Maybe it’s just me, but putting QR codes on rooftops could be the silliest idea ever.
Apparently, the point is to get free advertising through Google Maps. In other words, if someone is viewing your building on Google Maps using the Earth View, they’ll see your QR code and scan it. The logic behind it is that Google Earth has been downloaded 1 billion times, so there’s a huge audience. What’s even funnier about this idea: It takes a year for your QR code to show up on Google Earth. So stay patient.
Other really silly uses of QR codes that give what could be a useful content marketing tool a bad rap:
In your email signature.
You think QR codes are cool, and you want to show your contacts that you are a tech savvy, cutting edge kind of person. So you put a QR code in your email signature. If someone is reading an email from you, that means they are either on their computer (so they can just click a URL and they don’t need to scan anything), or they are on their smart phone, which means they can click the URL and they can’t scan something in their email. A link suffices and a QR code is unnecessary.
On a catalog – when the QR code doesn’t give the user anything of value.
For example, I recently saw a gift retailer who had a QR code on the back of their holiday catalog, with the copy next to it that says, “scan this code with your smartphone or go to www.theirwebsite.com.” I’m guessing that most people would be at home flipping through the catalog, so their computers are readily available. What incentive is there for me to scan the QR code? None. I did for the heck of it, and it sent me to a mobile version of the website. But there was no promotion or special offer/incentive for my effort, beyond the normal promotion on the website.
On a highway billboard.
My guess is the chances of someone even attempting to scan a QR code while they are driving past it are pretty slim. However, for that tiny fraction of people who might try, it’s another driving distraction that’s dangerous. Considering that talking on cell phones and texting while driving causes around 600,000 crashes a year and 3,000 deaths – a problem that is so bad that the NTSB recommends that states ban all cell phone use while driving – it seems that trying to encourage drivers to scan while driving is irresponsible and not cool.
In a magazine with an older than average readership.
It seems counterintuitive to run an ad with a QR code in a magazine read mostly by people in an older demographic. Since only 6.2% of Americans scan QR codes, and of that audience, only 7.1% are over 55, chances of your code getting scanned are pretty slim.
In a magazine on an airplane.
During that short window of time when people are allowed to have their electronics turned on, do you think someone will find your QR code and scan it? Doesn’t seem likely. Until regulations allow people to turn on their iPads during flight, you might want to skip the QR code in your flight magazine ad.
What do all of these bad uses of QR codes have in common? They all do not consider where people will be scanning the code, and, worst of all, they do not provide value for the effort. And the first example, on the rooftop, is just plain ridiculous.
So before you run out and try to get a QR code installed on your rooftop, here are some things to keep in mind:
Basic marketing rules still apply.
You need to know your audience before you can promote to them. Who are they, where will they be when they see the QR code, and would they know what to do when they saw it?
Give people value.
Content marketing is all about giving people content that will benefit them in some way. So don’t ask people to scan your code, only to have them end up on your website. Where people end up not only should be optimized for mobile, it should also provide value.
Remember that QR stands for Quick Response.
Scanning your code should make it simple and easy for customers to get the value-added content. Such as, QR codes on real estate For Sale signs that link to a video walk-through or an MLS listing; codes on movie posters that link to a video trailer; or codes on print ads that link to a white paper download. Yes, you could put a QR code on a poster in a subway where people have no Internet access, and people could scan it save it for later. But that kind of defeats the purpose.
The QR code is a tool for your campaign – it’s not THE campaign.
Rather than trying to think up what you could possibly do with QR codes, think about what you want your campaign to be, and then how can QR codes help execute it. If you want to make a print ad more interactive and give people an easy way to take an online action, a QR code may be just the ticket.
Do you have examples of really silly uses or really great uses of QR codes? If so, please share them!