QR Codes: The Pixelated Marketing Tool

July 20, 2012 Aaliyah Madadi

You’ve probably seen them around – the pixel-filled squares that are plastered across magazines and advertisements. While QR codes are not a new phenomenon for marketers, most customers simply skim past them without a second thought. But if used correctly, these coded squares can be used as a highly lucrative avenue for pulling customers to your company, brand, or product.

Why use it?

According to a study by comScore, 20.1 million mobile users in the U.S. scanned QR codes over a three month period, ending in October 2011. Successful QR marketing engages customers and creates buzz around the company by leveraging curiosity and novelty. The codes can drive traffic towards your website and can help pull customers further through the client retention funnel. QR codes are also a low cost option for bringing a fresh dimension to marketing campaigns – and the best part is that the codes are trackable, so you can readily assess the effectiveness of your campaign.

The barriers

Despite their widespread usage, many people simply don’t know what these codes are. Further, another barrier is created since customers need to download an app in order to scan the code; thus, a first time user must be educated on what the code is and how they can access it. Aside from the requirement of downloading an app, some people bypass scanning QR codes since they don’t know what sort of information they’re receiving – so unless the campaign truly engages the customer, there is little incentive for them to scan the code. Ultimately, QR campaigns that provide easy instructions on how to scan the code increase customer usage by 500 to 800%. An intuitive option is Microsoft Tag’s free app which allows users to scan both QR codes and Tag barcodes.

Be creative

First consider: “what will this campaign do for the customer?” The ultimate goal is to spark customers’ interest such that they are drawn towards your company, brand, or product. For maximum effectiveness, QR codes must be used strategically rather than simply added alongside a campaign – the code should be the campaign. Tune into your creative side and consider your customer: can you creatively incorporate the code onto an existing product to drive further awareness to your brand? Can you incorporate the code with social media such that customers feel a sense of community with your product? How about creating surveys or providing interesting facts that appeal to your target market? Instead of dully linking the code to your company website, try to peak your customers’ interest in a new and exciting way. Here are a few examples of companies that have mastered QR codes and effectively engaged customers:

Pint please

When filled with dark Guinness beer, the masterfully crafted Guinness pint glass reveals a QR code that when scanned, allows the customer to check into Foursquare, tweet about their pint, update their “Guinness pint-drinking status” on Facebook, and provides coupons. Guinness has mastered all avenues of creating a strategic and novel campaign that sparks customers’ curiosity and drives them to order a pint of Guinness. To a clever QR strategy, bottoms up!

Creative gifts

During the past holiday season, JCPenny customers received a “Santa Tag” that allowed them to leave a personalized voice message for the gift recipient. Both gift providers and users could scan the QR code to either record or receive their voice message.

How are you feeling?

This cafe utilized QR codes to understand how their customers were feeling about their services. Customers could scan brochures at their table and share their opinion of the cafe. This strategy is entertaining for customers while highly informative for the business.

These companies show that QR codes offer a powerful opportunity for brand engagement if used creatively. So don’t write these codes off yet – they could be a great compliment to your marketing strategy!

About the Author

After graduating from the HBA program at the Richard Ivey School of Business, Aaliyah launched her career as Marketing Coordinator at Uberflip! Prior to her HBA, Aaliyah also completed a Bachelor in English at Western University.

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