A QR Code is Not a Marketing Strategy

For the past month I’ve heard a lot of buzz in Regina over QR codes.  Some companies have already used a QR code in their advertising and I would be very curious to see the results.  It’s a tactic of the future and companies that use QR codes are looked upon by the general public as being “ahead of the curve” and “very forward thinking”.  Personally I would disagree until they prove to me why it’s beneficial within the organization’s marketing strategy.

Yes it has seen major growth over the past year but if you’ve ever tried to use one you’ll understand my frustration.  Mark Schaefer over at Grow wrote this great post on QR Codes, QR Codes Have the Beer Can Problem, not only an informative post but a lot of comments that disagree with him as well. It seems as if the marketing community is undecided on QR Codes, Japan uses them regularly but let’s face it, here in Saskatchewan some people still “don’t get this Face Book thing”. How are you going to get people to scan a new type of bar code on their own?

Until I see a large demand for more QR codes or an easy way to do it (the app comes with all new smart phones perhaps) I can’t see this tactic exploding in usage.  Please, before you say “We need a QR code promotion!” understand why you are doing it and understand how to measure it.

What are your thoughts?  Have you used a QR Code before?

14 replies
  1. Mark W Schaefer
    Mark W Schaefer says:

    Jeph, thanks for extending the conversation!

    You know I think this is an intersting point about the adoption in Japan. Is it a precursor to a trend here? I have spent quite a bit of time working in Japan and many other nations of the world. I will tell you I find no people more different than North Americans than the Japanese — which is one of the reasons I love the country so much! But bootm line, I’m not sure it’s an apples tyo apples comparison or proeditor of success.

    Any way thanks for the great post!

  2. Riley
    Riley says:

    QR codes have been around for a while and are starting to catch on but you really need a smart phone to use them fully. In Canada we just don’t have the numbers of smart phone users to make use of this. This will change once we hit say 30-40% per of cell phone users on smart phones. Even then I can’t see QR taking off here, when apps coming out like Googles why would I even use QR anymore.


  3. Ferhat Saglam
    Ferhat Saglam says:

    Hey Jeph,

    A week ago or so, a group of us trained by a Social Media expert who was provided by the company that I work for ( Mosaic Experiential Marketing -www.mosaicxm.com as a Campus Ambassador and a Team Leader for Diageo Promotions). The overall concept of one hour training was about how Social Media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, FourSquare, Stickybits etc. are now, now and very near future due to rapid expansion of smart phone usage and its technologies. I wanted to contribute to your discussion by stating some facts and ideas that I think might be helpful as we discuss Quick Response codes and its existence in our society.

    About 1/3 of Canadians own a smartphone, and it’s predicted that by 2013 mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide
    This trend is the foundation of most other new media trends

    The use of mobile devices in Canada is rapidly evolving. They are not longer just a telephone or email tool but are quickly becoming the multi-source mobile companion that provides up to date news, weather, entertainment, transactions and social media information.

    “Nearly a third (30%) of smartphone users start their day with the mobile Internet and 45% end their day with it, with the peak time for use while relaxing at home in the evening (64%). The only time Web use falls off dramatically is when people are actively engaged in other activities like sports or at live events. ”This clearly demonstrates how mobile Internet use has caused a significant shift in consumer need to have constant connection with the outside world,”

    In its most recent quarter, 33 percent of Rogers’ postpaid subscribers used BlackBerry, iPhone and Android smartphone devices, up from 23 percent in the year-prior period. Wireless data revenue increased 40 percent.

    Reasons for Smartphone usage increase: - busy lives require us to be able to go more on the go - accessibility - price of devices and data plans has been reduced - convenience of using only one device – photos, email, music, phone calls , all in one! - enhanced broadband capabilities The report also states that due to Smartphone use data revenue increased by $50 million or 24% and that “Smartphone subscribers now represent 22% of total postpaid subscribers compared to 15% a year ago

    We know that smartphone usage is on the rise and isn’t going to be slowing down any time soon, so that does mean such tools should be adapted sooner than others to reveal strength in the market. As we all might agree that the market (marketing, advertisement, any field in business) is all about competition and ability of leading the game.

