QR Codes are a tough sell in social media circles. Despite this, the average consumer surely sees multiple codes a day scattered on business cards, ads on walls, magazines, newspapers, billboards, TV ads, and even restaurant menus. In recent research from ScanLife, a popular QR Scanning App, the data not only shows consumers scanning when they are on the go, but even when they are at home! If that doesn’t indicate increasing comfort with the convenience of the QR method of communication, I am not sure what does.

Why do so many oppose them in the social marketing field? The QR code may seem “boring” to a graphic artist, or annoying to a social marketer, but to the average consumer armed with a smart phone and a scan app, I’d go as far as say it can be magical.  You never know what lies behind the code until you see it.

Go ahead, scan me 🙂  ~Wasn’t that fun?

The State of Mobile

According to Cisco‘s Mobile Forecast Highlights, in North America, the number of smartphones grew 58% during 2011, reaching 138 million in number. They further predict, in their VNI Mobile Forecast Highlights, 2011 – 2016 that in North America, the number of smartphones will grow 1.8-fold between 2011 and 2016, reaching 253 million. Why is the potential application of QR coding important? Look at it as your added opportunity to entice the mobile user, to connect somewhere that everyone is becoming increasingly more comfortable.

According to a recent Scanlife report  in the second quarter of 2012, the company’s QR codes got 16 million scans, almost 10 million more than what it saw in the second quarter of 2011. in addition the rate of scans per minute Scanlife is seeing has increased by 5 times compared to the same time last year. You can check out a pretty awesome infographic here.

Why Aren’t You Seizing The Opportunity?

QR Codes are one of the easiest ways for consumers to easily  respond to an ad, and get the information they are looking for. They allow the opportunity to get your prospect to the link you want  fast.

In addition, with the increased ability to make QR code links dynamic (changing with need), from an advertising stand point, it allows for investment in one graphic, that can be changed as the need arises. There is a huge advantage there for small businesses to get more mileage without having to invest in a constantly changing artwork. The magic doesn’t happen on the ad, it happens when the code gets scanned – where it goes can delight and surprise the consumer, and at the very least, provide them with the courtesy of not making them type in web addresses to get where they are going. In today’s world convenience is golden, the easier you make it, the more likely you are to have results.

2006 Edmonton Champ Car RuSPORT 11  Photo credit: TnT Photo (used with Permission)

Raising the Bar : QR Codes on the Race Track

We’ve covered a few very basic and standard ideas in QR coding, most of them revolve around ads. Brands also see strong results with contests and giveaways. What if we took QR to the next level?  A very personal level, and one that truly embodies the social media aspect as opposed to flat advertising?

Jonathan “Brew” Brewer, Director of Awesome at Meet‐Meme, a Social Trading Card company asked himself the same question and what he came up with was fantastic. It all started when event promoter Andretti Sports Marketing invited 26 social media influencers from the Milwaukee area and paired each one with an IZOD IndyCar Series driver.  Justin Wilson, winner of the 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona and established IndyCar star, is one of Britain’s most talented racing drivers. Brew, became Justin’s social media shadow for the weekend at Milwaukee IndyFest. It wasn’t long before Justin and Brew started talking about how they might work together after the race.

QR For Relationship Building and Personal Branding

Justin Wilson isn’t just all about fast cars, like any good sports star, he is also about the fans. Long before social media, connecting with all your fans was impossible for celebrities, but with a little creativity and some social media savvy, Justin’s found a happy middle ground through his new and innovative partnership with Brew:


“When I met Brew at Milwaukee I knew right away that he and Meet‐Meme had something special to offer. It’s exciting to be partnering with them and to offer fans a quick and easy way to engage on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube as well as my website. It’s also great to have Brew’s ongoing advice on how we can get the most out of all our social media activity.”

As part of the campaign, Brew created a QR Code for Justin so that when fans would see him, they could scan the code and instantly become connected to Justin’s personal blog and other sites. A great way for fans to say “I met Justin in person!”

“We live in a world that is connecting itself to one another faster than ever before.  Think back 20-30 years ago – did you ever write a fan letter to an athlete or rock star?  Remember how it felt when they wrote back?  If that star actually took the time to drop a personal
note – my guess is that you went from fan to fanatic.  One simple action turned you into a free promoter.  Nowadays, not many people
write fan letters – but they do tweet and write comments on Facebook walls”, Brew explained.

“The #indyfest 26 was a great idea and showed how creative use of social media can bring new fans to the IZOD IndyCar Series,”
~Justin Wilson

Using the QR code to really create an opportunity for engagement and allow fans to really get to know Justin, was a huge advantage in Brew’s  strategy, taking the QR use to a much deeper and more interesting level than what we have been seeing so far.

Does Personal Branding Take Away from Sponsorship Branding?

I wondered how Justin’s sponsors might view this strategy. Traditionally logos on sports stars clothes and race cars have been for the advertising brands. Do you think this shift to a personal brand is going to take away from that? The Olympics, for example have made guidelines to protect themselves by potentially “stripping” some of the personality of their sports stars with strict guidelines – all to “protect” their image and investing brands. Is this idea of promoting Justin and taking up advertising space with his own QR “logo” going to hurt advertisers? Or is it an opportunity for a deeper engagement and more genuine interactions for his supporting brands?

 “This completely supports the advertisers in ensuring a way for people to not only see Justin as he speeds by, but to snap a link to really get to know him – via the code which ties in with all his personal pages. Where the brands will be prominently displayed or highlighted. It extends the experience and allows the opportunity for people to keep that moment going – long after the event is gone.” -Johnathan Brewer.

I asked  Josepf Haslam, Business Development at Dragon Search Marketing the same question, he added some insight into the profile of racing fans, which also makes Brew’s strategy very interesting: “Racing fans typically have a favorite driver, they follow that driver– if anything, it will strengthen the relationships more than if it were just a logo. This is a way to get those brands in front of these passionate fans and get more brand impressions.”

Brew also added, “Advertisers have an excellent opportunity to connect with new people through these personal brand networks.  For example – Sonny’s BBQ is prominently displayed on Justin’s racing suit.  I *love* Sonny’s BBQ. I also am a fan of Justin. Together, this advertising recipe is delicious.  It becomes even more powerful when I am part of Justin’s personal network. When I’m cheering for Justin, I’m also reminded from time to time about Sonny’s. If I had never been to Sonny’s before, I may just step inside for a meal – because don’t we all experience new establishments based on our friend’s recommendations?”

The Future of QR Could Be A Lot More Social

The personal connections Justin Wilson is forming by using the QR code in this way is awesome. Logos giving way to codes that not only reinforce the relationship with the sponsoring brands, but find new ways to help fans connect in easy ways with the driver.  It’s not only a way to build the relationships further and keep the excitement going once they are well off the track, but it’s a great way to combine social media with a form of advertising that might otherwise be a lot more shallow.

This is an outstanding way for Justin to give a little extra back to his fans. Isn’t that what being a real star is all about?

The Little Extras Make All The Difference.

Technology gives us a tool, but it’s really the creativity in branding that allow people like Jonathan Brewer to truly push technology in how they use it in strategy and development. Perhaps the reasons those in the online marketing community have disliked the QR codes are because they are only seeing the black and white picture instead of the true color that you really get when you scan and see what lays behind it. Perhaps it is time for us to open our minds on the QR debate. Brew took it to the racetrack, where are you taking it?

“2006 Edmonton Champ Car RuSPORT 11”  Photo credit:  TnT Photo with Permission

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