The Growth of the QR Code

In recent months it feels as if we have been invaded by QR codes. They lurk everywhere from the corners of magazine adverts to name tags, tickets and business cards.   For some they represent another exciting digital tool but for the silent majority they are another example of technology leaving them behind. Here we will try to shed some light on this new development, why they are proving to be very popular, and how Broadsword Communications has been using them with their clients.


What are QR codes?

QR codes stands for Quick Response codes and that is exactly what they are – 2 dimensional bar codes that are scannable by a camera enabled mobile device, linking the user directly to digital content on the internet.


Why do we need them?

QR codes are riding the wave of two very powerful forces. Firstly, the exponential rise in the take-up of smart phones, such as the iPhone and blackberry, and secondly, people’s thirst for immediate information when they are out and about.

Smart phones are fast becoming a ‘must have’ item. Their presence has crept up on us and for many they are an integral part of daily life being used as a calendar, notebook, camera, music library and for purchasing items online. As stated by Mark Blayney Stuart, head of research at the UK Chartered Institute of Marketing, “A phone is no longer a phone: it’s is a powerful computer that just happens to make phone calls.”(1)

When smart phone take up is combined with the desire for information, QR codes enable users a painless way to go to a company’s website, get discounts or contact information right there and then without having to talk to anyone.


What do companies use them for?

Marketing executives are waking up to the fact that they can gain competitive advantage by using QR codes to share information and connect with their customers.  They are an excellent way of directing traffic from printed marketing channels to the new digital space. By strategically placing them in destinations that their customers visit, they can draw their attention to a new piece of information, special offer or incentive.  However, QR codes are not just for promotions and are an excellent way to share content such as directions, instructions or personal information such as a link to a facebook page.


Critical Success Factors

Like any marketing campaign, success is dependent on the objectives set and the quality of implementation. The user experience has to be a good one if they are to follow the intended path.  The following guidelines should to be followed to ensure a good outcome:

  • Copy next to the QR code should tell the user why they should click on it
  • Make the webpage they land on ‘mobile friendly’ and easy to read on all smart phones
  • Build a customised landing page that is dedicated to the campaign.
  • Reinforce the original offer or promise in the landing page so that the user knows they have arrived in the right place
  • Insert calls to action which stand out and are easy to follow
  • Continually monitor and fine tune


How has Broadsword being using QR codes with their clients?

A marketing communications company should practice what it preaches. Therefore the first action was to build a mobile friendly version of our website. We have started to place QR codes on our marketing materials and as keen triathletes have included QR codes on the new Broadsword kit (see above). Anyone scanning the code is sent directly to a landing page outlining what we do and what we can offer in a format that is easy to read and mobile friendly.

For Horizon Yacht Charters at the Annapolis Boat Show, we developed a mobile marketing campaign using QR codes to encourage entries for a competition. A custom mobile-friendly landing page was built, and a scannable QR code created and added to printed marketing collateral such as A-frame posters and display banners to drive traffic to the landing page.

For Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina we have placed QR codes on their high-profile advertising campaign. The QR code links directly to a video showcasing the resort and real estate opportunities available with clear calls to action.  Since inserting the QR code the video has had over 500 views bringing an otherwise static print campaign to life for the mobile user.

(1) Stuart MB, 2011 CIM Special Report: It’s not a phone: A future of mobile marketing

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