I have written numerous times about the integration of QR codes into traditional media channels. The majority of these posts focused on the heightened engagement that can be forged by extending one’s content experience via 2D barcodes. This, of course, led to pondering the utility of QR codes to digital out-of-home media networks. With the right call-to-action, targeted to an optimal demographic group, QR codes can find success as bridges to more expansive brand connections.

In order to fulfill their potential, QR codes need to be given the opportunity to be successful. What I mean is that brands and retailers must think strategically in regards to when, where, and how they utilize QR codes. It’s when QR codes are treated as little more than stickers that 2D barcode programs prove ineffective.

The most critical component of any QR code campaign is the content that lies beyond the tag. The content unlocked by reading a QR code needs to be of significant value to a consumer. If the payoff isn’t compelling, consumers will not scan. On the other hand, if the QR code opens up an innovative and engaging experience, one that exceeds consumers’ expectations, then everyone wins.

The phrase, “content is king,” plays an important role in the practice of QR codes.
“I know this is an old saying, but it still holds true with 2D bar coding,” Ms. Kim-Williams, senior global media strategist of the Startup Business Group at Microsoft, said. “You have to provide end users with compelling content at the end of a scan.”

“If the content isn’t seen as valuable to the scanner, there is a high likelihood they won’t come back for more,” she said. (via Mobile Marketer)

QR codes are making their way into a range of different media types. Advertisers are finding the media rich tags to be great resources for driving brand loyalty and sales. As identified in a recent New York Times article, television networks are finding positive results by integrating the technology into specific programs. Heineken has realized success from its QR code initiative, in which 2D barcodes tagged with exclusive content were printed on all product packaging for its flagship Heineken and Heineken Light products.

Retailers, specifically, can give visitors to their brick and mortar stores immediate access to the same types of in-depth product information they have come to expect online.
“[Tags can be used to] integrate sales channels for a unified experience,” Ms. Kim-Williams said. “Connect various sales channels, including your brick and mortar stores, online stores, and catalogs to provide a more cohesive experience for shoppers.”

Building off of the commentary from Microsoft’s Ms. Kim-Williams, brands such as Jones New York and Simmons Bedding Co. have used QR codes within their POP merchandising to enhance the shopping experience, with positive results. Jones New York implemented Microsoft Tags to direct consumers down the purchase funnel, from selecting a suit to styling it.

A recent report from QR code technology provider Scanbuy supports the strong results achieved in the aforementioned projects. Among the key findings:

There were more barcode scans performed in a single month starting in July than in all of 2009, highlighting the technology’s growth as an ad vehicle. Scanning via the company’s barcode system has increased 700% from the start of 2010.