Walking down the street or flipping through a magazine you may have come across a square made of seemingly random smaller black and white squares. What you may or may not know is this square is a QR code, and when be quickly scanned by a smart phone takes the user to a website with more information.
These codes were originally created by the auto industry in Japan but marketers quickly saw their value as a cost effective way to advertise. Traditionally posters or ads could only provide as much information as there was space. There was also the challenge of providing information while still making the ad easy to read and creative enough to stand out. This small black and white box was a game changer because now more information could easily be accessed.
These codes are starting to become prominent now because the technology has become mainstream. Having a smart phone is becoming the norm for people today. Also with faster Wi-Fi connections and mobile internet speeds, people can get information on the go without waiting. Some phones are coming with a scanner already built into the operating system, while for others there are many great free scanning apps that can be downloaded no matter what kind of smart phone you are using.
With any new concept there will be an appropriate, and a less than ideal, approach to using it.
DO – Have the code lead to supplemental information that is on the poster. For example, a clothing store could have the code leading to a website that has all the prices of the clothing modeled in the poster, and where the closest store would be to their location.
DON’T – Put them on posters where people will not have internet access. If the ad is going to be hung in the subway don’t put a QR code on it people will try to scan it but will be unable to get any information. DO – Make them stand out. If you are going to put a QR code on your ad make sure it is easily identifiable and easy to scan. If people aren’t able to identify that there is a QR code on the poster, or aren’t able to scan it, they could be missing important information and the code wouldn’t be doing what it was designed for.
DON’T – Put one on just because they are a growing trend. QR codes aren’t for every company or situation. If your key demographic is people over 60 the chances that it will actually be used are quite small. Also if, when scanned, people are just taken to a digital version of the same ad people will be less likely to scan your codes in the future – give them something new to discover.
When used properly QR can be an extremely effective way to reach the public and bring them to a company’s website. In the future, companies should also find ways to engage with consumers with contests for scanning their codes or receiving a discount by scanning a code. This will make people look for the company’s ads which in turn will make a campaign more effective.
Sean Ashbridge is an intern at Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited, from Loyalist College’s Post-Graduate Public Relations program. Previous to obtaining his post-grad in PR, Sean completed an undergraduate degree in Geography, with a minor in Political Science, from the University of Guelph. Sean is a member of both The International Association of Business Communicators and The Canadian Public Relations Society.