    When it Advances in mobile barcode scanning technology have given rise to applications that allow for comparison shopping, QR code place checkins and ultimately a social experience around product barcodes
    Services such as Stickybits and Bakodo are taking the social scanning experience beyond the checkin and creating product-driven communities around brands and items via barcodes.

    For example, here’s a few ways that it could be useful to online marketers…

    Online/Offline campaign integration & measurement
    If you have an online and offline campaign, say an offer using a unique barcode with a strong call to action, Stickybits will allow you to track and drive customers offline to online. This will also allow you to measure campaign response far more effectively.

    Existing barcode monitoring
    Yet another way that consumers can talk and share stories about your brand, the technology could be another platform integrated into your ongoing brand monitoring strategy.

    Increase traditional marketing channel usefulness
    Attach additional media to a piece of offline marketing material. Add a barcode to a traditional flyer and attach photos, audio, video, etc.

    Bush’s Facebook page includes a Stickybits tab, so out-of-towners can participate in the challenge as well.

    After mentioning about all these ideas and some facts that I really find valuable, I’d like to believe that Saskatchewan will catch up with the trend with its growing population and promising economic future. Finally, I’d say, QR codes need to spread so that it can promote smart phone usage among communities.

    I would like to see Sask has its name on the players’ list in the era of global mass communication and advanced technologies.

    I am really happy to read your post right after I was enlightened in terms of the power of Social Media.

    Hope to create further discussions during the next Tweet-up gathering!



  4. Ryan Holota
    Ryan Holota says:

    A QR code on a movie poster that takes me to a site with the trailer, reviews, and show times would be great! But a QR code on your ad that simply takes me to your website is a total waste of time. They should be used with the intent of “scan this to learn more” and not simply as “hey, look how innovative we are to be using this technology.”

  5. Les Holmlund
    Les Holmlund says:

    Good questions and responses about QR codes and their applicability today in Saskatchewan. Same could be said for other emerging technologies, including Foursquare. Until adoption reaches a critical mass, their utility will be limited.

    Having said that, there is a subset of – I grow weary of this term, but will resort to using it – “early adopters” who see a QR code as a sort of secret message that they know most people wont get. Hopefully the destination at the end of that link takes into consideration who is likely to scan the code, and rewards them appropriately.

    I won’t get into how QR codes are currently being used in centers with greater population concentration, but will make this observation: by the time marketers figure out how to successfully integrate QR codes into mass marketing, and there are enough savvy consumers to make it worthwhile, QR will be obsolete. Google Goggles and similar image and audio recognition technology is ramping up fast, and will in may cases be able to replace what QR does.

  6. Mitch Gallant
    Mitch Gallant says:

    It’s cool but doesn’t make sense in our market. It’s a little too bleeding edge for SK. I ran the #’s on my site vs a very comparable US site and the difference of mobile users was staggering. Ours avg’d out over the last 3 months was 0.3% of visitors, and his was 18%. We’ll catch up and there will be something like this to leverage, especially on specific and unique products where you can start the process of getting information instantaneously and not have to wait for an agent or sales rep.

    I heard Rockbridge is doing this on their for sale signs in front yards and I would love to see something like this on car lots for folks who want to Sunday shop without the sales guys around. As long as it sends to a mobile site with a price and description of that vehicle. At this point there wouldn’t be much return… but the user experience would be fantastic!

    I think Ryan is 100% right in saying you have to take the person to a very specific and relevant page. If you just send me to a homepage with a targeted ad you lost me for good.

  7. Bravo Tango
    Bravo Tango says:

    a QR code is a communications tool. Figure out what you need to communicate, to who, and why, then figure out how best to do that. The answer may call for a QR code, and it may not. As you once wrote Jeff, “Define your goal first then look at your tactical options.”

