Every day I see more QR Codes being used, badly. At first, maybe as recently as the beginning of this year, a QR code was still a novelty. But the bloom is off the rose with these codes, and now its poor use is starting to annoy me and its time we all did something about it. Let's make a commitment here and now to support better QR code advertising. Read on to find out what the heck I am complaining about.
There is an advertisement today in the Wall Street Journal, on page B4, in the lower left hand corner, for Rockauto.com, which is apparently an aftermarket auto parts supplier. I am placing in this article. The QR Code does scan in my reproduction, but you don't need to scan the ad, just note that it has no "call to action".
What is a "call to action"? Very simply, it is a reason that the user should scan that QR code.
A call to action could be an offer of a discount off the first order by a new customer, an offer of a free giveaway item (calendar, pen, other tzotchke), an offer to provide unspecified coupons in the future - and so on, if someone will take the time and effort to scan the QR code and provide his/her email address.
QR Codes are still at the novelty point for many consumers. Since only a small portion of the population has a smart phone, most people have never scanned a code. But, if as an advertiser you are using them now, the novelty has already worn off for users with smartphones. Ergo, the use of the QR code has to be a little more intelligent than it was last year.
How valuable is a call to action? I looked briefly on the Internet for some statistics. I couldn't find anything conclusive. Then I pulled out my well worn copy of "Ogilvy On Advertising" (maybe one of the best books ever written on advertising) and briefly scanned that, again, no details. Let me just say that its going to be much higher than in an advertisement without it. It's kind of like the difference between a salesperson who asks for the order, and a salesperson who just shows a brochure. The former is going to make more sales!
In summary, if you are going to be paying for an advertisement, don't just slap a QR code on it. Give people a small reason to scan the QR code. Even better, run the same advertisement multiple times with a different call to action. What works best? A coupon, or a gift, or a 10 page free guide to do it yourself auto repair (for example)? Test, test, test. The QR Code is the greatest tool for advertisers to show up in about twenty years. Use it!
For more info on RockAuto - visit their website. (memo to RockAuto: Sorry to pick on you guys - you're probably a great company, and if I ever need parts you'll be the first website I go to. By the way, David Ogilvy is not keen on reverse type. How about testing some new ads with a call to action, and less reverse type. I see your ads in the WSJ all the time. Mix it up a little. Show us something new.)