by Taegan Grice, Interactive Designer at Palio, @tmgrice
Don’t look now but… are QR codes getting useful and cool again?
The much-hyped and often-misused technology, QR codes have been something of a darling among online and mobile marketers. And why not — at their best, QR codes are a vehicle to instantly act on interest, deliver on a value proposition and marry the sometimes-estranged worlds of print, online, mobile and POP marketing.
Everyone’s getting on board: QR codes and other mobile action codes, including Microsoft Tags and 2D barcodes, grew 617 percent from January to December 2011 in the Top 100 U.S. magazines, according to a study by Nellymoser, a mobile marketing and technology company. Advertisers drove the majority of QR and action code growth. From January to December, the percent of ad pages containing a code jumped from 3.6 percent to 8.36 percent.
In that same study, more than half of all QR codes and Microsoft Tags led to a video (54%), which usually was a product demo, behind the scenes look or an entertaining clip. Data capture and list building for opt-in communications, usually with a sweepstakes, were also very popular with 30 percent of action codes leading to this type of engagement. Social media sharing, where action codes enable Facebook, Twitter and email sharing, represented 23 percent of mobile engagements. E-commerce was also popular with 19 percent of mobile engagements leading to an online-store for instant product purchases, brick-and-mortar store locators and/or coupons.
The challenge? There’s just so much bad QR-code work out there. From uninspired drop-ins in big national campaigns to well-intentioned but off-the-mark use in small community newspaper ads, seemingly everyone wants to jump on board the QR-code train, but doesn’t quite know how to make it stand out (Lookin’ at you, Facebook, with your silly roof-mounted QR code). However, a handful of new campaigns give savvy mobile and digital marketers reason for hope.
There was a Korean retailer’s 3-D sunlight-activated QR code, which was scannable only at lunch, when the shadows lined up. Gimmicky, you say? It also boosted lunchtime sales by 25 percent. And, although it’s almost a year old, we’re still fans of how eBay handled its first retail storefront: As a series of QR-code-enabled windows.
Now, we have this Guinness QR code on a beer glass. The twist: It’s activated by the product—you pour a Guinness into the glass, and the beer’s black color fills out the code. Like your beer on the lighter side? Then you won’t be able to see the code. Scan the code with your smartphone, and it “tweets about your pint, updates your Facebook status, checks you in via Foursquare, downloads coupons and promotions, invites your friends to join you, and even launches exclusive Guinness content.” As the animated Guinness ads say: Brilliant!
So what will you do to break the mold with QR codes in 2012? At least go out and grab a Guinness!
Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.