Last year, professional services consulting firm Grant Thornton ran a print advertisement that displayed a QR code. This campaign illustrates how companies are not paying attention to the technology itself, as well as some marketing-related flaws.
First, the code fails. The code used in the campaign was very dense, which means that the modules that make up the code were very small and packed closely together. When a code is too dense, often times it is difficult or impossible to scan with a smartphone. For this reason, less dense or simple codes are considered to be a best practice. Instead of using a 103-character URL (http://www.gtwhatwins.com/?utm_source=fastcompany&utm_medium=print&utm_content=ps&utm_campaign=whatwins), Grant Thornton could have shortened it to as few as 20 characters (http://bit.ly/LlDaME). By using this shortened URL, the code would have been much cleaner to scan and, atheistically, more pleasing to the eye.
Second, the call-to-action fails. Many 2D-based campaigns neglect to include a meaningful call-to-action in relation to the code, and this leads to a major failure. Yes, this campaign has a call-to-action that reads, "See what wins at gtwhatwins.com." But this has nothing to do with the QR code. Instead of driving readers to the URL address, why not drive them to scan the code? That's what it's there for, is it not? The URL address can and should be displayed so that readers of the advertisement who don't have a smart phone can still access the website and interact with the company. However, the URL address should not be the focal point. Could there be more than one call-to-action? Sure. But the creative and layout just needs to make sense.
Third, the scan resolve and content behind the code fails. Once scanned, the reader of this advertisement is brought to a mobile page, but the one-minute video that is on the page is not optimized for mobile. This too is a huge reason QR code strategies fail. If an interactive mobile-based technology is being used (i.e., a 2D bar code) then any content that is associated with the use of such technology should be optimized for mobile. It's that simple. Also, on the mobile landing page, there is a "click here" button that brings the reader of the advertisement back to the desktop version of the company's website. Why? Why build a mobile page and not leverage that page for all it's worth?