Marketing Artfully: QRart and ‘Not So Pretty’ Implementations of QR Codes

In his 2012 social media predictions, Mark Schaefer of Schaefer Marketing Solutions forecasts that QR codes will become obsolete.  He stipulates that QR codes are “mis-applied, over-used gimmick and people will end up not trusting them”.  I agree with him that mis-applications abound but nevertheless, I think that QR codes are here to stay.  In 2012, I predict that a few shining stars will find a way to market artfully and successfully with QR codes.

Are you new to QR codes?  You can reference two CaféLina blog posts on the subject. The first one is “QR Codes: Quiet Revolution or Quite Redundant?”, it outlines QR code basics and provides 10 application examples complete with reference links. As for the second post “Encore! QR Codes: Here to Stay or Fade Away?”, it incorporates examples from the feedback I received and points to the Quiet Revolution Slide Share presentation companion.  The Slide Share material includes all the references from the original Quiet Revolution post plus 5 bonus examples including IneoScan.

Cafelina.me QRart
Cafelina.me QRart. IneoScan recommends the i-nigma reader to experience the full breath of this QRart.

In appreciation for the mention of his startup and work in “Encore! QR Codes: Here to Stay or Fade Away?”, IneoScan sent me an unexpected surprise.  Ineoscan designer extraordinaire Jean-Michel Roblin gifted me a “made in Paris” artful version of a QR code that drives to my cafélina blog. I am very grateful for this act of QRart kindness. I’ll be able to integrate it in my marketing outreach activities.

Unlike the standard black and white version, QRart is artful, colored and creative quick response (QR) code design.  QRart takes QR codes to a whole new level by blending QR code and design to allow for the artful activation of print.  To get a sense for the possibilities of designer QR codes, you can visit the following three QRart galleries:  IneoScan, QRazystuff.com and Kalvin Kleen.

Whatever your sport, hobby, cause, or business – there’s a way to contextualize a designer QR code that drives to a “call-to-action”.  The key is to “be your customer”: understand your customer and the customer journey that your QR code will take her on. You’ll be successful in your QR code application as long as you take into account the following 3 points:

  1. Mobile marketing is more actionable than other forms of web marketing
  2. QR codes are linked to mobile
  3. Design your QR customer journey with mobile in mind
Actionable Marketing
“Be your customer”: understand your customer and the customer journey that your QR code will take her on.

All too often, mis-applications of QR codes involves a poorly designed or completely overlooked mobile experience.  A mobile screen simply doesn’t have the same type of real-estate as a desktop PC.  Most web material is designed for the traditional PC viewing experience. Programming a QR code to point to a web destination intended for a PC screen is simply not as effective on a mobile screen.

I predict that along with successful QR codes applications, we will see a shift in the design of online content that favors the mobile screen.  In this regard, mobile marketing and Twitter have a lot in common.  There are 5 things to keep in mind when designing your QR codes mobile experience:

  1. Get to the point (what’s the customer offer and the call to action)
  2. Brevity is clarity (Gerry McGovern has a lot to say on that subject)
  3. Don’t strain my eyes (it’s a mobile device)
  4. Don’t make me work (drill down and scroll through = drop-off)
  5. Where’s the beef (engaging customer offer = positive reinforcement of the perceived brand value)
January 8-9 2012 print edition of the Wall Street Journal, page C3

The January 8-9 2012 print edition of the Wall Street Journal featured two book ads: “Cell 8” and “A Walk Across the Sun”.

Both ads appeared on page C3 of the newspaper and each ad had its own QR code.  The QR code for “A Walk Across the Sun” drives to a web destination that provides 4 distinct call to action options:

              1. Purchase the book
              2. What readers are saying
              3. Watch the video
              4. Read an excerpt

As for “Cell 8”, it has a ‘not so pretty’ implementation of its QR code destination.  It leads directly to an excerpt of the book and nothing else.  Is this not a missed opportunity to capitalize on an ‘actionable mobile life’ moment?  Accordingly,  “A Walk Across the Sun” gets top marks.

‘Cell 8’ and ‘Walk Across the Sun’ QR codes web destination

Also in the “not so pretty” category is Palo Alto Networks, the Santa Clara based network security company and their ad from the January 9th 2012 print edition of the Wall Street Journal.  The ad touts the company’s highly desirable position in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Network Firewalls.  The ad concludes with this tag line: “Get an exclusive report at http://www.paloaltonetworks.com or scan QR code below.”  This is essentially two vague calls to action:

  1. Go to the web site to get an exclusive report (why not say the Gartner report instead of “an exclusive report”?), and
  2. Scan the QR code (presumably to get “an exclusive report”?)

As it turns out, after many steps and screens, and providing registration information; both calls to action eventually lead to the “exclusive report”. You really have to want the exclusive report! The captured registration information results in a call-back and email follow-up.  You can see the full step by step “not so pretty” implementation unfold in the Slide Share companion to this blog post.

Starbucks makes me hopeful that 2012 will provide a few shining stars who will find a way to market artfully and successfully with QR codes.  Building on the growing adoption of its mobile application, Starbucks recently released a new version of the app that extends well beyond the “digital mobile payment” option.  The Starbucks mobile app now comes with an imbedded QR code reader (thereby overcoming one of Mark Schaefer’s main objections of having to download a QR reader). On January 13th 2012, I picked up a QR coupon after sampling the newest Starbucks coffee blend. My only criticism of Starbucks QR implementation is having to scroll down three screens before I got to “vote” for my fovorite blend.

As I see it, four factors give Starbucks steaming hot QR potential:

  1. QR Reader bundled in mobile app
  2. New Starbucks promotions with QRart (multiple ‘actionable mobile life’ moment opportunities)
  3. Tracking and metrics (Starbucks will learn and refine its approach)
  4. Customer engagement and feedback (company and customer have much to learn about each other)

In closing, as William Arruda reports in a MarketingProfs column (Personal Branding Trends for 2012 (Part 1)), according to brandchanel.com, it’s now possible to place extremely large QR codes on the tops of buildings.  The large size codes can then be photographed by the satellites that feed Google Maps and Google Earth. Those QR codes will be digested by Google’s mapping systems and will cause companies’ logos to appear when someone looks at their building’s images.

Will 2012 be the year that we see QR codes take off in all kinds of directions?

Additional QR Information and Discussion:

2 comments

  1. Thanks for the great post and also for the mention. I certainly agree with you that “a few shining stars will find a way to market artfully and successfully with QR codes” Of course. And I love the ideas you have presented here.

    The point I was making in my post was that so many think that QR codes will domoinate the marketing stream as it does in Japan. I recently saw a QR code on a “drink umbrella.” That’s what I mean about getting silly with these things and creating a situation where consumers won;t trust them.

    But yes of course there wil be some wonderful opportunities to use these and I appreciate the perspective you presented here! Thanks!

    1. Hi Mark,

      As it turns out, I’ve received a lot of feedback on this post but not in the form of direct post comments – so thank you for that. “Silly” QR code implementations are bountiful – unfortunately. Being the eternal optimist, I’m hoping that the QR stars will overshadow all the silliness. I just wrote a fourth QR post called “What You Should Know About QR Code Hype”.

      I watch your Instatgram postings and I couldn’t help but wonder if the “eye balls” wouldn’t tell a good story if they had a QR code!

      Lina

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