QR codes seem to be everywhere! You see them on business cards, they pop up on billboards, they get featured in magazines, and you can even find them on beverage cans or dumpsters. Yet, have you mastered the art of using QR codes? Are you aware of the most common mistakes people make when using this marketing tool? Read on to find out how to avoid falling into certain QR codes related pitfalls!
Hello nice people! I hope you are all doing fine and you have started the new business year the best way possible! The good news is that there appears to be a surge of optimism in the midst of the economic doom and gloom as an increasing number of business owners have a great feeling about 2012. Hence, you should respond in kind to those positive vibes and build a competitive, relevant, and engaging business that attracts customers and puts your products and/or services in the social media limelight. Moreover, according to experts and sages, 2012 is the year when businesses should really invest in their marketing and harvest the benefits of this strategic decision later on. Once again, marketing happens to be the name of the business game, as it really helps companies get found, become recognized, and generate profit.
In that context, Rock & Code will continue to be your trusted ally and we will keep feeding your lust for success with interesting tips and tricks, which can help you improve your business practices and rock your enterprise to the top. Indeed, we are planning on diversifying our content and blogging on a plethora of riveting subjects that can prove to be invaluable in your quest for glory and victory. In addition, we will be warning you of the potential dangers, which lie ahead and which might foil your plans for industrial domination or cost you dearly. Take my last year’s entry on how not to let your arrogance ruin your business! I hope you found it interesting and useful. Well, there will be many more pieces like it coming your way! Therefore, it is high time we rolled our sleeves and declared open marketing season on failure. As you might already know, I have already chosen today’s topic. Indeed, after quite a significant delay, I am finally going to discuss the notion of QR codes and their use and importance for modern marketing. I have to admit that I did some research on the topic and I studied the most common uses of QR codes. Yet, I was somehow unsure if QR codes were anything more but a transient fad. Then again, I noticed the abundance of QR codes appearing on print ads and pieces of mail, barcodes featured in magazines, geeky squares splattered across billboards, ‘strange symbols’ popping up on lamp posts, or alien-like encryptions plastered on posters around town and I decided that I might be mistaken. Therefore, I did my homework and I found out I actually have something to say on the relevance of QR codes and on their misuses. Thus, before you decide to invest in a campaign involving the utilization of QR codes, you’d better read the following paragraphs carefully. They might prevent you from making some of the most common mistakes and wasting scarce resources. Just buckle up and ride along!
Nowadays, you can find QR codes almost everywhere. They pop up in multiple places varying from beverage cans to dumpsters. You see them on business cards, posters, walls, billboards, and even on social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. If you look carefully, you can even find them lurking in the shadows of street graffiti. All in all, those barcodes seem to be becoming a very common sight and people are more likely not to mistake them for space invaders. In fact, according to certain surveys conducted, people are growing more and more aware of the omnipotent presence of QR codes. Moreover, driven by their inherent curiosity, folks go ahead and they scan them. Indeed, according to research from Chadwick Martin Bailey, some 21% of the USA internet users surveyed in October 2011 had heard of QR codes and an almighty 81% of those people could recognize a QR code when shown one. Whereas some people might think the result is disastrous and those geeky barcodes are a plain waste of resources, I personally consider this statistic quite optimistic. In fact, according to a very interesting poll conducted earlier in 2011 in San Francisco, which, without a doubt, is the very Mecca of technology and innovation, only 11% of the people surveyed could actually identify a QR code when they where shown one. Consequently, slowly but surely, QR codes are gaining momentum and they are here to stay for some time.
If you are still not convinced about the usage of HQ codes and you think they might appeal to a very narrow niche of technologically savvy users, a.k.a. geeks, you might be right to a certain extent. In fact, we, the marketers, are partially to blame for this because since the very introduction of QR codes as a marketing tool, we have consistently failed to explain to the broad audience what they are all about. Initially, we let them thrive in secrecy, hoping that we can stimulate the innate curiosity of users and they will get thrilled to find out what’s hiding behind the square. Yet, this approach appeared to be the wrong one. Moreover, we have somehow been largely unable to use them in a creative way and turn them into an engaging tool that generates new leads and reinforces brand recognition. In addition, there happen to be some practical obstacles that undermine the general efforts to consolidate the widespread usage of QR codes. First and foremost, it should be made clear that from a practical point of view, those barcodes are targeting the owners of smart phones. Of course, you can scan a QR code with a computer, a tablet, or any other device that can read such barcodes. Yet, trying to scan a QR code put on a moving bus with a device different from a smart phone will prove to be a Herculean task. Second of all, whereas Android phones have the QR scanner apps pre-installed, the same does not ring true for iPhones. Apple users have to install QR scanner apps themselves, which, in itself, might prove to be an impediment. Do not expect the sight of a QR code to trigger an instant reaction and incite people to download a QR scanner app. Some of them might eventually do so, but chances are slim that they are going to install an app to scan precisely your promotional QR code! If, however, the engineers at Apple decide to develop a native QR scanner application, which is featured on the respective iOS devices, the practice of reading QR codes might reach an all-time high. Then again, those are mere speculations about the clout of Apple.
