How to make your QR codes smarter, more productive and obsolete

by Carl Natale on August 8, 2011

Scanapalooza: QR Codes

Lab42 figured out how consumers are using QR codes.

Again, I don’t hate QR codes. Just the stupid ones. And If you want to make sure I don’t hate yours, then you need to read this list of 5 QR code mistakes.

Matthias Galica put some good thought into the list and is CEO of ShareSquare, which is in the business of mobile marketing and QR codes. And I’m going to agree with his list:

  1. Not Testing the Code
  2. Getting Too Fancy With Text
  3. Serving up Non-Mobile Pages
  4. Putting QR Codes Where There’s No Data Signal
  5. Not Offering Enough Value

To me, the biggest sin on this list is linking a QR code to a non-mobile page. It’s like no one realized that people will be scanning these boxes with cell phones. It shouldn’t top the last item. But offering value is a tricky thing and is highly subjective. It’s easy to get wrong.

But Galica recognizes the challenge and offers this spot-on advice:

“The best advice is to put yourself in the shoes of your target fan. Would you bother pulling out the phone for your campaign? Would you be happy with the pay off?”

I would encourage you to take it one step further. Step into the shoes of your target while they are standing in the spot they see your code. Trying it in your office is a very different experience than waiting on a crowded sidewalk for a YouTube video to load on a phone.

Make QR codes smarter

Cynthia Fedor sees QR codes becoming a marketing gimmick. She sees the same problem and solution:

“Before using QR codes in any campaign, marketers need to stop and think. It is important to see campaigns and the use of digital marketing technologies from the perspective of the average consumer.”

So Fedor suggests using QR codes to link direct mail campaigns to video reviews made by local customers. There is so much smart in that idea. And it’s more than a QR code. It uses targeted direct mail (old school yes but still effective), video and social proof. There is nothing easy or cheap about the idea. Which makes it the opposite of a lot of QR campaigns.

Fedor also recommends linking QR codes to coupons. Research shows discounts are the most popular reason why consumers scan. (Which is what the graphic on this page is all about.) That’s not too much of a surprise. But beware of the dangers of discounting.

Make QR codes more productive

Now here’s an idea that takes it in a totally different direction. Boxmeup is an online service that helps you organize your stuff. You can use the website or mobile app to list your boxes (or containers) and what’s in them. Then print a label with a QR code that links to the inventory of what’s in the box.

It’s in beta. Which I think means that there’s more potential than utility right now. I would love to use my phone to take photos of my stuff and send those images to the container inventory. (If I have to type out an inventory of what I have, it’s not going to happen.) Or import a list generate from other apps.

In any case, it’s a way to use the codes as something other than marketing. I bet Evernote could add QR scanning to its mobile app. Link the codes to useful information or shareable notebooks.

The QR cheerleaders are right. There are so many possibilities. Just choose the smart ones.

Make QR codes obsolete

Even if you create incredibly smart and engaging QR campaigns, the QR code may be doomed. Smart Scanner is a mobile app that recognizes text and URLs you scan. So you can scan a magazine ad and be taken to more information or video – no QR code required. Google Goggles is worth trying too.

This doesn’t mean you can go back to being stupid. You still need smart and engaging campaigns. You still need to put yourself of the consumer holding the phone. You still need to avoid those five mistakes.

It’s just that the Smart Scanner technology is very easy to use. Wait for a cell phone to include it in a way that doesn’t require you to start an app. Just point and click. You get a photo and a page with relevant content.

 The Takeaway

QR codes are just a tool that can be replaced by other tools. The key is to create useful content for customers and link them to mobile calls to action.

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