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QR Codes in Marketing Natural ProductsQR Codes in Marketing Natural Products

September 12, 2011

5 Min Read
QR Codes in Marketing Natural Products

by Wes Bentley

By now, youve probably seen those funny postage-stamp-sized, pixilated, black and white codes in an ad or on a point-of-sale (POS) display somewhere. Maybe youve wondered if you should use them in your marketing and whether they will be effective. The answer is yes and yes.

Theyre called QR codes and theyre as easy to create as a consumer can scan them, giving the target audience an easy way to interact with the brand. QR stands for quick response. The code was invented by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in Japan, and it is available to use for free and without a license. QR codes have been popular in Japan for many years, and they are just now catching on in the United States.

Scanning a QR code requires the download of one of the many available QR code reader apps for any smartphone; users then scan the code, and are directed to the website or other information the code contains. The code can be generated via any number of free websites. The code can lead to a website, business card contact information or other information. Software is also available for the PC to create QR codes.

Now that you know how to get the technology, lets discuss how to use it. While QR codes can be used on virtually anything, that doesnt mean they should. Likewise, its important to consider what the code will link to when scanned. The user should benefit from scanning the code. For example, we recently conducted a focus group with one of our clients in the consumer packaged goods industry. The group consisted of women who were the primary buyers of food for their households. When asked about QR codes on food packaging, the majority of them said they were too busy to scan the code in the supermarket. But, they said they would scan it if it contained a coupon.

This example suggests QR codes can widen the path to purchase in the packaged foods retail environment. But space may be limited on dietary supplement packaging. An alternative might be to put the code on a shelf talker, endcap or other POS display in the store.

Another application of QR codes in a POS display is at a trade show or event. Suppose the sales reps are busy with other customers when a prospect approaches the booth. Rather than waiting, the prospect could scan the QR code and enter a cell phone number. Then, the sales rep can call the prospect back and be waiting when the prospect returns. Sort of like a high-tech take-a-number machine. Or the QR code could link to a form the prospect could fill in with the specific product information he or she is seeking.

QR codes are being used creatively in advertising as well. They have been used in broadcast ads and websites as a fun way to get the audience to interact with the brand, such as to find the answer to a riddle or find out how a story ends. Use them in print or direct mail ads to offer a coupon or promotion, or to link to a Web page with engaging product information. For example, a sports-drink brand may link the QR code to a site with workout videos.

A good ad campaign should include some method of tracking performance, and the QR code has it. Software is available that provides analytics on any given QR campaign, such as the number of scans, the geographic location of the scans, the phone models that were used and more. Reviewing these analytics after a campaign can help increase the effectiveness of subsequent campaigns.

By now, the process is starting to sound easy: Get the code, use the code, users scan the code. Well, its not quite so simple. Microsoft has entered the QR code space by creating its own code called Tag. You can create and read Tags just like you would create and read QR codes, except you need to download Microsofts app. The app is free, it runs on all major phone platforms and the analytics are free.

The Tag code offers a few advantages over the QR code. One is a Tag code can be printed much smaller than a QR code, which saves valuable real estate on the ad, package, etc. Another advantage is the Tag code is customizable. For example, Road & Tracks Tag represents a steering wheel. Also, Tags can deliver location-specific content, which means the same Tag can deliver different content depending on where the user is when scanning the code.

With these two versions of smart phone codes, it may become like the textbook case study of Beta versus VHS. Both may exist simultaneously until one winner emerges. Who that will be is hard to tell. QR codes have the advantage of being license-free; they can be created and read by a number of different apps; and many different companies make the analytics software. Microsoft Tag, on the other hand, is a closed source, and you have to go through them to get a code and the analytics.

QR codes offer a targeted audience a convenient shortcut to your brand. Its a route they will likely take if there is a benefit waiting when they get there.

Wes Bentley is the principal at Halogen (www.halogen-design.com), an advertising and graphic design agency that helps clients grow their brands through unique, effective and highly personalized services. Contact Bentley at (714) 838-1955 or [email protected] .

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