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QR Codes Aren’t Sweet Without Strategy

QR codes represent a unique mix of technology and advertising that is steadily improving with evolving new forms and functions. But their functional improvement is meaningless if the platform is not applied with the right strategy and tactics in the real world in order to connect with consumers.

 

Most people within the marketing community are no strangers to seeing QR codes attached to advertisements and products these days. Even many tech-savvy consumers know how to create QR codes for promotion or information sharing, which is the beauty of their open platform design. Anyone can use them, read them, and get creative.

QR codes have created a new way for brands to engage their audience with products and services, and there are already quite a few examples of ways that “traditional” QR codes are getting pushed further, including the logo-friendly SnapTag. SnapTags are a gussied up version of the mobile interactive code options. Instead of the static-like appearance of QR codes, they’ve created a sleeker option that focuses more on branding with a cleaner code look based on gaps placed throughout a ring. Digimarc, another QR code boundary pusher, takes the cake by attempting to create mobile interaction with everything from an image to sounds.

Clearly, this mix of technology and advertising is steadily improving with new forms and functions constantly. That being said, functional improvement is meaningless if the platform is not applied with the right strategy and tactics in the real world.

I recently found myself standing in the Philadelphia subway and spotted a QR code on a candy advertisement across the rails. At the safest distance, without dangling myself out in front of a pending train, the closest I could get to the QR code was about 12 feet. The QR code took up a small portion of the lower left corner of the ad, and when zoomed in on became blurred. When I got back above ground, the decoder application was incapable of deciphering it. This brought another issue to my attention, if I hadn’t already known what a QR code was and installed a reader application, how would I even know that it failed or received additional information if it had been successful? Quite frankly, how much time are we anticipating the average commuter will put into interacting with that advertisement?

It’s quite easy to see how far down the rabbit hole you can go. Depending upon the platform, there are different applications for your mobile device. What if you can recognize the symbol itself as something you should be able to interact with but don’t know how? Are the creators anticipating that brands will use valuable ad space they could be using for brand recognition to explain to their potential customers what the symbol is and how to use it? Is multichannel marketing turning into something everyone feels they must do on every form of advertising, for every product, every time?

All of these questions boil down to an engagement and demographic stew. If your product’s target demographic isn’t within the range of those who are always at the ready to find out what’s on the other side of that symbol, you should be reaching out to them in creative ways that they respond to, not simply attaching every button and symbol you can to each campaign. It won’t be long before your once full of impact campaign is doing nothing but help further other companies and gadgets for free on half of your advertisement.

The end result of this subway advertisement experience should be people stopping on their way home to pick up a candy bar and indulge.  There is very little commitment beyond just that. If the product is great they’ll be back. If it’s not a hit with the consumer, there is very little that tweets, posts, and fun codes can do.

I’ll continue to wonder what’s on the other side of that QR code, which I’d prefer to come across on the actual candy bar. Maybe I’ll have to stop on the way home to pick one up…in which case the QR code inadvertently succeeded.