Why marketers should use QR codes in their campaigns

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Quick response codes seem to be popping up everywhere, from billboards to magazines to grocery stores. Direct Connect spoke with the marketing firm's CMO, Jason Pinto, about the potential of QR codes and what marketers should avoid when launching a campaign using them.

Direct Connect: What do QR codes offer that a URL doesn't?

Jason Pinto: The No. 1 thing is convenience. Even if I'm at home and grab mail from mailbox and I'm interested in an offer from a dealership or restaurant that they sent, for me to go upstairs, turn on my computer and type in the URL takes a number of minutes. But I always have my smartphone in my pocket. I can scan the code, and am already making reservations at the restaurant or seeing the specials they are having almost instantly. That convenience carries over even more when the person is not near a computer.

DMN: What should marketers consider when deciding where to place their QR codes - whether on billboards, in stores or in print advertising?

Pinto: It's definitely about picturing how people will see them and interact with them. Billboards are cool because they are huge and people see them, but if they're flying by them in their car, that's a problem. For example, make sure there's a parking lot nearby where they can get out and scan it. More practical might be putting it inside a store, where you know there is going to be significant foot traffic. We are seeing realtors in our neighborhood put QR codes on their signs, which take you to a YouTube video that gives them a virtual tour of the house when the realtor is not there to show you around.

DMN: What sort of content works best?

Pinto: It's all about keeping it simple. Remember there is a huge difference between what people see and experience on a smartphone and on their computer. This might mean cutting down on the words on the page, the size of the images, or knowing limitations across different phones, like knowing that many smartphones can not run flash images. A specific call to action works well, like asking them to watch a video or add their e-mail to your mailing list or database.

DMN: How can marketers attract users who are unfamiliar with QR codes?

Pinto: We've used QR codes on every one of our print ads this year, and at first we got just a few scans but it's gone up each time. You have to keep at it, and as more people use smartphones, they will get more comfortable with scanning the codes. After running our campaigns for several months, we had a call to action where they could get a free white paper. More people scanned the QR code to get the white paper than typed the URL in. That growing comfort with scanning the codes will continue in coming years.

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