Best Practice or Waste of Time?

By | September 25, 2012

Today I received a National Geographic catalog. On the back, it had a QR Code  that, in light of my “naked QR Codes” post a month or so back, made me take a second look.

It was placed on the back cover of the catalog, upper righthand corner. Underneath, it read,

Scan this QR Code with your smartphone camera to shop our store on your mobile phone. Free QR Code readers are available in the app marketplace for your phone.

On one hand, best practices indicate that marketers should include instructions for downloading QR readers and scanning the codes. On the other hand, someone who — at this point in the lifecycle of QR Codes — still needs to download a reader isn’t likely to be doing something as sophisticated as shopping on their mobile phone.

But it didn’t take up much space. The only space it competed with was the mailing label, so the magazine lost no product space to add the code, and perhaps — just perhaps — someone experimenting with QR Codes for the first time might actually buy something as part of the investigative process.

So good implementation or bad one?  Chime in!

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5 thoughts on “Best Practice or Waste of Time?

  1. Jim Sweeney

    I think the the adoption rate of the average Joe user is not that high, 5% according to studies down this spring. True, 1 in 5 smartphone users have scanned a code but that leaves 4 our of 5 people who either where not compelled to scan for some reason or did not know to scan. I definitely think there is a place for simple instructions. Tell ’em what you want them to do. Don’t make people guess.

  2. Mark Robinson


    Much has been said of how we (marketers) can/should use QR Codes in campaigns. When we create campaigns using QR Codes, is the assumption to inform to the lowest common denominator (the user) of understanding what that “funny square thingy” is on a page or postcard?

    The example used by National Geographic to invite people to shop via mobile may not have been the best use of a QR Code for more tech savvy readers.

    Perhaps an opt-in email for more information, or an invitation to a discount coupon next time they purchase from the store. This would allow National Geographic to capture a users metrics to build future campaigns and may have been a more appropriate use of the QR Code in this instance.

    Mark Robinson

  3. Maggie Young

    I think if National Geographic’s objective was to raise awareness that they have an online store, then they were on strategy. I also find when I survey my peers, most of whom have smartphones, that the majority of them don’t know what QR codes are. This doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t shop online.

  4. Hugh Howes

    Hi Heidi!

    I believe that National Geographic’s approach is the right thing to do. My phone is still a dumbphone, but some day I will probably get something better. But, thanks to your articles that I love to read, I’m well aware of QR Codes. (Unlike many of the smartphone users I work with.) NG’s instructions are exactly how I would start out, and it may well lead to a purchase.

    When I looked at eBay for the first time, I made a bid just to see how it all worked. My plan was to make the opening bid on an item I didn’t want, and then be quickly outbid so that I wouldn’t have to buy it. Well, I was the only bidder! So, following the rules that the winning bidder must complete the purchase, I now am the proud owner of a vintage 1920’s banjo-ukulele. (Which turned out to be the best inadvertent purchase that I ever made; it’s delightful to play!) So yes, experimenters do make purchases.


  5. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    Hi, Hugh!

    I assume there is also a YouTube video showing you playing said inadvertent banjo-ukulele purchase? (Uploaded just to test the YouTube upload functionality, of course!)

    Thanks for the great comment!

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