Reluctantly Supporting the QR Revolution
Guest blogger Henry Quinn is a marketing manager who thinks a lot about how to get people to act based on direct mail, email and websites. He weighs in here on the practical applications of the QR codes that have generated so much buzz lately. Full disclosure: Henry is married to Idealware's executive director, Laura Quinn, which means we would have probably run this blog post even if it wasn't as insightful and entertaining as it is.
Like most people, I hate and fear new things. New things remind me of my mortality, and they require that I take time out from my busy schedule of home-brewing and watching reruns of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to learn how they work.
As part of a large marketing organization, I see a lot of new things. They tend toward the shiny and jargony, and years of hype surrounding shiny new marketing things has left me pretty cynical. But I’m on board with QR codes as a worthwhile part of a larger marketing strategy for a number of reasons:
- QR codes are complementary to other, existing marketing efforts, and carry a very low incremental cost. You don’t need to give anything up to implement them: you’re already mailing the piece, or buying the placement in the subway station or magazine. The only ‘cost’ is finding (physical) space within an existing effort to place the image.
- A QR code is a clear, simple call to action. Pull out your phone, and point it here. There’s not even any typing.
- One of the primary measures of marketing success is brand recall, because there’s usually a gap between impression and follow-up. A QR code eliminates this break, and recall ceases to be an issue. For an individual with a smartphone the practical distance between ‘reader of a bus stop poster’ and ‘website visitor’ narrows to almost nothing.
- QR codes allow you to land a visitor much farther down whatever funnel of engagement you’re interested in moving them through. Rather than trusting a visitor to type in www.yoursite.com, a QR code can send them directly to the specific page you’d like them to see. Using a mail piece to solicit donations? Don’t just send a prospective donor to your website, send them directly to the donation page.
- In contrast to this specificity of destination, the potential set of content a QR code can represent is as broad as you’d like it to be. A QR code can link directly to music, video, news—on or off your site—it can activate a phone call, send an SMS, open forums for conversation or social networking—anything that’s online and that’s going increase their engagement with your organization, you can put in front of a user with a phone, immediately, with one click.
- Because QR codes require a smartphone to use, they will naturally select a (relatively) young and affluent segment of the population. Nothing wrong with that.
- They’re eminently trackable. Bonus.
- There are cons, though I don’t think any of them are very compelling. QR codes are ‘ugly,’ I guess. Old folks like me might be scared of them—though we’re used to seeing bar codes and we’ll probably just ignore them. A QR code has a limited reach, given the need for a smartphone, but if you can tell me what marketing vehicle will reach everyone, you’re hired.
Implementing QR codes across your marketing efforts is a tactic, not a strategy. They require careful consideration of the question, “What is the goal of this effort, and what is the most appropriate piece of content we can show people in support of that goal?” If the answer to that question is something other than ‘our homepage,’ QR codes can be a practical step toward a solution.