Scan me! Scan me! Scan me!
In the past year or so the use of QR codes and Microsoft Tags in the USA exploded. (Ok, maybe exploded isn’t the right word, but if we use it to describe the location-based services phenomenon, I should be able to use it here.) Brands like Calvin Klein, Gap, Best Buy, McDonalds and Heineken placed the scannable codes on pretty much anything from posters, billboards, magazine ads, business cards and t-shirts to TV commercials, product packaging and in store displays.
Usually used to quickly link consumers to specific mobile content like product demos, consumer reviews, coupons, etc., QR codes and Microsoft Tags can close the sale. They are also an interesting way to engage consumer on multiple channels at the same time ( we already know people are using their cell phones/tablets/lap tops while reading magazines and watching TV). Most importantly they have a call to action that the consumer can immediately act upon: scan now, before you forget, or before you get bombarded by 78377642 similar messages, and buy the product/watch the video/find a retailer/get a coupon/etc.
A shiny new toy with a lot of potential, QR codes and Microsoft Tags can easily be used to position a brand as an innovator in a category and/or to provide utility to consumers. (If you haven’t noticed yet, I have a thing for brand utilities.)
The boom in this country naturally leads to the quest of finding the most interesting and innovative examples of how the little squares are used for marketing. At least that is a natural quest for someone obsessed with making lists.
The first prominent example of interesting use of the technology is Calvin Klein’s Get It Uncensored billboards from last summer. The codes pulled up an exclusive, 40-second commercial featuring models Lara Stone, “A.J.,” Sid Ellisdon, Grayson Vaughan and Eric Anderson. After the spot played, viewers could share the code with their Facebook and Twitter networks. Replacing images of almost naked models with QR codes is not innovative, but the campaign achieved the impossible: making consumers seek advertising.
Moving on to USA Today, which just started placing Microsoft Tags in its print editions. Each section of the daily now features at least one Tag that leads to additional online content such as videos. I am not sure who still buys newspapers, but it is a great way to provide more utility for the readers.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is promoting its Picasso Exhibit “Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris” with QR codes in print and out-of-home ads. The codes, incorporated into portraits of Picasso, access a website featuring 15 pieces of his art, plus a link to buy tickets.
“We started thinking about Picasso and how progressive he was as an artist and it made sense to use technology,” Keith Cartwright, the creative director, said.
The next example comes all the way from Japan, where QR codes are as common as Starbucks shops. About 50 people came together, each taking a piece of the biggest QR code to a designated spot before an Audi drove the last piece in to complete the code. The mobile content was a 15 second animation celebrating 100 years of Audi.
And my personal favorite one is from two weeks ago when RedLaser and Lupe Fiasco took over Union Square in New York with video projections, lasers and a custom QR code to promote the upcoming release of the rapper’s latest album, Lasers. Not only was the code flawlessly integrated into the creative and the overall experience, but it also enabled fans to pre-order the album and purchase merchandise.
These five examples of QR codes show how the technology can provide utility, extend the offline experience online and engage consumers on multiple channels at the same time. Of course, the logical question to follow is “When will the technology become mainstream?” My bet is that, if used regularly by brands, it will happen before location-based services become mainstream.
What are your favorite examples of QR codes used for marketing? Are they effective?