR codes are also being used by the high-tech chain of grilled cheese restaurants launched by Flip video founder Jonathan Kaplan. According to an article on mashable.com, “The Melt allows diners to order their meals via their mobile phones. Placing an order on your phone creates a QR code that you can then swipe in the store. Once swiped, your order appears on the “Order Board” and your grilled cheese is placed in a propriety grill with a built-in microwave. Kaplan’s goal is to go from swipe to grilled cheese in two minutes or less.”

SCVNGR also introduced a pay-by-QR-code mobile payments experience when they relaunched LevelUp. When consumers link a credit or debit card to LevelUp, they receive their own personal QR codes that can be scanned to make payments at participating merchants. These QR codes can also be used to opt-in to store loyalty programs. As of October of 2011, roughly 500 merchants in Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York had agreed to accept LevelUp payments and merchants in other major metropolitan markets are expected to be added in 2012. (Source: mashable.com)

With the help of QRpedia, museums in the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain are using QR codes to enhance the experience that their visitors have at exhibits. QRpedia uses QR codes to deliver Wikipedia articles to users in their preferred language. If there isn’t a Wikipedia article in their preferred language, the QRpedia server offers the option to choose from the languages that are available, or a Google translation.

It is interesting to note that the Occupy movement also uses QRpedia-generated QR codes on some of their campaign posters.

Furthermore, as a post on traveltips.usatoday.com explains, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has also found ways to use QR codes to make the boarding process easier for passengers at select airports.

QRifi Is Developing Additional Uses of QR Codes

As you can see from the previous examples, there are many people out there who are developing innovative ways to use QR codes.

This is exactly what Paul Hallett and Alex Rose, founders of QRifi, are doing.

Their small startup company based in the United Kingdom has two main goals. The first goal is to create new applications of this technology that actually deliver value to the end user. The second is to educate people about QR codes and show them the benefits of using them with the hopes that it will create further interest and potentially spark an idea that could take this technology in directions we haven’t even thought about.

They haven’t released too much information about what they are working on. The only thing that we currently know is that their first venture will have something to do with wireless networks. According to one of their blog posts, they will be releasing more information in January of 2012.

If you head over to qrifi.me, you can sign up to receive future updates and get beta access to some of the cool stuff that they develop.

Note: I became aware of QRifi while reading a comment that Mr. Paul Hallett left on a previous blog post.

Final Thoughts

People often take a technology that was invented for one purpose and find alternative uses for it.

QR codes are no different.

There are many possible uses for QR codes, some of which we haven’t even thought about yet.

As more people become aware of the cool things that can be done with QR codes, the likelihood that someone else will find new and innovative ways to put the technology to use will increase.

A Christmas Story on YouTube.com QR codeHowever, if most consumers who scan QR codes continually have experiences that elicit the same response that Ralphie had when he used the Little Orphan Annie Secret Circle decoder pin, then their popularity will wane and the likelihood that the bright minds of tomorrow will create new and innovative uses of QR codes will decrease.

Therefore, the people who champion QR codes should use every possible opportunity that they have to educate others about QR codes and what they can and should be used for.

That’s my opinion, anyway.

If you hear about any other interesting uses of QR codes, I would like to hear about them. You never know, I might include them in a future blog post.

Oh yeah, and be sure to drink your Ovaltine!

Photo credit: cogdogblog on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Is a Lack of Creativity Discouraging People From Scanning QR Codes?

Mall of America uses QR code event to drive awareness, sales on Black Friday on arikhanson.comIt’s a fact that more brands are using QR codes for marketing purposes.

However, as I pointed out in the last post, the number of people who are actually scanning QR codes is relatively low.

Let’s put aside some of the other reasons why consumers would choose not to scan QR codes (e.g., lack of a smartphone, lack of awareness about how or why to scan QR codes, etc.)

Instead, let’s think about what consumers actually get when they take the time to scan a QR code.

Often, the people who make arguments against QR codes mention the fact that it is a waste of time for the consumer if all they get when scan a QR code is another advertisement.

