QR Codes? Dead? Let’s See… (Using a QR code on a mall kiosk ad)

Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody

QR codes are dead!
No, they’re not!
Yes, they are!
No, they’re not!
Yes, they are!

Sounds like something out of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

It also reminds me of a similar argument about the death of classical music, one response to which is: as long as people play it and listen to it, it’s not dead. But, back to QR codes.

What follows is a quick look at how I recently implemented a QR code on a mall kiosk display ad.   

Confession: this is not a best use case. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. This is more of a "let’s use a QR code as an option for users to respond and get more info, and we’ll see how it works" case.

Nevertheless, the strategy was well-planned, and leveraged several technologies to maximize the channels through which users could respond to the call to action, specifically:

  • QR code of a web URL with Google Analytics campaign parameters,
  • A web page with click-to-call and click-to-email buttons,
  • A smartphone to which users could phone or text, with an SMS autoresponder for off hours.

This flowchart illustrates the overall strategy:

strategy flowchart

The Mall Kiosk Ad

The ad was a 48” x 70” kiosk display, promoting a youth employment program, and was scheduled to run for a year at two locations inside a local mall. The ad featured a strong call to action, asking people to contact the organization via phone, texting or email:

mall kiosk ad

The QR Code

Initially, I was going to use the QR code specifically to facilitate emails, using the MATMSG protocol. However, after extensive testing across a number of different code readers on a number of different phones, it became apparent that support for MATMSG was quite variable and produced highly variable results.

Therefore, I abandoned that approach in favor of using the QR code to send users to a special web page (see below for details) that would allow them to click to email or to call, and would provide additional information about the youth program. The encoded URL included Google Analytics campaign parameters, so traffic from the QR code could easily be identified.

To lead people to scan the QR code, it was graphically associated with the main call to action, with added text clearly explaining that the code would help them contact us, as well as provide testimonials about the program:

QR code call to action

The Web Page

When scanned, the QR code opened a web page specifically designed to work with this ad. The design of the page carried forward the colors and design motifs of the ad, and immediately fulfilled the ad’s “promise” to help people to contact us, and to see testimonials about the program. (For legal reasons, we were not permitted to use pictures with the testimonials.)

The "Email Us" button used a mailto link to create an email with a pre-populated subject line, and pre-populated body text that instructed people to simply hit Send and that our staff would follow up with them.

mall ad web page

Additional Considerations

Google Analytics Campaign

The campaign parameters were pretty straight forward, indicating the target web page, that the visit was a referral, and that the source was the mall kiosk ad:


Auto Responses for SMS and Email

For times when staff were not available to directly handle emails or texts, we created an out-of-office reply in Outlook, and we used an SMS auto response app on the smartphone. Both messages indicated our inability to reply at the moment, but that we would follow up as soon as possible.

Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?

So, I’ve again quoted Bohemian Rhapsody because…well, mainly just because.

The point is that the mall ad has only just started running, so there’s no way to determine the success or failure of the QR code. Honestly, my expectations are modest and I hope to be pleasantly surprised by the results. But, if we get one scan of the code every day, and that translates into one lead per week, that would total 365 leads and I’m prepared to call that a success, given the minimal time invested in implementing the QR code.