SXSW interactive is a real world early adopter laboratory that gives you a preview of how social technologies could work when adoption reaches critical mass. Because so many at sxswi are early adopters, attendees experienced early versions of the addictive and powerful nature of 4 square and twitter years before they became mainstream. This is one of the best aspects of SXSW!
Emerging technologies also reveal their drawbacks at sxwi, and 2011 challenged my belief in QR codes. The codes were added everywhere, on flyers, and shirts of hundreds of new companies and bands trying to stand out.
With enthusiasm, I tried the first three QR codes that caught my eye, but was quickly disappointed in each experience. Several bands used the QR code to simply link you to the same band website printed on the flyer (duh). One QR code promised an “Awesome” prize if i scanned it, but then the qr code lead me to a form where I needed to fill out a lot of info to enter to win something. Not ideal standing on a busy street corner in Austin.
Enthusiasm turned to frustration after a few bad experiences and after just a few hours, I had QR code blindness and for the rest of the trip, I didn’t try another code.
A QR code requires more attention than a passive promotion. Mobile is a harder medium to work with. It takes your potential fan or customer time to open the app, scan the code, and wait for content to load, so it better be worth the extra time. Your contest, website, or free download is not any better because you uses a QR code to get it to me!
Think of it this way – a qr code is a light switch and your consumer interaction is the lighting! – focus on the perfect light, not thw switch! The QR code will simply turn it on. If QR codes are going to get adoption marketers and advertisers need to establish thems as a true value creator.
Here are a few guidelines from my experience creating QR codes for Artists and using them as a consumer.
1.) Its not a shortcut! QR codes require planing, context, and rewards.
2.) The “power” of the QR experience is unlocked when the qr code triggers a reward or value quickly
3.) The “magic” of the QR code experience is unlocked when you combine this instant reward or value with something that is context and location aware!
4.) Use the QR code to take advantage of mobile devices power (camera, gps, other apps, location). Dont try to use it to duplicate traditional internet only (unless the content the code turns on is absolutley AMAZING)
5.) “Good enough to share” is the litmus test for your offer. Build in Share. Anyone who takes the time to use a QR code, and is pleased, will share. Most of your views will come from the shares, not the QR code scans.
With no quality control and a few bad experiences under my belt, Im going to think twice about taking action as a consumer. As a marketer, I’m still intrigued. Put in some extra thought and planning, and we’ll all benefit!