QR Codes: Ask A Little, Give A Lot

Just below our 2nd office on Castle Street, there is a fantastic art space, Gallery Number One. It’s always filled with fabulous pieces of work, including rude gnomes (check out their front window to see what I mean) and incredible photography, including pieces by my namesake Ciarán Tully, which I absolutely love.

What’s really interesting about Gallery Number One is that it’s actually owned by a digital agency, ebow. I think it’s great that they’re doing something so creative, and could happily spend hours browsing around the gallery. And recently, I’ve spent a fair bit of time looking in from outside, because on all their windows, they’ve put up massive QR codes.

Considering that such a creative space was doing this, I had high hopes for what they might lead to. Unfortunately, when I actually checked, it simply linked to their website. And this is the problem with how so many brands are using QR codes and similar, still relatively unknown technologies: they ask a lot, and don’t give much back in return.

Take ebow’s for example.

The small card you can see under the QR code in the picture above tells people how to search for a QR reader app, to download it and then to use it to photograph the code. Imagine you’re a normal person (i.e. not a geek who knows what these things are and already has a reader downloaded). You’d be downloading it on a network, rather than wifi connection, so it will be slow (and could cost a fortune). You then have to stand there, waiting, before taking a photo which leads you to a website – something that you could have done in a matter of seconds if the URL has simply been written on the window.

In other words, the consumer puts a lot in, and doesn’t really get anything in return. Not only would this be annoying, but it’s probably likely to make a first-time user of QR codes wary of making the effort again. It’s a modern case of the boy who cried wolf.

For an example of how best to use QR codes, let’s look at American comedian Jimmy Fallon (already the subject of a famous video meme a few years ago which you can find if you search for Sarah Silverman Matt Damon, but not if you don’t like bad language). On a recent episode of his show, he & fellow comedian Stephen Colbert performed a version of Rebecca Black’s Friday, itself a full fledged meme. In the background, one member of the cast waves around a large QR code.

Anyone who followed this found a secret video in which Fallon congratulated them for being a geek, whilst holding up a QR code. Which was different to the original one, and led to another ‘Easter egg‘.

In this, he tells the viewer that they’re “pretty, pretty cool“. And again, he holds up a QR code. And, again, it’s different.

And this time, he tells the viewer just how nerdy they are. And I’m not sure he means it as a compliment. But, do you know what? It doesn’t matter, because it’s funny.

So, if you’re thinking of using QR codes, please think about what your consumer will get out of it? Will it be a parade of hilarious Easter eggs? Or something that they could have got with a lot less effort using different functionality? I’m hoping that next time ebow put QR codes up in their amazing gallery, it will lead to some exclusive sketch or photo, because in that case, I’ll definitely be back for more.

UPDATE: In the comments Dave points out that I got the URL wrong. Apparently the QR code went to http://www.digitalagencydublin.com

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