Finally, QR Codes Used Right

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

How many times have you scanned a QR code and felt jipped once you discover the content “behind the code?” All too often, I just get directed to the brand’s homepage, and more often than not, a non-mobile-optimized homepage, where I am left to fish around for whatever it was that I thought I would get by scanning. Sure, there are some instances where I get directed to the right page or a coupon or simply just a video, but even then, I am almost always underwhelmed by the entire experience.

When I talk about experience, I’m not really talking about the experience with the technology (although I tend to really gravitate to new, emerging technologies). I’m talking about the brand experience, one that manifests itself from the brand’s story, and is told across various channels, and more and more, through various technologies.

The story is the thing, not the technology.

And unfortunately, I’ve come across so many examples of QR codes, in particular, where there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to using the QR code.

I do think QR codes can be an effective enabling technology. I just don’t think brands/marketers/communicators have quite figured out how to best utilize them to truly drive consumers deeper into the (brand’s) story. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be used just to duplicate an experience that you could otherwise get by simply going to a website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, and/or the like. They should really “unlock” information/content/offers that can’t be accessed in any other way. They should extend the brand’s story in some way. That’s when they’re used “right,” to the fullest of their ability. That’s when they start to add value to the consumer. That’s when consumers will associate them with exclusive information, not just a new way to get driven to a brand’s homepage.

Last night, I saw an effective use of QR codes and it originated, from all places, a TV screen. Before last night, I really saw no value in using a QR code from a digital screen (TV) to another digital screen (mobile). In large part, because I had never seen an effective execution. I think a real strength of QR codes is bridging a non-digital screen (in the real world, like a print piece) to a digital screen (mobile). But last night, I saw one that was effective. And it was effective at extending the brand’s story. The fact that it originated from a digital screen to another digital screen was overshadowed by how it was actually used to unlock exclusive information and drive me deeper into the story. has always done a good job of generating interest in their “story,” even though it is one that has very little tie into the actual benefit of the brand and one that is intended for a very specific audience. But they’ve stuck to their story, and I’m sure the numbers would show they’ve been quite successful because of it. Well, last night, in middle of the football game, I see a QR code in a prominent position on the TV during a GoDaddy commercial.

GoDaddy QR Code

It’s another provocative commercial, of course, one that builds to an incomplete point in the story. You’re left wondering what comes next and the only way you can get it is to scan the QR code on the screen.

So, I did.

And I was directed to a mobile-optimized site where the rest of the story was front and center.

GoDaddy QR Code

So, I watched it and got the rest of the story. The payoff is what you would expect from any of these commercials. It’s kitchy and a bit silly.

But I think, fundamentally, they’re onto a really effective method of storytelling, which is intentionally breaking the story up across different channels and points in time. They want to drive you to the site and they’re using this story to do it. Arguably, quite effectively.

So, could they do this same thing with a URL? Yes. In fact, this is the same commercial that played during the Superbowl. I didn’t see it at the time, but I’m almost certain it did include a URL vs. a QR code.

That’s the lesson here. It’s not about the technology. QR codes can be seen as a more convenient URL. It’s about the story. The story is where the value is. The story is going to create fans. The story is the backbone. When the story is put front and center, technology merely enables a better or worse experience.

So the next time you want to plop a QR code on anything, be it a print piece or a TV commercial, think about the story that you want the consumer to experience and answer this question – is this QR code driving them deeper into that story?

If you’re just merely sending them to your website for “quick access,” then it doesn’t really matter what kind of technology you use. You’ll probably have better success just including the URL.

To see the TV commercial, here you go. To see the “extended” story, here you go.

4 thoughts on “Finally, QR Codes Used Right

  1. Sarah Athey

    Hi Mike, thanks for sharing your latest QR code experience with us. I totally agree with your findings, we recently blogged about QR codes ourselves. I personally get a little excited when I see a QR code but the pay-off is disappointing 99% of the time. I know you’ve blogged in the past about your feelings on QR codes being used on digital screens so it’s interesting that this was perhaps the best example you’ve come across yet. It strengthens your point that it’s all about the story. Brands need to reward users for making the effort to interact with some exclusive content or the like. It feels a little lazy when you just end up with a web page that offers nothing new. Nice post.

  2. Pingback: The CTIA Mobile Conference in San Diego, CA October 11-13 2011 and QR Codes tagged with a Keyword + QRtag! | QRRealtyTAG

  3. Biztag

    Hello Mike, great post. We found you by google {godaddy qrcode T.V.} I was reading your post and you said “I think a real strength of QR codes is bridging a non-digital screen (in the real world, like a print piece) to a digital screen (mobile)” and this is a good observation giving the current qr codes avialable in the market, however Biztag has created a new type of qr code called a qrtag which tags a qr code with a keyword! This will enable a whole new frontier of digital qrtags to develop. For Example, if you see a qr code/qrtag in print or digital medial and it has a keyword above the code called a mobileURL then you know you will be delivered to a consisten interface that is designed for all mobile interaction and in sync with the internet at the same time. In the event you dont have a chance to scan the code you can perform a keyword search using the business keyword/MobileURL. Thanks for the great article and we hope you will write about our product after you have a chance to review and use. launching October 15, 2011 after the CTIA Mobile Conference in San Diego, CA 2011

  4. Pingback: Social Media Integrations of 2012 | DragonSearch Marketing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.