And, I can’t argue with them on this point.

In fact, if consumers scan QR codes a few times and only get a ho-hum experience, I would guess that they would be more likely to ignore QR codes in the future.

However, this is not a fault of the technology, itself. What it boils down to is a lack of creativity on the part of the advertiser who is using this technology.

Personally, I am a fan of using QR codes for marketing purposes in certain cases.

Do you want an example of what I think is a great use of this technology? If you scan the QR code in this post it will take you to Arik Hanson’s recent blog post about how the Mall of America used QR codes on Black Friday. (Note: Click here if you don’t have access to a QR-code reader. Also, his blog post is not mobile optimized. The only reason that I point this out is because I am now linking it to a QR code and mobile optimization is a must for any website that is linked to a QR code. But, that’s another post.)

Final Thoughts

What I fear is that many consumers will see a QR code in the future and say, “Oh, I tried those before. All I got was another darn advertisement.”

In other words, I think the lack of creativity by some advertisers could be making it more difficult for others to get consumers to interact with their brand by scanning QR codes.

What are your thoughts?

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Allure of the QR Code

Photo credit: A Year of Yesterdays on Tumblr.About a year ago, MasterCard and SunTrust Bank implemented an interesting marketing campaign that included larger-than-life versions of products that could potentially be on your holiday shopping list.

As part of the marketing campaign, a huge tricycle was placed in the Five Points neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia, and a gigantic digital camera was put in the nearby Peachtree Center Mall.

Judging from the number of people taking photographs, these items definitely grabbed people’s attention.

However, it was the matrix barcode that was included on the tag attached to these items that really piqued my interest.

The tag included a statement saying, “Scan this code with your phone to see today’s Overwhelming Offer.*”

However, at the time, I didn’t read the statement.

Instead, my mind raced, thinking of all the cool ways that the advertising agency or public relations firm responsible for creating the campaign could have potentially used this opportunity.

The QR Code

As you may know, the Quick Response code (QR code) was originally created by Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota, in 1994 for use in tracking vehicles during the manufacturing process.

However, more recently, QR codes and similar two-dimensional barcodes have been coopted by marketers looking for ways to catch the attention of potential customers.

If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance that you have at least thought about the potential uses of QR codes, and more than likely, whether good or bad, have an opinion about them.

But, does the general public know what QR codes are? And, more importantly, do they use them?

If you believe the results of an informal nonscientific survey conducted by Sean X Cummings on the streets of San Francisco a few months ago, then QR code awareness is rather low. In fact, only 11% of respondents could properly identify a QR code when shown one. An additional 29% said that the QR code was “some barcode thingy.”

These results are not surprising considering the fact that according to a comScore study, only 14 million mobile users in the U.S., representing 6% of the population of the total mobile audience, scanned a QR code on their mobile device in June, 2011. (Note: The results are based on data from the comScore MobiLens service.)

While very few people in the general public scanned a QR code in June of 2011, it appears that the likelihood of scanning QR codes is somewhat higher among smartphone users. (This makes sense, since a smartphone is generally required to scan a QR code in the first place.)

According to an online survey conducted by the agency MGH in February 2011, 65% of smartphone users had seen a QR code, and 32% had scanned at least one QR code in the past.

Final Thoughts

Using QR codes for marketing purposes is a relatively new concept.

Furthermore, while the overall number of people who scan QR codes is rather low, this number might increase as more people purchase smartphones.

In the next few weeks, I plan to write a few blog posts that discuss some of the pros and cons of QR codes and their potential uses.

Photo credit: A Year of Yesterdays on Tumblr.But, back to the example that I started off with.

At the time that I encountered the larger-than-life holiday shopping list items, I hadn’t yet purchased a smartphone, so I was unable find out what surprise was waiting for me or any other person who took the time to scan the QR code.

Judging from the statement on the tag, it might have been better left to my imagination.

But, then again, I will never know.

Photo credit: A Year of Yesterdays on Tumblr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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