A little imagination is key to success with QR codes

heinzqrcode“QR codes are a waste of time” is a phrase I hear often. While they are becoming more of a feature in brand marketing campaigns, I would agree with critics that how they’re included too often adds little to a campaign.

I think it’s not so much that the codes themselves are a waste of time – that’s like saying Twitter is a waste of time because someone’s tweets aren’t very interesting -  it’s more how people employ them.

For instance, it seems to me that linking your QR code to a website that’s suited to desktop use (ie, a large screen), has lots of graphics, Flash movies, etc, really is pointless and does absolutely nothing for your campaign. Remember, people will be scanning the codes on mobile devices, not desktop or other big-screen computers, and expecting something of value when they get the result from scanning the code.

Then there are poorly thought-out interaction ideas. I’m beginning to lose count of how many vans and other small commercial vehicles I see on the roads with QR codes stuck on the side or the back. Especially terrific when you’re stuck in the traffic jam approaching the Hammersmith flyover :)

Check these examples of how not to use QR codes posted earlier this year by Econsultancy (my favourite: the QR code on the side of a building that looks to be at least 6 metres off the ground…).

If the end result of the journey from the code is such a poor (or even missed) experience, you’re more likely to switch off your consumer entirely.

So when QR codes play an imaginative role in marketing that enables a consumer to get to the pot of gold that you want him or her to, it’s good to see. And there are some good examples that balance the disasters as Econsultancy highlights in another post a few days ago describing six great examples of QR code uses that illustrate what you can do if you have some imagination (and an effective campaign plan).

In each of the six examples – from German retailer MyToys.de, US food company HJ Heinz, South Korean retailer Emart, US chemical firm Dow Chemical, Transport for London, and French cosmetics firm L’Oréal – Econsultancy concisely describes the QR code use and then includes some credible analysis and metrics on the results.

While all of them are good examples, one in particular stands out to me because it is so imaginative – Emart’s use of light and shadow at a specific time of day to activate a QR code to support its Sunny Sale campaign.

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

I saw that friend Michael Netzley in Singapore posted the video, saying that it’s “maybe the smartest use of a QR code I have ever seen.” You can also hear his views about it in episode 650 of the FIR podcast when it’s published on May 7 (this is the weekly business podcast I co-host with Shel Holtz and for which Michael is a regular contributor).

Imagination – it’s a great commodity especially when there’s a lot of it.

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