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As our Weber Shandwick Seattle tech team prepared to create a dynamic QR-code scavenger hunt for a client this summer, we started to notice those black-and-white, scannable squares everywhere we looked.

We saw them on giant billboards and buses…on the back of coasters in restaurants and as temporary tattoos…we even started seeing them in our sleep…yikes.

We asked (and so did a few others): Are QR codes taking over the world?

According to a Q3 2011 study by Mobio, QR code scanning has risen by 1,400% since Q3 of 2010. The study noted that in 2010 the 35-44 year-olds were the primary QR code scanners, with steady adoption among all age brackets (84%). This year, we’re seeing men take the lead as the “top QR code interacting gender” and social media and TV leading the way with 66% and 27% of scanning, respectively. Mobio notes there’s even a term for the top scanners: the “Extreme Scanner,” or one who has scanned more than 3,000 times in a year. That’s a serious scan rate.

Audi was one of the first to make a splash with QR codes in 2009 when it commemorated 100 years of car manufacturing with a 159 square-meter QR code – the world’s largest—and caused quite a media stir. Now, we’re seeing more and more big name brands adding QR codes to their marketing plans – and doing it well. Starbucks launched a QR-code mobile payments option last year and is now, according to one report, seeing 22% of all transactions made through its mobile option. And this holiday season, don’t be surprised if your gift comes with a personalized message via QR code like this one from JC Penney.

But while brands are catching the QR code train, a recent Ad Age article pointed out the abundance of poorly executed QR code campaigns. Simply put, the article said, they’re not for everyone. We’ve seen that consumers want to use QR codes when it comes to deals, discounts, sweepstakes and mobile payments, but they aren’t so hot on scanning QR codes just find out more information on a product or service. They want an interactive experience or to receive something for their QR code scanning efforts. This rang true for our campaign as did the importance of building the QR code campaign strategy around our target’s behaviors.

In the end, if you’re contemplating using a QR code in a digital, social or PR campaign, it’s very important to figure out who your target demographic is and if a QR code will help lead you to your end results. As is the case with most successful communications efforts – provide value and the rest will follow.

What are some of your favorite QR code campaigns?

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