A QR Code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is a type of matrix barcode or two-dimensional code. First designed for the Japanese automotive industry, QR codes are popping up in consumer and higher education promotional marketing as a way to connect 'offline' communcation such as print ads with digital marketing. With the dissemination of smartphones and mobile applications, the opportunity is that the general public essentially has a potential barcode reader in their pocket.
14 Million Mobile Adopters
In June 2011, 14 million mobile users in the US – that’s about 6.2% of the total mobile audience in that country – scanned a QR or bar code on their mobile device, according to a study by comScore. The study also found that these scanners were more likely to be men (60.5% of scanners) and aged 18 to 34 (53.4%) and have a household income of $100,000 or above (36.1%).
While QR codes today are the purview of early technology adopters, what role – can, should, will – they play in marketing.
The capability itself is seemingly not enough.
According to Ekaterina Walter, a social media strategist at Intel, the ability to access information won’t drive customers to a product’s site unless there’s a reason for them to do so.
“Will QR codes reach widespread public consciousness, or are they destined to be a quirky aside for mainstream promotional campaigns? The trend towards increasingly complex personal technology suggests that the potential is there, but the question remains whether marketers will fully exploit the opportunities QR codes have to offer,” wrote Walter in a recent blog post.
How to Use QR codes in Higher Education Marketing
To capture some of this aforementioned potential, I considered three ways for higher education marketing professional to utilize QR codes today:
Here’s a bold idea … it’s time for the QR Code print unsubscribe
Every recruitment cycle students are inundated with letters, viewbooks, and registration brochures. While email has long provided a means for uninterested students to opt-out, unwanted print publications – more often than not – are placed in the real-life “spam folder” or trash can.
Add a QR code (linked to a subscription web page) to your print pieces allowing prospective students to customize their communication preferences or simply opt out from receiving more of the same.
Save a tree, stop annoying students that are not interested, and qualify which students are real prospects – and not – by the inclusion of a QR unsubscribe code.
Offering real reasons to respond
Too often, marketing innovations are used to simply transfer one channel experience onto a newer channel platform. Consider the early efforts with social media where some institutions simply transferred web site content onto the Facebook platform, while others distributed press releases via Twitter.
QR codes can work if they become entry points to unique content that may not be accessed through other channels.
Providing real-time information – campus tours, college fairs, community events
The value of the QR code is to connect marketing efforts across online and offline channels.
Use QR codes to offer real-time information during institutional events including community functions, campus tours, and college fairs.
Moving Forward with Recruitment and Marketing QR Codes
1. Conduct Research
Any marketing strategy worth its salt starts with a firm foundation of research. Consider the following questions to support a QR code initiative:
· What percentage of the target audience uses a smartphone?
· How often does the target audience use a mobile app – daily, weekly, monthly, rarely or never?
· Does the audience use a QR code mobile app reader? Why or why not?
2. Define Objectives
“Everyone’s doing it” is not a rationale for adopting QR codes. Start by clearly defining the QR code in your enrollment marketing. Are you looking to:
· Drive conversions?
· Increase engagement?
· Support the decision process?
3. Identify Value
While communication innovations make life interesting for marketers, it is not often clear what value these “innovations” offer the end-user.
Ask yourself, what value – unique content, offer, or experience – can you deliver through the use of a QR code? Simply connecting a print piece to your home page is akin to asking prospective students to fill out a card so they can “receive more information.”
4. Measure and Adapt
Finally, have the discipline to objectively evaluate results in light of your research and marketing objectives. Connect the dots between strategy and results and adapt your efforts accordingly.
Whether QR code use grows beyond the digerati of early technology adopters will depend on how strategically marketers apply the channel.
Tim Copeland is the CEO of DemandEngine, a consulting, marketing, and e-marketing services company for higher education.