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Lessons from 2012 QR Code Campaigns

So you’ve secured your marketing budget for 2013 and now want to connect with your customers via mobile. Since all research indicates that the majority of them have a smartphone, you know it’s the right move.

Now “all” you need are original ideas. Fear not my friend, as you’ve come to the right place. What follows is a recap of some of the best and quirkiest mobile barcode campaigns, as well as tips and tricks to help maximize your results.

Best 2012 QR Code campaigns

For a review of the best campaigns of last year, we invite you to check the following blog posts:

  • Best QR Code Campaigns of Q1 2012: In the first quarter of the year, brands such as Maserati, Starbucks, Heineken, and Budweiser top the charts in terms of creativity and impact of their campaigns. But not-for-profit, hospitality and airline companies also engineered some of the most impressive campaigns to date. Read more.
  • The Best QR Code Campaigns of Q2 2012: This quarter has seen some of the boldest (and the least politically correct!!) campaigns ever. Indeed, we could hardly believe Emart’s revolutionary QR sundial, Americano’s QR stripping campaign, or Axe’s sizzling hot Body Spray campaign. But the most ambitious is that of Coca-Cola. Read more.
  • Roger Smolski’s excellent Top 10 QR Codes Of 2012: It includes a mix of quirky campaigns, such as the world’s smallest art gallery QR Code, as well as Hointer’s revolutionary retail experiment. Read more.

So now that you’re feeling inspired, it’s always good to pause and consider best practices. After all, one of the advantages of mobile campaigns and QR Codes in particular is that you will be able to measure the results; so you may as well maximize them:

Do’s and Don’ts

In two excellent blog posts, David Moth, from eConsultancy, looks at several QR Code campaigns and dissects their strengths and weaknesses. The first post looks at six campaigns from well-known brands such as Lacoste, Toyota, Police, HMV, Helly Hansen, and Go Entertain. In a second blog post, he analyzes a Toyota campaign, by far the best of the lot. These are a must read for any marketer who aspires to create bold and exciting mobile barcode campaigns. While the author does a great job at analysing the execution of the campaigns, it is important to emphasize the fact that mobile engagement differs from traditional digital marketing in several meaningful ways:

  1. Mobile engagement is contextual. Whether it’s while commuting to work, browsing the aisles of a supermarket, or watching a TV program—consumers generally use their smartphone with the purpose of taking an instant action or answering a question in relation to the activity they are undertaking at the location of the moment.
  2. Mobile engagement is action driven. With the contextual nature of the engagement comes the sense of urgency: “do this to book a ticket now”, “click there to check stock availability”, “swipe here to identify your local restaurants”, and the list goes on. Smartphone users more so than in an online desktop environment, often use their device to take a specific action within a specific context. Moreover, smartphones –unlike traditional computers- have the ability to connect in a variety of ways: call, text, email, web, etc. This facilitates a wealth of underutilized engagement opportunities for businesses.
  3. Mobile engagement must be simple and instantaneous. In an age when the attention span goes not much further than 140 characters, any small delay or complication in the online journey will result in it coming to a brutal end (and possibly some rant on social media). Any mobile experience should be straightforward and seamless from start to finish.
  4. Mobile engagement is personal. Smartphones contain all contacts and mobile apps linked to a user’s social media accounts; smartphones are basically the gateway to a consumer’s whole digital life. The corollary of this reality is that any business aspiring to connect with its audience through their mobile will have to tread with caution, respect, and show the value it brings right from the start.

Having established the framework for mobile engagement, here are the 8 commandments of successful QR Code campaigns:

1. Make sure it fits within your business and marketing strategy. It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how often it seems that a QR Code was slapped on a print material as an afterthought, in a “because I can” sort of way. Don’t waste such an opportunity. Create a new sales channel. Enhance your CRM efforts. Connect with your consumers. Get deeper consumer insights. In summary – execute with a clear purpose in mind.

2. Guarantee your campaign creates real value for your audience. Ask yourself: what value am I bringing to them? Are you sending them to your e-commerce website? Or are you giving them exclusive information or special deals? Are you asking them for their opinion and feedback? Is it content that will motivate them to scan again in the future? If you can’t think of a compelling reason for them to scan, then it’s probably not worth it.

3. Link to a mobile optimized site. If you’re still hesitant on the possibility of linking to your non-mobile-optimized website, then these results from Google will almost certainly make your mind up for you: On the one hand, 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly. On the other, 74% of people say they’re more likely to return to a mobile friendly site, and 67% of mobile users say that when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they’re more likely to buy a site’s product or service. Do we need to say more?

4. Make a clear call-to-action (CTA). It is crucial that you give information on why it’s worth scanning your QR Code and possibly brief instructions on how to download a QR Code reader. Also, make sure you place CTAwhere they can be seen. If a user sees a QR Code just floating around without any indication on why they should scan, they are highly less likely do so. A compelling CTA can double or triple your scanning and conversion rates.

5. Think about the QR Code placement. Before you place the code on the back of a racing car or on a TV commercial, ask yourself: will people notice it? Can they safely, and comfortably, scan the QR Code? Do they have enough time to scan the QR Code? Will they have a data connection? Remember: mobile engagement is contextual. Turn this into your advantage, not the contrary.

6. Size does matter: The smaller the QR Code, the more difficult it will be to scan it, plus the closer the user will have to be to the code. If you use the ScanLife QR Code generator, you can safely print codes which are 0.75 inch (1.9 cm) large. Moreover, the scan distance to QR Code size will be roughly 7:1 (in other words, a 1 inch code can be scanned from a 7 inch distance).

With other QR Code generators, we recommend you set the minimum to 1 inch (2.4 cm) and keep the scan distance to QR Code size ratio to 10:1.

7. Test your codes. Realizing that the QR Code you printed on all your collateral isn’t working can be a soul crushing experience. We have seen countless examples of embarrassing – and often very expensive – mistakes: a typo in the URL, a QR Code printed on a shiny curved package, making the code too dense etc.  At ScanLife, we’ve almost completely eliminated these problems because customers can edit the QR Code content , or the action it triggers at any time, and as often as desired. In addition, our engineers are continuously testing to ensure that ScanLife codes work on all the millions of devices and apps available around the globe. But this is not necessarily the case with other QR Code generators. Whatever the circumstances and QR Code generator you use, test the codes with different apps, different devices, from different angles and distances. Don’t become the butt of a joke.

8. Track the results of your campaign. QR Codes are one of the easiest and most practical ways to measure the impact of your campaign and acquire rich consumer insights. Top tier mobile engagement platforms such as ScanLife, will help you understand who scans, how often, when, where, what happens after the scan, and more. Marketers get a proxy for the ROI of their print advertisement, identify which billboard ad works and which do not, etc. In fact, performance tracking and consumer insights data is one of, if not, the greatest values that modern mobile engagement platforms bring. Don’t miss out.

For expert advice on mobile engagement…


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Mobile barcodes have changed the way we discover & share information from the world around us. We welcome your thoughts & ideas on how to make this technology matter - today and in the future.


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