How to Use QR Codes the Right Way


Are QR codes just a fad that marketers care more about than consumers? Or are they an essential tool that gives meaningful benefits to the people who use them? The answer, of course, is in what you do with them. I’ve used them effectively for clients. I’ve also seen outdoor ads on the highway with big QR codes. Really? In this age of “don’t text and drive” someone wants you to get out your phone and scan a QR code as you fly down the highway at 70 mph? 

Last week, I saw a presentation that blew me away with an amazingly well-planned, multi-dimensional use of QR codes. I was at the Brand Camp University Detroit conference, and wedged between two wildly dynamic speakers was a corporate sponsor presentation by GMC Trucks guy, John Gasloli. First off, I thought you couldn’t get a less sexy auto brand than GMC trucks. Secondly, amidst dynamic speakers that roamed the stage and commanded attention, Gasloli’s style was pure large corporate management style. He stood behind the lectern with a word heavy PowerPoint presentation. I was prepared to spend some quality time scanning my TweetDeck columns. But then a funny thing happened. Good content trumped style points. It turned out to be my favorite presentation, in terms of what I learned. 

Making QR Codes Integral to Your Marketing

The first thing, when it comes to using QR codes right, is to make sure they have a purpose and are fully integrated into your plan. Gasloli talked about how their customers where quiet and confident, lived with a purpose and had a passion for details. They connected with GMC’s innovation and technology. They believed that anything worth doing was worth doing well. So, to connect with their core audience, GMC wanted to feature their innovations and technologies in a unique and interactive way. 

What they did was completely revamp how they did their product catalogs. They added QR codes throughout it to make it an interactive, multi-media experience. The QR codes connect people with engaging materials, with shopping tools, with product info, with social media channels and more. 

Create Engagement with QR Codes

Where the presentation really got interesting is when Gasloli started showing how they were engaging their core customers with the QR codes and great content. They shot a series of 4-minute mini documentaries featuring the kind of people who were in their target market doing things they were passionate about. Each video showed an inspirational story of real people using GMC’s professional grade products to accomplish their goals. Probably the best of the bunch, which he showed during his presentation, was about the Texas Stampede wheelchair rugby team. You can watch the video below.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohh5lMB_BYM&w=560&h=315]

Show Product Features with QR Codes

Another thing GMC did with their catalogs was to create 3 – 4 second videos that showed product features. So, if you were reading about a product feature, like the automatic lift back gate, instead of trying to imagine what it was like you could scan the QR code and see it in action. That is much more compelling than simply reading about it.

Connect to Useful Selling Tools with QR Codes

One of the more compelling uses of QR codes in their catalogs was to provide tools that were both helpful to the customer and made it more likely that they bought your product. GMC created a number of mobile friendly tools that the catalog QR codes connected to. If you were on a page that had the specs for a specific vehicle, you could scan in the code and it will take you to the page on their site that featured that vehicle. Then you can find a dealer near you that has the vehicle. They have QR codes that will take you to a tool that allows you to put in your zip code and find what deals are available in your area and where you can get them. There’s also a QR code to a tool that helps you find the dealership nearest you. And everywhere on the mobile site has sharing tools, so you can share what you find with your social networks.

Interesting QR Code Facts

At the end of his presentation, Gasloli showed us some interesting facts they’d found on QR codes: 

  •  52% of consumers asked had heard of QR codes
  • 80% of all camera ready phones had QR accessibility
  • 64% of QR code users are female
  • 87% QR code users are looking for more product info
  • 6% of users said that the use of the QR Code led to a purchase

After seeing the presentation, I thought GMC’s use of QR Codes was the best use of them I’d seen. GMC committed to the use of QR codes, fully integrated them into their campaign, made them useful to the customers and used them in a variety of ways to connect with their community and offer assistance in the information gathering/buying process. How about you? Where have you seen QR codes put to good use or used horribly wrong? I’d love to hear what you think and what you’ve found.