Be it as it may, we have to deal with what they have at hand. Whether you like it or not, the usage of QR codes is becoming a common practice, so at some point, you have to finally dip your toes in the ocean of barcodes. Yet, before doing so, you have to think carefully how to best utilize these geeky tools to accomplish your objectives. Maybe you should even feature a little blurb, explaining to people what those codes are and how they work. Just to play it safe. Then define your objectives and what it is that you want to achieve by using QR codes and by featuring them in a specific campaign. Do not use them only because everybody is doing so and you see so many colleagues or peers of yours putting them on their business cards! Indeed, the usage of QR codes has become a litmus test for your creativity and your comprehension of how to come up with the catchiest combination between technology and marketing ingenuity. Believe it or not, major companies such as Red Bull or renowned airline carriers have made the unforgivable mistake of featuring QR codes in places where people do not have access to the Internet! No, you really do not have any (good) reception on the subway or on board of a flight! So, do not be stupid and put practicality and viability of your campaign as your number one priority!
Instead of just preaching and dropping thought bombs here and there, I will take the liberty of creating a short list depicting the most common pitfalls of QR codes usage. It is not complete, so feel free to add your thoughts and/or recommendations to it in the comment section below! After all, we can learn a lot from each other and from each other’s mistakes. So, here we go:
- Make sure you are placing the QR codes in areas where people have access to the Internet! If you get this wrong, the way Red Bull8, Continental, and many other companies did, then your efforts are doomed and your credibility will be a bit shaken. Placing a QR code on page 67 of an in-flight magazine? Seriously, what were you thinking?!?
- Make sure your usage of QR codes is relevant and it offers something of value to people! This is the very crux of QR codes utilization and if you manage to get this piece of the puzzle right, then you are bound to succeed. If you still wonder what relevance and extra value entail, I will explain to you with a real life example. I sometimes go to this awesome Thai restaurant in my neighborhood. No, I cannot resist the delicious meals served there! So, this restaurant has a promotional leaflet placed on each and every table. As you can imagine, there is a QR codes moral here. Yes, you guessed it right, there is a QR code on the leaflet. Yet, once you scan the QR code, you are directed to the very website of this restaurant, which until recently contained nothing more but the address of the restaurant and the phone number! Is there some value-added here? I do not think so. Is the use of the QR code relevant? Not at all! Even the recent upgrades of this restaurant’s website do not justify the use of a QR code on a promo leaflet. If the encoded link actually led to a page that hosted some food facts or a calorie-counter or if it offered you the chance to get an extra prawn if you scanned the QR code and shared with your social media buddies where you were at the moment or what you were about to eat, this would be considered a valuable and relevant utilization of this marketing tool. Yet, this restaurant is not there, yet. Luckily, their food is way better than their marketing efforts!
- Do not just jump on the QR codes bandwagon. If you do not consider these barcodes useful to your overall promotional efforts, do not waste your time and resources. Do not use them because your competitors are doing so or because they appear to be trendy. Utilize them if you really consider them handy and congruent with your overall marketing strategy;
- Define tangible objectives, which you would like to accomplish by utilizing barcodes as a tool! Do not just put a QR code on your business card! It is somehow outdated and it depicts the dearth of creativity that thrives around. While it is a very common practice, it is not one of the smartest things you can do. Furthermore, those who place QR codes on their business cards or use this tool in general, often limit themselves to encoding links that lead to their websites. This is not necessarily the best approach and it might result in high bounce rates. You might want to direct your users to your blog or to your portfolio. Hence, consider defining specific objectives and do not shoot in the dark!
- Careful with placing QR codes on the web! Just think for a split second what naturally appears to be easier and more practical: clicking on a link or scanning a QR code. Yep, I thought so.
- Use QR codes to promote a specific campaign and make sure the encoded link leads your users to a landing page! As I already explained, these barcodes should serve a specific purpose. Moreover, think of using QR codes to direct people to pages that host exclusive content. You can also start a campaign to promote your new product and throw in some rewards, offer some bonuses, etc.
- Think of the gaming dynamics and try to gamify the use of QR codes. People simply love games and a well-executed campaign that features multiple gaming elements such as looking for clues or getting tasks to complete by scanning multiple QR codes or the good ole fashioned scavenger hunt, can really enhance the stickiness and boost the usability of this tool! The bottom line is to get people interested and keep them engaged.
- Think of a way to add a social media layer to your QR codes! For example, if somebody scans a QR code, he or she can receive a notification/message asking whether he or she would like to share with his or her followers what he or she has just done. Or something similar. If you are trying to promote a product or a service you have just launched, you can really make it go viral this way!
- Customize your QR codes! It is a minor thing, but as you already know, the devil is in the details!
- Make it a fun experience!
Well, this is all for the moment! As I said, the list is far from complete and if I feel like adding something new to it, I will do so either in the comment section below or I will take the liberty to update the blogpost! Meanwhile, do share your own insights on the utilization of QR codes or just tell us what you feel about them. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, join us on Facebook, add us on Google+, subscribe to the feed that rocks or download our free Rock Steady iOS jewel steaming hot from the App Store! Why should you do any of those? Is it worth it? Well, I can tell you it is! I am even going to give you an extra reason why you should do so! In about a week, I will give you a thorough list of the most dangerous mistakes we made in 2011! I will explain in detail what we did wrong and how we extricated ourselves from some quite perilous situations! The odds are you are going to like what you are going to read! So stick around and I will get back to you in a week! For the moment, however, stay cool, work hard, be creative, and ace ‘em all!