QR codes, a concept used in Japan for years, is just now catching on in the US. To the unsuspecting eye they are merely black and white squares that look like some kind of printing mark or error. Meanwhile, the tech-savvy consumer holds up their cell phone to scan it in anticipation of new content. QR codes can be beneficial. If they are used correctly, they cut through consumers’ short attention spans and add layering and depth to one-dimensional advertisements. However, use them incorrectly and you run the risk of damaging your brand, possibly with permanent consequences. Like a new type of social media, the use of QR codes should not be taken lightly. Today’s advances in technology mean that messages travel farther and faster than ever before. Thus it is important that the messages sent out are sent correctly and are positively received by consumers. The following is a list of do’s and don’ts to refer to when considering the use of QR codes.
Do use them to provide something extra – Consumers are expecting a special website with behind-the-scenes looks and exclusive content. In other words, something they would not see anywhere else and something that adds to their experience of your brand.
Don’t use them as a replacement for your message - The easiest way to confuse consumers is by not communicating or miscommunication. There should be enough other content surrounding its usage, and a clear message, that the QR code remains a bonus. It should not be the only thing in your ad. If it is then consumers lose sight of who you are as a brand. Your brand is not a QR code, it is much more than that.
Do use them on display signs within stores – More and more consumers use smartphones to purchase products. I see it as a missed opportunity if they are not present on store product display signs. There is not enough space on a sign to display all of the information a consumer needs to know. Any details on a display sign are just an attempt at best. A QR code is a great way to direct consumers to product reviews and more information.
Don’t use them as a cop-out for lack of creativity – This goes hand in hand with the rule to not use them as a replacement for your message. QR codes are not something you just throw in because you can’t think of anything better to use in your ad.
Do get creative with their usage – As the industry becomes saturated with QR codes it is important that yours stand out. Put a creative pattern inside or around them, but make sure the code is still scannable, and you have something that catches people’s attention. Macy’s is an example, as they took the QR code and embedded it within their trademark red star on storefront windows http://bit.ly/eLhjC9. Also use them in unconventional ways or placements. An example would be to put them on press releases and have the landing page be an interactive media kit.
Don’t use QR’s to send consumers to your website – Directing consumers to your website with a QR code is a cop-out and unimaginative. If you need to let consumers know about your website, include it in the ad. The QR code is for extra content and your website is not extra content. It is a standard extension of your brand.
Don’t overuse them – Repetition can be a good thing, but oversaturation is not. If you use QR codes too often, or in ways that are too predictable, they could lose their effectiveness.
Do use them effectively - Be picky about what you use them for and how you use them. To be anything but picky is a disservice to you and your consumers.
In short, QR codes are: Innovative? Check. Important? Check. Thought-provoking? Check. The ways in which they can be incorporated and utilized are potentially endless. Use them in ways that outshine your competition while adding to your brand? Priceless.