Cracking the code

By Robert Ford, Head of Digital at Summersault Communications

Magazines, newspapers, billboard ads, TV ads, packaging, video games and even clothing. QR codes are everywhere, worldwide.

They have already been used by brands such as Pepsi Max, Calvin Klein, Audi and Sky TV. So why are they now being used so widely in marketing and can they be used in B2B and internal communications?

QR is short for Quick Response, describing a code that can be scanned quickly by a smartphone. QR codes use both horizontal and vertical barcodes to store maximum data. By scanning the code, the user will be taken to a linked website or series of pages containing additional content, such as a special offer, event, or product details, in a variety of formats.

Essentially, a QR code is helping to drive a call to action — for instance, to respond to a purchasing opportunity, to attend an event or to apply for a job — by providing more information than can reasonably be included in the initial communication.

QR codes can be used in a number of ways by businesses, regardless of their size. A QR code can sit alongside a product or service advertised on a website, containing further details and how to order. The codes can support marketing activity by containing details of relevant promotions, special offers, competitions and events. It can be used on a business card, allowing the recipient to download the contact details quickly and efficiently, and ensuring that important information is not lost.

The benefits for a company are clear. The use of QR codes prolongs the interaction between the user and business, and brings the brand to life. The company can also evaluate the process by generating valuable analytics showing the click-throughs.

The response to QR codes so far is promising, with particularly strong take-up among young people. Joint research by Joule and Kinetic Worldwide shows that almost 40% of consumers across all age groups are now familiar with the interactive matrix barcodes, with 12% of consumers having successfully scanned a QR code with their mobile phone camera. This figure increases to 20% among 18-24 year olds and 15% for 25-34 year olds.

We attracted the attention of Marketing Week readers and explored the link between print and digital with a specially designed advert: a blank page with a QR code bearing our logo.

This stimulated an increase in visitors to the company website, some from the link found on the landing page. The result was double the usual average number of visitors on the website in the two days after the magazine came out, with an average time of one minute on the landing page.

That’s a minute of extra attention from one advert, rather than just a few seconds as it is skipped past in the magazine.

At the moment, QR codes in the UK have yet to attain the widespread use they enjoy in Japan, where they originated. In Japan, a code on a piece of jewellery can store details of blood type, allergies and medical conditions. There are even codes on gravestones linking to memorial websites and virtual guest-books! Although the UK is currently far behind in the use of such applications, the major part that QR codes can play and the massive scope for expanding the usage in external and internal communications is very clear.

Robert Ford is Head of Digital at Summersault Communications, an award-winning employee, customer and business communications specialist.