QR Codes are Everywhere…but What About Relevance?

QR codes are popping up on all sorts of advertising, as marketers seek to bridge offline advertising and the Internet.  These codes are the not so subtle bar code type images found lately on billboards, print ads and all sorts of other advertising.  Recently I saw one on a placemat at a local diner.  You know the kind — the coffee stained paper placemats with business card sized ads for local businesses.  Check this out:  an ad with a QR code for Michael Garden, a Philadelphia based real estate broker, found on said placemat.

The problem in this example is that there is no other branding for Mr. Garden.  No words describing him and nothing even alluding to his profession.  And yes, I get the point about minimalism:  intrigue people, arouse their curiosity and generate interest.  But come on.  As if we are all going to 1) stop eating our meals to install a QR code reading app on our mobile devices, 2) scan the ad on the placemat and 3) visit and read the web site.

I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Garden, who is to be applauded for experimenting with new marketing tactics.  But this approach reminds me of what I’ll call “Marketing A.D.D.” (as in Attention Deficit Disorder).  People with Marketing A.D.D are early adopters of new marketing technology —  always trying to be on the cutting edge they try the new simply because it is new.  Again, it’s great to experiment, and I always encourage experimental innovations that blaze new trails.  But there’s a difference between experimentation and blindly jumping on a bandwagon.  People with Marketing A.D.D. should know that all executions should do one of three things:

1. reinforce and strengthen a brand

2. motivate the target audience to take some action or

3. set up another effort in a broader campaign

When planning for shiny new tactics like QR codes, marketers should stop and press the pause button to think about the audience and how they’ll interact with the thing that’s shiny and new. Also, how far along the adoption curve is the audience is for what is being considered?  It might be tempting to try advertising on a mobile ad network, for example, but if only 2% of the audience visits your web site from a mobile browser what’s the point?  (Unless of course there are metrics showing a disproportionate level of repeat traffic from mobile web site visitors).  But I digress.  The point is QR codes are everywhere.  Apparently so is Marketing A.D.D.

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