QR-code: Just because it’s cool?

QR codes, or Quick Response codes, admittedly were hardly on my radar six months ago. But it only took seeing one of the pixelized codes on the back of a Google sales executive’s business card during a recent convention to make me re-visit it as a marketing tool. Communications World published an article about the increasing popularity and uses of the codes in March. But I had not seen them in use first-hand until the small business convention and the direct mail insert I received from a local printing company. That was enough to send me searching for more information about the QR codes and how they can be used in a marketing campaign.

The first reason I consider using new technology is simply because I believe in innovation. New translates to being forward-thinking and creative. Trends, however, come and go. It is important for marketing communication strategists to analyze how we use new technology before we put it in our marketing mix for a client or cause.

Part of the analysis process for integrating new technology puts audience needs at center stage. With QR codes, your audience must have a cell phone with a camera to translate the embedded link or message to the phone. Most people have cameras in their phones, but not everyone. The World Edition of some Blackberrys have no cameras. Of those who have camera phones, how many of them have data packages to access the Internet or check their SMS messages? In considering whether to use Quick Response Codes in a marketing campaign, here are three audience filters I would use before putting them into play.

Is the audience high-technology savvy? If the answer is yes, the audience might be good candidates for offering QR codes as an information dissemination tool.

Are the end users in need of updated or rapidly changing information from a sole source with unique information for their needs? Two scenarios come to mind. In the first, the audience is comprised of air travelers who have boarding passes for a flight. They can capture the QR before leaving for the airport to find out if a flight is cancelled or on time. In the other case, a coupon update for a fast food chain might be worth checking to see if the latest is available for download. In this case, the customer may have an outdated coupon for one offering, but the coupon has a QR that when captured, provides the current coupon of the week or period.

The last filter is audience interaction. Is the audience confined to a small area or group gathering, such as a convention or spread out in rural homes? While QR codes have been used in both instances of audience interaction, their use must be tailored for the group dynamics of the intended audience. At a convention, the sharing of contact information through use of QR codes is fueled by the conversation among a tight-knit group. In a rural area, instructions may have to be spelled out about how to use the QR codes and why.

Based upon my own filter analysis, I believe the Webcomic community that I am helping a client reach might be perfect for QR codes. Comics fans pass at least two of the three filters because they tend to be tech-savvy, and they gather in book stores tailored for comics (or go to comics conventions). Posters and post cards promoting the Webcomic could use QR-codes to drive users to the client’s Web site instantly with the click of a camera. Will they deliver? Stay tuned.

A quick study on QR-codes can be found at http://www.scanlife.com/us/faq-landing.html.

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