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Why are marketers not taking QR codes seriously?

There is a prominent place for QR codes in the mobile space, especially when it comes to communicating with consumers on a one-to-one level. However, many marketers do not seem too keen on mobile bar codes and are not incorporating them into the marketing mix. 

Nowadays, it is important for marketers to have a 360-degree marketing strategy. Instead of simply taking a QR code and plastering it on anything, companies should invest time and effort and think of new ways to engage new and existing consumers.

?We are huge advocates of making them an important element in strategic planning as it relates to marketing,? said Jane McPherson, chief marketing officer at SpyderLynk, Denver.

?Enabling real objects to serve digital content gives marketers the ability to deliver targeted content to consumers ? wherever and whenever ? taking into account consumers? proximity to a product and a purchase decision,? she said.

?Most important, this technology allows marketers to convert mass marketing to direct marketing. Marketers must think strategically about the role of the mobile bar codes in their marketing initiatives.?

Getting it right
Nowadays, there are many companies such as Starbucks and Taco Bell who have implemented mobile bar codes into their strategies.

For example, earlier this year Starbucks let coffee lovers find their favorite roast via a campaign that incorporated mobile bar codes.

The company promoted its coffee roast such as Blonde, Medium and Dark in its in-store locations.

Starbucks also handed out bookmark fliers to consumers that not only include a coupon, but also feature a QR code (see story).

Additionally, Taco Bell drove awareness for its new Doritos Locos Tacos by placing QR codes on its packaging (see story).

By incorporating mobile bar codes, marketers are able to not only promote new initiatives, but engage consumers in innovative ways. 

?The marketers we work with are fond of mobile bar codes and many of them are implementing them in strategic ways to unlock their full potential,? Ms. McPherson said.

?We suspect that marketers who have not had good success with them have not yet begun to think of them strategically,? she said.

It is important that marketers craft a campaign that is of interest to their target audience.

Currently, many consumers are still not educated on QR codes and are not really sure how to use them.

While awareness of mobile bar codes as a marker for interactivity is growing exponentially, assuming consumers understand how to activate it without instructions can be a mistake. Education is key, as is a prominent and accompanied by a call-to-action.

If a marketer is looking to place a QR code on a product or magazine page, then there should be a call-to-action information consumers what application is needed to scan the code ? or even instructions on how to scan it.

According to Ms. McPherson, programs offering clear instructions on how to use mobile bar codes can drive participation up by 500 to 800 percent.

Measuring it all
The effectiveness of a QR campaign or offer is highly dependent on driving awareness, crafting a compelling offer, explaining to consumers how to engage and using accessible technology, per Ms. McPherson.

?Other measurement opportunities are extensive and include frequency of use, detailed segmentation analysis of participation metrics, and adoption of loyalty initiatives,? Ms. McPherson said.

?In 2011, QR codes popped up everywhere,? she said. ?Whether you were flipping through a magazine at the doctor?s office or opening mail from a company you did business with, there was a decent chance it had a QR code on it.

?With a plethora of free QR code generators available online, low barriers to entry caused companies to create and print QR codes on everything.?

According to the executive, 2012 will be the year of reflection and investigation.

Companies will look back on what they did and evaluate effectiveness.

Additionally, marketers will put some critical thinking into campaign objectives moving forward.

?In the next few years, companies will become much smarter and more sophisticated in their use of mobile bar codes,? Ms. McPherson said. ?Up to this point, many companies have been testing the waters on mobile bar codes by printing a QR code on marketing materials, crossing their fingers and hoping for good results. 

?We believe that companies will really start to think strategically about how to use mobile bar codes, the best places to use them, and most importantly, what the technology will do for the consumer, and them,? she said. 

?Rather than dipping their toe in the water, companies will put enough strategic thought behind a campaign to jump in and experience the power that mobile bar codes can have on their marketing campaigns.?

The right situation
According to Charles Sankowich, CEO of Friendthem, QR codes can be of some help in the right situation.

Mobile bar codes need to be implemented in a strategic plan.

Simply putting mobile bar codes on random objects will not be the best way to drive individuals to a specific destination.

?When you really think about it, it is just an easier way to enter a URL,? Mr. Sankowich said. ?I do not believe QR codes from a tech standpoint, are anything game changing but do offer some positives.

?For instance, I use QR codes to create an easy way to download my app, they do create a type of cool factor that might drive a certain demographic that find this approach more interesting,? he said.

?I think we will continue to see them used in strategic plans along with just placing the codes for a low cost. However, I do believe in the next few years we will see the QR codes evolve and will create new functions within that will create a rise in popularity and relevance.?

QR codes are an easy, low cost way to bring a static ad or product to life.

If linked to an integrated mobile commerce site that supports deep linking, a QR code can be a call to action that allows a consumer to instantly convert a purchase, register for more information, or engage with the advertiser via social media.

?In 2011 almost 60 percent of Twitter and Facebook users said they scanned a QR code that year,? said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston.

?Any marketer that sees this as useless needs to open their eyes,? he said. ?Marketers are not fond of mobile bar codes because perhaps they are afraid of adding an ROI element to their marketing plan and early use cases tended to link mobile consumers to non-mobile pages, resulting in poor customer experiences.

?The addition of a QR code can transform a static, non-linked print ad into a powerful, tracked, engine for mobile or social engagement.?

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York