There has been lots of talk about QR codes lately as they continue to pop up more frequently in public spaces and in mass publications. My take is that if a QR code is used appropriately, then it is good for business.
Unfortunately, many companies are not using QR codes properly. And it appears that too many decisions are based on what other people are doing in the space – i.e. competitor X has a QR code on a bus shelter therefore we need a QR code on a bus shelter. Not sound strategy.
There are many examples of how companies are not using QR codes properly. Just take a look around next time you are outside.
A recent example comes from a university that shall remain nameless. This university is running ads on the TTC in Toronto. The ads have a QR code right next to a URL driving to a website. I presume the QR code takes the viewer to the same website. So why have a QR code when someone can just as easily punch the URL into their smartphone? It also isn’t very likely that people will take a photo of the ad and scan the QR code later – by then, they will be sitting at a desk where they can much more easily type in the URL.
In fact, having QR codes on a subway raises another question – what good is a QR code if there is no internet access?
My view on QR codes is that there should be some sort of value associated with asking consumers to take the time to interact with the QR code. The QR code should redirect to a unique webpage that offers a discount or other special offer. This would also help companies track the effectiveness of their advertising – especially if each billboard had a unique QR code that could be tracked via a unique URL.
Similar to QR codes, I have noticed an increase in TV commercials and billboards putting a Facebook and Twitter logo somewhere within the ad.
The good news is that more traditional companies are embracing social media.
The bad news is that many companies often fail to put their handle next to the Facebook or Twitter logo. This increases search costs for potential customers when they try to find the Facebook page or Twitter account.
Another billboard on the TTC this week had a bunch of circles indicating to consumers how they can contact the organization. One circle was titled “Social Media” with a Twitter logo and a Facebook logo. While it is great they are willing to engage customers via social channels, imagine having a circle that said “Telephone” with a logo of a phone and no telephone number!
To put it another way, imagine an ad 15 years ago that had “WWW” on it but not the URL to the company’s website. Absurd, no?
So why are people putting Facebook and Twitter logos on their creative without providing some sort of direction to consumers?
I should give props to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. The company had a poster on the subway with a Facebook logo followed by a /PopeyesCanada. This represents an effective use of a Facebook logo within an ad because it drives to an actual location.
I should also note that Popeyes hasn’t surrendered to the pressure of having a Twitter account like so many other restaurants, electing only to have a Facebook page. Good for them.
Ultimately, it is great to let people know you are playing in the social space, but help them out. Not all official company Twitter feeds are easy to find. Same with official Facebook pages. And with the short attention spans of consumers today, you have to give them all the help you can if you expect them to engage with your brand.