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Five Successful Ways to Use the Woefully Misunderstood QR Code

by Guest Blogger  |  
July 11, 2012

A guest post by Sherry Orel of Brand Connections.

QR codes were starting to get a bad rap because marketers were using them so mindlessly. Now, we are finally beginning to see some good examples of how the codes can help further a brand story.

The change in useless to useful action codes has been slow to unfold. Sadly, most QR codes send the folks scanning the codes to a website landing page that they could already find through Google or to a website that delivers virtually no new information. As ubiquitous as the codes are now, examples of them being used well remain few and far between.

The problem is that the codes are misunderstood and thus misused. Their potent creative possibilities haven’t been explored. QR codes can deliver customized content specifically created for where consumers are right that minute. They can deliver enhanced brand messages that are not available anywhere else. Even better, QR codes can give back what marketers crave: information about their customers.

Up to now, QR codes have felt used only because marketers “can” use them. But my motto is: “Just because I can doesn’t mean I should.” Marketers have a responsibility to use technology bells and whistles to deliver real value to consumers, not to just thoughtlessly use technology bells and whistles.

Here's one example of good QR code use. noticed a bump in Web traffic during the evening commute---when people started to think about what to make for dinner. So, the company launched an out-of-home campaign that included photos of its 10 most popular recipes and a QR code on bus shelters in Los Angeles. Commuters scan the code, and then the recipe and a shopping list app pop up. The app makes it easy to plan to prepare “Actually Delicious Turkey Burgers” or “Asian Lettuce Wraps,” for example. Clever and helpful!

There needs to be a return on consumers' investments. If customers make the effort to scan, we should deliver value.

Here are some tips on making the most of QR codes.

  1. Use content that is unexpected and customized for that particular moment. Don’t just send customers to a generic website.

  2. Naturally integrate the codes into consumers’ lives. If you’re a wine brand, for example, offer intriguing recipe pairings or entertainment ideas.

  3. Use the technology to measure and deliver insight. Capture email addresses, locations, buying behavior, and more. Setting up a QR code without that extra layer is missing out on its value to you, the marketer.

  4. Make sure the QR codes are scannable. Just this year, Facebook painted a humongous QR code on the rooftop of its headquarters. This followed an early trend to place QR codes in impossible places. They are tough to scan when you’re a human being with your feet on the ground. Keep the size and placement of the QR code simple and convenient. Don’t oversize the codes, and don’t make them too tiny to be seen.

  5. Think about place-based advertising for QR codes. A Korean fast food place hung its codes outside, where the codes were only scannable when the sun cast shadows over them---at lunchtime. The reward for scanning was discounts and deals at the restaurant. Guinness added them to beer glasses, so the codes were only visible when the glass was filled with its dark beer. If you know where your consumers are, ask yourself what they need from you right that minute. The answer will deliver some clever ideas for valuable or fun content.

And as for those early adopters, they are taking the idea of scanning to the next level. I love this: The New York Times recently reported on Muppet-branded Band-Aids that activate a singing Kermit when scanned. The scanning is done through a special free App called Band-Aid Magic Vision. The child scans the Band-Aid with an iPhone or iPad, and Kermit magically appears as if he’s perched on the Band-Aid. This idea is sheer delight and  a just-right use of new technology.

What are some good examples (and terrible ones) you’ve found and why do you think they’ve worked (or failed)?

Sherry Orel is the CEO of Brand Connections, one of the largest and fastest growing global marketing and media companies focused on creating branded consumer experiences by integrating media, technology and product experience networks for national and global brands.

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Scanning Advertising)

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  • by Marco Thu Jul 12, 2012 via blog

    Good article. Most companys using QR codes really doing it wrong. It is horrible to see QR Codes pointing to normal webpages or just a facebook profile. It`s so simple to getting things done the right way.
    We at try to give handy tools to achieve exactly this.

  • by Kit Thu Jul 12, 2012 via blog

    You could of course take it one step further and add value to your QR code with Augmented Reality. Then you can increase the engagement that QR gives you before they meet your mobile website landing page. offer this service.

  • by andreibuspro Sat Jul 14, 2012 via blog

    Qr codes should be tied up with an ad text -to -call action rather than just pointing to a website. It makes no sense using QR codes and just redirecting the consumer to the generic landing page.

  • by Zoeo Wed Jan 23, 2013 via blog

    I scan the qr code to the web sites instead type it.

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