  8. Dan Shier
    Dan Shier says:

    Ah… QR Codes…

    So being 1/2 Japanese myself, I’d like to say I’m excited to see this tech finally beginning to pick-up speed in Canada. However unlike places where the technology is actually being utilized to it’s potential, everyone here seems to just be thinking “HOLY SHIT LETS START PUTTING QR THINGYS IN OUR ADS!”

    I think it’s thanks to BlackBerry and their intro to QR PINs in BBM5 that started the QR roller-coaster here. I myself use QR codes in a lot of ads I do for the University (Students’ Union and The Owl, not the campus itself). However, unlike many other people who use QR codes in their work, I can usually judge when and when not to stick a square of black dots on my posters.

    Example 1: Go to the Cornwall in Regina, 2nd floor just by The Gap and you’ll find an ad from the Gov’t advertising about expiry dates for in-car child seats. They have a QR code in the corner, no info informing you what the code links to, and when you scan it, you get sent to a full-scale Government of Canada website. For a BlackBerry phone or iPhone, full featured websites are not always meant to be viewed on mobile devices and really adds nothing to your ad.

    Example 2: A group on campus recently put up posters advertising a PROM at the campus bar. The corner of the poster has a QR code on it. Again, no info as to what it does. When you scan it with a BlackBerry, it adds some random BBM contact to your phone. No name, no number, no warning. I’ve just gone and given away my personal PIN to some random person out there and they’re probably getting request after request cause their PIN barcode is all over campus.

    Example 3: Another poster on campus for some pro-wrestling event has another QR code on it. The problem: whoever made the poster doesn’t understand how QR codes work and let the poster be printed with the code stretched vertically, rendering it useless.

    So done with examples. Clearly you shouldn’t be using a technology in your advertising unless you completely understand how it works. It’s a cool idea, but honestly how many people are going to be using it in the advertising you put out if you yourself don’t know what it does?

    Now I don’t wanna say using QR codes is a bad thing. There are plenty of good examples here in Regina of good QR code usage.

    Salvation Army donation codes: During the xmas season the Salvation Army sets up kettles at several shopping centres in Regina to collect donations. The problem they face is collecting donations when they have no one to stand with the kettle. Their innovative solution was to place scannable QR codes on the kettle stands that allowed anyone to visit an online donation website and make their donations that way. It was simple and a unique solution to a problem.

    The Owl bar at the University of Regina launched a mobile version of their bar menu that is accessible to patrons through mobile phones. No longer do you need be at the bar to see what was on the menu when planning lunch with some friends. All you need to do is walk up to an Owl Menu poster on campus, scan the QR code and bookmark the menu on your phone. On iPhone devices, a custom Owl Menu home screen icon appears to give it that official touch! All menus at the bar have the same code on the cover and it’s a quick and convenient way to answer the question “What’s for lunch?”

    That’s my 2 cents on the QR matter 😛

  9. AdSpark
    AdSpark says:

    If you know who your customer is and you know they’re using QR tags – then it’s definitely something worth exploring. This is assuming you have useful and interesting information/content to provide to that customer. Otherwise they’ll just be disappointed.

    I think there’s also some value in being seen as “ahead of the curve” as Jeph points out. Even if only a small percent of people actual use it – many people may see it simply as a badge of forward thinking.

    Whatever the reason for using the QR it should be evaluated as part of your strategy and the benefits and risks should be clearly weighed before following the the rest of the herd.

  10. Neil
    Neil says:

    I agree, they can definitely help to offset any print marketing you do and tie with in with your online presence, but you have to offer people a reason to buy your products. Having a swanky design just doesn’t cut it any more, people can see through and they want to know what is in it for them.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Strategy’s Jeff Maystruck says that a QR code on a poster is not a strategy – and of course, he’s right. […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Simbeck-Hampson, Jeph Maystruck. Jeph Maystruck said: "A QR Code on a Poster is Not a Marketing Strategy" http://tinyurl.com/65fupg7 What are your thoughts on QR Codes? […]

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