Many of these strategies are available today through the use of Text Message Short Codes ("text 'AID' to 19304"), or point of sale purchasing using credit card 'fast passes'. But most of these technologies, however convenient, come at an incredible cost to the purveyor.
Enter the QR Barcode. A seemingly elegant, albeit unattractive, solution to the problem of how to engage smartphone users. All one has to do is open the barcode reader on his or her phone, scan the code and receive all manner of content provided by the code's creator. Easy, right? Well, perhaps not so much...
The problem is that the codes are SO easy to produce that these abstract little squares have turned up everywhere in society, and have flooded the landscape before the technology was even adopted by the general population. Even I, as QR enthusiast, only scan a handful in a year. The reason being, is that simply slapping one of these on the bottom of a print ad, or painting one on the side of a building isn't a sufficient motivator for a smartphone user to dig into one's pocket, load the app, allow it to focus, all to be brought to boring or irrelevant content. If you're not inspiring your audience, how can you expect to engage their curiosity long enough to go through the aforementioned steps? It would be like a newspaper with a front page headline that simply said "READ THIS".
The answer is find ways to entice the user to buy into the process. This could be done as simply as throwing a giant barcode on the side of your food truck and linking it to your online menu. You could also feature your barcode in a print ad that specifically states "Scan this code and receive 20% off!"
But my favorite method, that designers have recently taken to, is to create a piece of art out of the code. A free-standing image that is not only functional, but aesthetic as well. Here are a number of creative examples that prove affordable marketing can still be effective.
Here's a concept utilizing the unaltered barcode in a larger graphic. The scene is creative, but the barcode itself is not very eye-catching. This would work well inside a full layout, but doesn't stand very well alone.
In this example, the Santa Claus and Rudolph characters are fun, but don't inspire a sense of inquiry. I'm not compelled to find out what vapid consumerism lies behind these icons.
The following barcodes better represent a healthy balance between form and function. These artists all developed an interesting graphic with full color and style; that not only entices, but is aesthetically pleasing at the same time.
Completely wild, crazy and totally eye catching. If you didn't know any better you wouldn't even realize this even is a barcode.
Can't you just picture this code being displayed in the bakery of your local grocer? No visible text is required to motivate the viewer to action. A brilliant use of chocolate and white chocolate chips on a cookie culminates in some very 'mouth-watering marketing'.
This design almost reminds me of a piece of East Asian spiritual folk art. Not only beautiful, but commanding of one's attention.
This design seems to hearken back to the cultish following of brands like Sanrio's "Hello Kitty". If you were an eleven year old Japanese girl, this might be a very effective ad.
If the previous examples seem too esoteric for your business' purposes, consider what these artists have done with their barcodes. An interesting component of the codes is that you can alter them anywhere from 7-30% and they will still function. I don't know how or why this works, but it lends itself to some VERY creative design work.
In this example, the designer figured out a way to weave the likeness of a rapper into a code that any of his fans would be helpless but to scan immediately, leading them directly to the artist's streaming music.
This company created an interesting woodcut aesthetic and even found a way to include their logo twice. This is a home run from a branding perspective.
This band dressed up their barcode with the group's existing artwork. Imagine if you could motivate your customers or fans to display your barcode as a window decal on the back of your car?!
While the background image of this design isn't decipherable, look how extensive the manipulation to the original barcode is. All that, and the artist still found a way to include the brand's logo, large and in the center.
This one has Slimer on it, so it's automatically getting scanned... Licensing be damned!
As we move deeper into the digital age, we need to be constantly questioning our methods efficacy and progressiveness. Whether you are a purveyor of goods, services or ideas, reaching your audience in a way that engages them will be a perennial concern. Why not challenge your brand to be a force of the future and a creative leader in your field?