Quick Response codes, or QR codes, seem to pop up everywhere now. You can’t turn a corner without seeing those squiggly little squares on posters and take-away food packaging, in shop windows and print ads and articles, and even on the back of books. Primary schools where iPads or tablets are used, are also employing QR codes to ensure students get the most recent updates and newest apps being used in their classes.
And with Australian consumers more smartphone-savvy than ever, QR codes are set to become a bigger part of our everyday lives. So how can you use them as a promotional vehicle to successfully connect with your customers?
What is a QR code?
QR codes are two-dimensional computer-generated images that can be scanned by smartphones or tablets to generate an action. Created in Japan over 20 years ago (by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave) to help manufacturing lines in the automotive industry, they are now almost exclusively used by brands to communicate with consumers.
The consumer simply aims their smart device at the QR code, and the relevant application or software deciphers the code and takes action — whether it connects users to a webpage or activates a phone function such as an SMS.
The technology’s simplicity has helped QR codes become part of mainstream customer experiences — particularly in Korea and the United States. However, despite having one of the highest penetration rates of smartphones in the world, Australia is somewhat lagging behind with QR codes.
Why should you use QR codes?
Here are a few good reasons:
1. Speed: for businesses, the biggest benefit is the ability to connect online and offline information quickly and easily.
2. Space saver: you can use QR codes to give consumers extra information without using up valuable label or packaging space.
3. Immediate: it is also incredibly fast. Consumers simply point their device at the QR code, and within seconds they can have this information at their fingertips.
4. Engaging: leading on from point 3, this sparks an immediate action by consumers — whether it’s entering a competition, providing feedback or making a purchase.
For food and beverage companies, it is especially easy to take advantage of all that QR codes have to offer by simply using them on your packaging.
Are QR codes right for you?
But before you jump into QR codes and print them on all your products, you need to work out whether they are right for your business. Recent research revealed that awareness of QR codes is significantly higher among 18-34 year olds and lowest among over 55 year olds (Econsultancy/Toluna). No surprise there, then.
As with all your marketing efforts, it’s crucial to consider who your target audience is and whether they actively scan QR codes. Ask yourself what you are hoping to achieve: are QR codes really the best way to do it? If you answer “yes” and get it right, QR codes could be one of the most cost-effective, creative promotional tools you use.
QR codes in action
Thousands of companies across the globe are using QR codes to push the boundaries of creativity in promotional campaigns. To help inspire you, we’ve shared some QR code campaigns that got a buzz in the Matthews team. The one thing that all these campaigns have in common is how they deliver incredible value to their consumers — hence effectively rewarding them for scanning. This is the key to making your QR code campaign a success.
- Beer glass. At a music festival in the USA, beer company Guinness produced a glass with an etched QR code that could only be scanned when filled with their dark beer. No other liquid would provide the contrast needed to scan the code. Genius.
- TrackMyMaccas. When McDonald’s renamed its Australian restaurants to “Maccas” over the summer, it also released an iPhone app “TrackMyMaccas”. This app allowed its customers to use the QR codes on its packaging to track ingredients and access nutrition information. But it hasn’t stopped there. From June 2013, some Macca’s meals will have QR codes linking to a multimedia video that provides consumers with a closer look at where the ingredients are grown, fished or farmed, and their journey to the consumer.
- Clever wine caps. In the beverage industry, wine companies are investigating how QR codes can be incorporated onto wine packaging to help consumers engage with the brand. So with label real estate at a premium, where are they putting the QR codes? On screw-top caps, of course. QR codes are being used on wine packaging to provide tasting notes, meal recommendations, health information and more.
- Coca-Cola. To promote the 2012 Europe Cup soccer tournament, Coca-Cola used QR codes on containers to help users connect with exclusive tournament videos and a dedicated SmileWorld social app.
- Shadow codes. Korea’s large discount chain, Emart, launched a lunch-time promotion “Sunny Sale”, where shoppers could scan a shadow QR code using the sunlight and shadow that are only available between 12-1pm. The code gave shoppers access to coupons that were only valid for that hour.
- Beer history. In 2012, Budweiser launched a QR code campaign, “Track Your Bud”, allowing beer drinkers to scan their beverage containers to track the beer’s history back to one of 12 American Budweiser breweries.
- Volkswagen launch. For the launch of a new commercial van line model last year, Volkswagen ran a campaign featuring a huge structure with a QR code made from boxes of oranges. The code linked to a video of how the boxes would fit inside the new van. The campaign ran in Latin America’s largest commercial space for trading fruit and veggies; it increased brand awareness 224% and won bronze at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Putting QR codes in their place
Okay, so you’ve decided to put a QR code on your packaging. Now you need to make sure you use a technology solution that is flexible and can manage these promotions on the production line. That’s where Matthews comes in.
Matthews iDSnet can generate and manage promotional codes as well as keep a record of what is printed. All codes are stored in a central database along with the product information. With a streamlined system, message changes for the printers are quick and easy to do from one central location to ensure the correct code is put on the right product at the right time.
However, just be aware that printing QR codes is technology dependent — not every printer will be able to print them, so check first, whether you’re planning a campaign, or wanting to use them regularly.
Using QR codes to connect
QR codes are ideal “connectors”. Using them isn’t a cut-and-dry case of just popping them on your product packaging: you must take advantage of the opportunity to connect your consumers with your brand. Many companies make the mistake of simply linking a QR code to their company website. Worse still, they connect them to a website that is not mobile friendly. What a waste!
Aside from the campaigns above that caught our eye, there are a host of things that companies can link their QR code to, including:
- your company’s social media pages
- specific blog posts
- online discount coupons
- event registration
- feedback forms
- “how to” guides and instructions
- detailed product information
- exclusive videos
Hint & tips for using QR codes
Finally, here are some more tips for using QR codes correctly:
- Ensure you place the QR code in the right place, and then work out where that code will direct your consumers.
- Use QR codes in a way that is clearly labelled, e.g. “scan this to visit our website”.
- Reward consumers with exciting content or offers — they’ve taken the time to scan, don’t disappoint them!
- Make sure that your QR code is clearly readable. Avoid lamination, small sizes and poor colour contrasts.
- Don’t print a QR code so small that most scanners won’t be able to read it.
- Consider creating a customised landing page to capture customer information or drive an immediate action.
- Link back to a website that is mobile friendly, with a 2-3 second response time.
In Cracking the promotional code: Part 2, we’ll look at how to make
alphanumeric codes work for your promotions. Stay tuned!
You may also be interested in the 3 latest labelling trends food & beverage manufacturers need to know, as well as how QR codes are being used in serialisation as anti-counterfeit measures. And check out why QR and Datamatrix 2D codes are still relevant in 2016 and how Millennials are forever changing packaging with regard to delivering unique, authentic content — and where QR codes fit into that.