The best and worst of QR code campigns

QR code 101 - what are they exactly?

  • QR stands for ‘Quick Response’.
  • They were created in Japan almost 20 years ago and were originally designed to speed up manufacturing for the automotive industry.
  • All you need is a smartphone or an internet enabled device. You download a free QR code reader app, then hover your phone over the QR code. It will scan it, just like a barcode reader at a supermarket, and direct you somewhere. It could be anywhere on the web - that's the mystery of the QR code.
  • QR codes can be displayed anywhere - at outdoor events, tradeshows, billboards, posters, magazines, t-shirts, even cereal boxes.


How you should use them

A QR code is a way for you to connect with your customers on the go. But it's not enough to have a QR code displayed somewhere and simply direct the user back to your website - today's connected consumers demand more. Some businesses rely on the novelty of the QR code to do the work for them but if you're going to ask a consumer to scan your QR code and re-direct them somewhere, there still has to be a call to action and meaningful engagement. Put some thought into what you want your customer to experience, and ensure they arrive at a mobile-friendly landing page.

Awards for the worst QR codes

There’s no doubt that, if implemented correctly, QR codes can have a remarkable impact, but they are just as likely to be misused. Though they might seem like no-brainers, here's our top 5 not-to's:
1. Placing QR codes somewhere unsafe or unreachable, eg: motorway signs, flags, buildings, moving vehicles.
2. Printing QR codes so tiny or unreadable the user cannot scan them.
3. Directing the user somewhere uninspired - like to the homepage of a website - especially if the website is not mobile-friendly.
4. QR codes on atheletes' clothing... how are we supposed to scan them while they're scoring a goal or making a jump shot?
5. QR codes that direct the user back to exactly the same spot, ie: a restaurant menu that makes the user scan a QR code - then gives them directions to the restaurant they are already sitting in.

Inspirational campaigns

With the popularity of smartphones on the continual increase, QR codes are an amazing opportunity to get people’s attention while they’re on the move. Here are some inspiring examples of organisations making magic out of the QR code.

The World Park campaign (Central Park, New York): "Engaging a younger, more wired audience"
Central Park in New York created a series of boards with QR codes around the park turning the park into a "outdoor mobile museum". Visitors scan the QR codes and are directed to a mobile website that tells them more about the exact spot they are standing on and takes them to a trivia game. Check out the video here.

The Heineken U-Code: "Open your world"
Heineken used the Open'er music festival to create the "U-Code" - but not so users could scan Heineken's message, but everyone elses'. Festival-goers could create their own QR codes which they printed onto stickers and stuck to their t-shirts. Each QR code contained a personal message, so people could wander around the festival and scan each other's QR codes - let the interaction begin.

Brancott Estate: "The world's most curious bottle"
Closer to home, Brancott Estate (previously Montana) are using QR codes on their wine bottles so you can "enjoy a bottle of wine without opening it." Scan the QR code in the supermarket, and (after downloading the app) see the perfect food match, the aroma and flavours.

Have you seen any interesting, terrible or just plain confusing QR code campaigns? Any thoughts on whether QR codes are just a fad, or a fun new technology that’s here to stay?
Leave your comments below.

Having thoughts about whether a QR code campaign might work for your business?
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