Bouncing around with QR codes

Jenny Stanley, MD at Appetite Creative looks at the renaissance of thre QR code, and offers advice on how best to deploy them.

Now a universal tool, scanning QR codes has become second nature to consumers. From checking into venues and ordering food and drink in restaurants, to boarding aeroplanes and logging into online accounts. Already utilised by brands on packaging, from wine and soft drinks to milk and yoghurt, the humble QR code has reached a tipping point for marketers. Late to the party, but making increasing strides, is the TV advertising industry.

From a Coinbase QR code bouncing across the TV screen at the Super Bowl to Burger King’s QR Whopper, TV ads have joined the QR code renaissance. Not just a fad, these brands are seeing impactful results as they foray into the world of QR codes. Coinbase purportedly spent $13 million dollars on its now famed Super Bowl ad which generated 20 million visitors and boosted its crypto app downloads by 279 per cent. US fast food chain Chick-fil-A boosted downloads of its mobile app by 14 per cent and Steakhouse chain Blackrock Bar & Grill saw a 27 per cent redemption rate for a scannable mobile coupon shown on restaurant TVs for a pilot program during Mother’s Day weekend.

Broadcasters are watching with interest and investing in their own solutions to enable more brands to cash in on the humble QR code. In March, ITV launched its QR code service which includes generation, implementation, tracking and overlay production and is available for both linear and ITV Hub ads. So far, it’s been used by advertisers including Iceland, Ancestry and Pandora. It follows hot on the heels of NBC Universal’s new ad unit that allows viewers to buy – directly from their phone – products featured on the show they’re watching. NBCU’s ShoppableTV connects the programming on your living room TV with a shopping experience on your phone.

Sky Media announced last year that it will begin adding QR codes to TV ads that will, for example, allow retailers to promote exclusive offers to people that have seen and responded to that ad. Claiming that a QR code gives a 30 per cent higher response rate than industry benchmarks for digital ads.

So, what does this mean for advertisers? At Appetite Creative, we’ve been working on connected experiences accessed via QR codes for years, and we’ve repeatedly seen the positive impact QR codes can make to a brand. Their uses are multifunctional and instantly accessible. From first-party data collection and sales, to improving and rewarding customer loyalty. If you haven’t woven QR codes into your marketing plans, then you’re more than likely missing out.

By scanning the code using a smartphone camera, users are typically taken to a browser-based app, offering product information, discount codes, competitions and interactive games or augmented reality (AR) experiences. QR codes unlock an entirely new, unique, and branded digital world or connected experience. From interactive games and fun competitions, vouchers and prizes, data collection and information sharing, connected experiences encourage customer loyalty and repeat visits, and delivers a direct interactive relationship between brands and its customers.

The different layers of data these connected experiences can deliver, from age, gender, and location to product preferences, can help brands build a unique and in-depth picture of consumer behaviours. This insight can be invaluable, assisting brands to better understand their target audiences, but also reach them more efficiently, building engagement. Whether that is younger mobile-first audiences, or vertical-specific product fans, this data and analysis can guide both product and marketing strategies.

Connected experiences are a great way to share key product information, or inspiration in the form of product recipes and how to videos. Once customers are hooked, marketing campaigns can also be carried out via connected experiences to inform new product development or help improve an advertising campaign. The content can also be updated easily. It can be used as a loyalty card and to collect and redeem sampling vouchers. It’s an incredibly versatile media channel – as well as being agile, responsive, and able to deliver customer data in real-time.

Our work often utilises competitions, which can be very sticky and encourage customer loyalty and repeat visits, but there are so many other opportunities. These include tutorials or virtual product testing for beauty products, market research using questions and polls targeted directly at customers and sharing product instructions, for example how to take a medicine or how to use personal care products such as teeth whitening strips or face masks. We have also been helping brands communicate their sustainability goals or programs through connected experiences, educating, and involving the consumer in the sustainability focused campaign.

You can, of course, also buy products via QR codes too. Payment through cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana plus many more, are being increasingly adopted by businesses which gives retailers simple payment options through QR codes. Found on a website or at the point of sale in store, the QR code gives customers a payment experience powered entirely by blockchain technology.

Recent research into brands using connected experiences showed that over half (54 per cent) of respondents claim to have already incorporated them into their marketing plans. So, whether it’s via a TV ad, digital campaign or via packaging, QR codes open up a raft of compelling opportunities for both advertisers and consumers alike.

When incorporating QR codes into your ad think about what you want to achieve. How is going to help achieve your objectives? Is it going to add value? The recent Pandora ad demonstrates a clunky and poor user experience – the QR code didn’t add anything of value. Whereas the Coinbase ad was fun, interactive and packed to the brim with nostalgia. If the QR code isn’t doing anything, then don’t include it. It’s also important to include a time limit on the activation or offer to increase immediate appeal and ensure users click on the code in a timely fashion.

Make sure the QR code links through to something interesting. Your website or social media isn’t ever something you should redirect customers to – no one wants to be taken to a website which they can easily find on their own. If you’re not sure what the experience should be, don’t be afraid to test and learn with different types of connected experiences. Finally, be sure to check and test your experience thoroughly before including it in an ad – it needs to work seamlessly to offer the best possible user experience.

We’re all now using QR codes as part of our daily life without a second thought – and we’re delighted to adopt them for purchasing products, quickly accessing information, and enriching our lives. We’re also happy to share our personal data in exchange for a value add of discount vouchers, first look access, games and much more. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, and we’re yet to see how QR codes will truly impact our lives, but brands and broadcasters are now taking them seriously, as seen across all our screens large and small.