QR Codes: What They Are, When You Need ‘Em, When You Don’t

What Are They?

No need to worry, QR codes are not a government conspiracy to track your movements (…or are they!?!). Instead they’re what is known as a “Quick Response Code.” You might see them on everything from business cards to print ads to billboards (tough to capture when you’re whizzing by on the freeway.) For the most part, the marketing application of this code — which looks like a very complicated Rorshach test — is to make it easy through an app-enabled smart phone to scan it, and then be transported to a website.

It’s easy to scan a code with your smart phone: just hold the phone up, and the reader does the work. It’s important to get the details right when you are using a QR Code. Placement is critical, and it needs to be big enough for the reader to capture. That means that wherever you place it, you need white space, so plan your designs accordingly. It’s not a great idea to “slap on a QR code” as an afterthought. There are several “QR code reader apps” and every phone is different, so testing it across a wide variety of phones and apps is important.

The area of QR code planning that is most often overlooked isn’t the code, or placement of it, but rather, it’s what happens after your consumer scans it. Consider this: Your audience is using a smart phone to scan the Quick Response Code. Is your website mobile ready? And make sure the page that you are guiding them to actually has something to do with what the card, ad, billboard, etc. has offered. In the best scenario, you will have thought out the offering you want them to see, and isolated it. It could be an opt-in program, a coupon, valuable information (white papers, hard-to-get insights/reports), giveaways, or anything that is not your standard sales pitch. When they “Quick Respond,” you want to be ready to engage! If you have done all of the necessary planning for your QR Code Campaign, then find a QR Code generator, be sure to shorten your URL using bit.ly or ow.ly or another URL truncating site, and let the scanning begin!

When Should I Use a QR Code?

  • When you have something to communicate that offers a different level of engagement than your standard sales pitch or regular web copy. Ideally, you want the person to pass on the cool experience they had when they “scanned through.”
  • When you have adequate design and technical facilities to pull off a worthwhile QR offering campaign.
  • When your site is mobile ready. That means that you have done the web development to enable your current site for smart phones. The more simple your site is already, the better for this process, but if it’s a flash site, or it has a lot of heavy features, you may need some work to create an effective iteration.
  • When your client base is likely to interact with the QR code; whether or not your clients/consumers have the tech savvy and desire to learn about you in this way.
  • When you have a strong social media program. You can create mobile-ready landing pages that can be used to lead your consumer to twitter for the “follow,” or to Facebook for the “like.” Now, if the person isn’t logged in from their phone, then this could be short-circuited, but new advances are happening everyday with apps.

Little known fact: QR Codes can actually make a phone make a call! Using a specific number for the QR Code makes the metrics easy to capture.

When Don’t I Need a QR Code?

  • If your client base is over 55. The demographic may not respond for technology-based and “lack of interest reasons.”
  • Scanning a code takes time, so if the person can’t stand still in front of where the code is placed for a few seconds, then it is wasted.
  • If you think this can take the place of strong “bricks to web” push, or excellent overall digital marketing.

QR Codes are new, hip, and everyone wants one. But make sure you are considering your broader marketing objectives, and how well you are positioned to support a QR Code campaign. If you think you might want to try one, and you have questions, hit us back at social@weltbranding.com!

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Addendum to QR Codes: What They Are, When You Need ‘Em, When You Don’t

After date of publication, Welt Branding’s blog was featured on Smallbiztechnology.com, a media company which provides small- to medium-sized businesses with information on how to strategically use technology as a tool to grow their businesses. Check out the post here: QR Codes Make You Dizzy.

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