QR codes (or quick response codes) are the odd, geometric pattern in a box (think crazy looking bar codes) that are beginning to pop up on everything from packaging to catalogs. What started in Japan by a Toyota subsidiary as a way to decode and track packages, they have been widely popular in Japan in Europe for years. Thanks to the crazy growth of smart phones, they are finally catching on in the US and have become the hipster of the marketing and advertising world.
One example was Target’s use in their Christmas circulars this season. Want to know more about Fisher-Price’s Bigfoot? Scan the QR code and see the faux news report.
The key, however, is understanding the user experience. You need to put yourself into the consumer’s frame of mind – where will they be when they use it? What type of information would they want at that very moment? What will the network be like, wifi, 3G, maybe 1 bar?
Which brings me to a billboard I recently saw. Last week I was driving back from Cincinnati, along a congested I-75. Glancing at the outdoor boards as tried to navigate traffic, I noticed a billboard for a charity with a huge QR code. What seemed like a forward thinking idea, was really a great way to cause wreck.
Having a QR code on the billboard was asking the consumer to get out their smart phone (while in traffic); activate their QR code reader (while dodging the semis); aim it at the billboard (while keeping any eye on the bumper in front of them); pull up the mobile enabled site (while watching out for the car in the lanes on either side of them); and finally get the information to the event. Kind of makes you wonder how many people gave it a try on their daily commute – or how many insurance claims along the I-75 corridor have been made since the board went up?
In a time when texting and driving is such a no-no (and illegal in the state of Kentucky & Ohio, I might add), in hindsight the QR code on the billboard might not have been the wisest move. Unless of course, the event was for TWDA – Texting & Wreckless Driving Annonmyous, then that would have been brilliant!