A Guide to Using QR Codes for Marketers.
How to generate and use QR codes in your marketing.
There has been a lot of noise surrounding QR codes in the media recently, and switched on marketers are starting to use them in print, online and on outdoor campaigns.
We've been working with QR codes in the lab for quite some time, integrating offline packaging solutions to rich media to aid with point of sale promotion in-store and post sale instruction guides.
Firstly, what is A QR code? You're bound to be asked by someone...
Well its generally accepted that QR codes (which is an abbreviation for Quick Response Code), is a 2 dimensional barcode that can be read by QR barcode readers and camera phones. They were developed by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave as far back as 1994 to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed, typically used in parts location for vehicle manufacturers and very common in South East Asia. QR codes are now becoming common in developed markets such as the US and Europe with the adoption of smartphones that can read them via their built-in cameras. For a full history of QR codes check out the wiki link here.
The graphic above (courtesy of Wikipedia) explains how the code is constructed, and this is a very important point in understanding how to build your codes.
We've been tasked to produce thousands of codes to date and our key learning has shown that simple is best.
OK, So How Do I Generate a QR Code?
There are lots of tools out there, but we prefer the one at Kaywa, because it works... http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ Try it by cutting a web URL into it and generating your own code.
However, you need to be aware of something when generating your codes. That is the size of your URL. The more information you have in the URL the more complex the resultant code will be and therefore the larger it will need to displayed at for readers to engage with it.
See the examples below. The first one shows a standard web link optimised for output as a large QR code, and the one beneath it is a long URL. The difference in size is apparent, and will be problematic for marketers wanting to use codes on print or screen.
Now for QR readers, if you run an Android device such as an HTC you should have one built in, for Apple you can use one of the free QR Reader apps such as the imaginatively named 'QR Reader'. It does what it says on the tin, get it here. (if you are on iPhone or iPad2 this link takes you right to the app store)
Simple URL QR Code - try it on your mobile device.
Deep link URL QR Code, see how much more information is contained in the code, and the difference in size?
So how can we get around the issue of deep linking URLS and the complexity of the resultant code. After all we want to be able to use them at a smaller size when integrating with business cards, point of sale, on printed instruction booklets, packaging, and screens.
Well there is a way, using tools such as Tiny URL will format the code in a cleaner way, and the URL redirect renders the correct deep linked page, see below;
Using the URL shortener gives a simpler QR code that still deep links. Much better solution!
This Code takes you to the same destination as the more complex one above it. Try it on your mobile device.
OK, so we've covered the how to create a code effectively from a URL. Now lets look at the other options available to us.In the codes shown below you'll see a text message QR code to the left and a simple phone number QR code to the right.
Smartphone and tablet devices utilising a reader know how to interpret these codes from within the device, opening a text message, or a phone book entry respectively.
The code to the left opens a text message on your device, and the one to the right renders a phone number.
Try them on your mobile devices.
How to Market Using QR Codes
So the next part is about knowing how to actually use your QR codes in real life marketing projects. We'll give you a few examples of how we've implemented campaigns for some of our clients.
1. Packaging QR Codes to help with installation post sale.
Honeywell had seen the work we were doing for some other clients on rich media overlays for e-commerce and asked whether we could develop something that could be placed on packaging and instruction leaflets to drive purchasers through to installation and troubleshooting videos.
What we like about the idea was that it wasn't just QR for the sake of QR. It had a purpose. We quickly set about customising our rich media platform to cater for multiple videos that would render properly on mobile devices.
Honeywell were supplied with the final URL's for each product ahead of time so that the packaging artwork could commence, you know how long offline takes!
In the meantime we set about generating the assets mindful that when accessed via a QR reader on say an iPhone that you can't rotate. Big pain, which I'm sure will be overcome soon. Therefore we had to make sure the video assets were in effect square. To view the final result try the QR code below, if you don't have a mobile device you can click on it too.
The Honeywell Rich Media Overlay Project.
2. Uing QR codes to elicit sign up to a programme or promotion
The Discount Emporium runs on a very simple model, they sell electrical appliances direct to the public at big discounts. The majority of their stock is bulk buys from manufacturers and near end of line products. once they've gone they've gone, and Discount Emporium needed to get as many consumers signed up to their regular voucher e-mailings giving consumers even more discount than normal.
They started to use the QR code on all of their offline collateral and on all delivery notes that went out with each order. The QR code directed people to the two line sign up form on the web site that they might have missed otherwise.
The campaign drives much better sign up to the e-mail lists, and when these are used in conjunction with ordering history and user propensity via the STAR Digital Sure Agency partnership with Silverpop the results are impressive.
Simple and effective QR code to drive sign-up to a consumer e-mail list. Try it on your device.
QR Codes in the STAR Digital Lab
We've been experimenting with QR codes in the lab, and we've created customised designs using graphics within the code themselves. We've added them to our business cards, and we are working on pilot schemes with a number of clients for intelligent point of sale and post sale campaigns to increase user engagement with their brands.
We believe that the QR code is here to stay, and brands will start to use them in POS applications to incentivise a purchase by using driving consumers to simple web pages where they do a two filed registration and get emailed a discount or up-sell voucher valid for one hour that can be redeemed in store.
For post sale we can see brands using them in a similar way to register a product allowing them to know when the user purchased and then e-mail them to sell extended guarantees or consumables.
As we do more in the lab we'll update this page to keep you informed. In the meantime if you want to know more, give us a shout.
QR Code Update
Seeing some brands doing cooler QR codes integrated into design, recent notable examples include the Figaro and IDM QR Codes shown below!
The Figaro QR Code is photographic, but actually works!
The IDM used colour to convey a QR code as a piece of design