By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
How do you like your QR Codes? With explanatory text or without? With the URL printed for the not-yet-QRC-enabled or not? It’s a choice that marketers have to make every time they add a QR Code to a marketing message.
For some time, best practices have said that marketers should add these explanations next to or below QR Codes for those who might not know what they are. This way, readers can respond to the offer whether they wish to read the codes with their mobile phones or not.
But there has been discussion recently about the value of “naked” QR Codes, or codes that are printed without explanatory text. They live alongside the marketing message much as URLs and 800 numbers do. Readers don’t need an explanation for how to log into a URL or dial a phone number. Increasingly, we are starting to see QR Codes handled the same way.
On one hand, the risk is that if you don’t include the explanation, you will lose people who aren’t familiar with QR Codes and don’t know what to do with them. But you can offset that by including other response mechanisms beyond QR Codes elsewhere in the text.
On the other hand, not only is the space cleaner and more graphically pleasing without explanatory text, but the lack of explanation can be used to qualify the audience. There is a difference between someone who is familiar with QR Codes and knows how to scan them (and does) and those who don’t. Such people are further along the technology adoption curve, which may be a demographic that the market is trying to hit. With a naked QR Code (or any type of 2d barcode), you can prequalify your respondent base.
Big brand marketers already do this with NFC tags. For high-end products, they will run NFC tags in magazine advertisements to find out which geographies contain the highest percentage of the high-income, tech-savvy respondent base they are going after. Then they use this information to further refine and target their advertising. QR Codes can be used the same way.
Another consideration is the desire to build a mobile audience. If this is part of your marketing plan, you may want the educational text as part of educating the not-yet-QRC-enabled audience as part of that forward-looking effort.
Whether you want your QR Codes to be clothed depends on the end goal you want to achieve.
Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor and author for nearly 20 years. If you want to know more about QR codes, Heidi has written two extensive reports: “QR codes: What You Need to Know” discusses QR codes in general, along with campaigns and best practices. “QR and Other Mobile Barcodes: The Data Speaks” aggregates all of the available data on QR and 2D barcodes in terms of usage, demographic patterns, media scanned, and so on.