Banana Does IT – Confessions From a QR Code Convert

As a marketing professional I pride myself on keeping up with new technology. I was among the first in my network to use LinkedIn, I embraced video before it was mainstream, I even experimented with content syndication and on-line advertising in the early days.  Despite my penchant for trying new approaches, I have resisted QR code usage either as a consumer or marketer. I don’t really have a good reason for ignoring this tool, I simply didn’t find it compelling. I had to “download” a QR code reader which while easy, required I take an extra step. And the first time I read a QR code (using a friend’s phone) I found the associated content boring and irrelevant.  Over the last 18 months I’ve read many articles about QR codes but rarely found examples in practice that caught my attention.

QR Codes Can Be Effective Marketing ToolsAnd then it happened. A QR code appeared that I simply couldn’t resist, on my banana. While visiting a museum I selected a banana to accompany my lunch. Staring me in the face was a QR code stuck directly to the banana. It made me chuckle, but more importantly it made me act. I visited the iTunes store, downloaded a reader and simply had to check out what my  banana was trying to tell me.

It turns out the banana wanted to sell me a smoothie maker. They had an instructional video on the landing page, along with some product information and an easy to use “buy now” button. While I didn’t buy the smoothie maker, I am finally convinced QR codes can play an active and compelling role in marketing programs.

For those that have embraced the QR code many moons ago, go ahead say it. Duh! What took you so long? For the rest of us, here are some important things to consider if you want to bring around those folks who have been slow to adopt QR code magic.

1) Use QR codes in unexpected places – What finally got me to scan a QR code was the odd place it was secured, to a banana! While I don’t recommend walking into your local grocery store and placing your QR code stickers on the produce; I do recommend you use the codes in interesting and compelling ways. Do you give out t-shirts at trade shows? Consider putting a code on the sleeve. Or perhaps you are sponsoring a luncheon, does the salt & pepper strike your fancy? Instead you’ve made laptop bags for all of your employees – why not put a code on them?  Maybe getting clients to engage with your training material is a high priority. Why not use QR codes on installation guides to drive users to video based training materials? A little ingenuity can go a long way towards getting someone’s attention.

2) Make sure the content is relevant & entertaining – It’s great to learn about your new product or service, but QR code content should be relevant AND entertaining. You caught my attention, now keep it! Don’t be afraid to use video, animation, photographs. This is your chance to show your story, instead of just tell your story.

3) Provide a clear call to action – Brand identification is a noble goal, but most of us have to justify our marketing dollars by demonstrating engagement. If someone takes the time to visit your content, give them a clear next step.

4) Make it personal – QR codes themselves are impersonal. They are a computer generated icon that says nothing about who you are, or the personality of your company. However, once scanned, you can present a very personal experience that gives the viewer insight into your unique personality. Since you can’t be there, make sure your content tells who you are, not just what you sell.

5) Be device agnYostic – While a QR Code “landing site” acts like a webpage it is in fact rarely visited from someone’s desktop or laptop computer. It is far more likely they are using their phone or tablet to quickly gather information.  Make sure your content is easily digestible on these devices.

6) Don’t forget your teaser – A QR code itself is not compelling. You must tell people what to expect when they scan it or like me, they simply won’t act.

You won’t catch me using QR codes on everything, but I’m finally convinced they can add value. Use them well. And don’t forget to eat your bananas!