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Magical, Gameful, Rewarding – How Do Customers Experience Your QR Codes?

Posted on Apr 17, 2011 by in ThiNK First | 2 comments


Magic Tricks, Lottery tickets and Fortune Cookies give you a sense of the emotional experience Marketing should be delivering when a consumer scans a QR Code.

QR codes can be magical, gameful & rewarding. Your marketing/creative teams need to make it so. I’m not suggesting you package a prize or even the promise of such, but you should aim to delight, inspire and occasionally reward your audience for their attention.

Ask yourself “Will my consumer want to open the next QR Code they see”. Marketing, you own the future success of QR Codes, not the consumer.

Today QR Codes are being treated as a technology and not as an experience delivery platform. Today Marketing (Brands and Agencies alike) are broadly failing to grasp the potential and value or QR codes. QR’s reality is dull by comparison. QR Codes are static and link to boring web pages. People wonder why adoption is so low. Got an exciting example. I’d love to hear your story.

For true engagement just add a hint of magic. Yesterday was a bit of a “QR code day”. I’ve long had a QR code fascination, but I wrote down some of my thoughts on what’s stalling QR code adoption.

It’s funny but when I write such posts, you create more ideas and promote more debate. When you combine the comments, the phone calls, the Twitters exchanges, the DM’s and the emails you end up with even more thoughts. You can even end up changing your views or formulating new ones.

I loved this comment from Lance Priebe,

“Companies should just skip QR codes and jump into directly image recognition. Phones should simply see and recognize items”@Lancepriebe

I partially agree;

  • I believe Augmented Reality (AR) viewers will trump QR viewers. They are simply more interesting and more human. I don’t believe you need two different viewers on your smartphone – less is always more in this department. (I imagine AR viewers could/should handle QR Codes too).
  • I agree that AR is cool and perfect for recognizing items (and on locating your context in reality). The UI for QR viewers seems so incomplete with lots of room for innovation. I have 3 QR code viewers on my phone today and they all feel like beta apps. (I laughed as someone emailed me a QR code they had used – I joked I’d need a second camera to scan it – only one of the three viewers let me can a saved image – It was still a two step process – I had think to solve the puzzle)

I disagree with Lance in that;

  • I think the magic of QR codes is that consumers don’t know what’s inside. That’s why QR codes are like Fortune Cookies on Kinder Surprise Eggs (or they should be). Today people aren’t doing this, but they could.
  • QR codes can change fast (on screens in store). That’s how QR Codes trump reality. That’s the gamification magic sauce, that’s currently being left in the jar.
  • QR codes can be printed, but I’m not a fan of large volume printing of a single code. Think Wonka bar and the lucky ticket. Personal QR codes could be added to till receipts – with a unique code for each customer. If you want people to scan you need to motivate and intrigue – QR codes are ripe for some gamification magic.
  • You are free to create and read as many codes as you need. So why keep giving people a static experience when you can go custom. People love surprise and will learn to come back for more when you deliver the unexpected. So give them wonder. QR Codes are perfect for this, yet I’ve not seen this done well (or at all). So that’s why I don’t think its smart to rely on rigid real world objects – which are static. QR Codes can give richer, quicker juicy-er feedback than plain old reality.

QR Codes can lead to deeper enagement and lead capture

QR Codes can include a broad range of items (here’s a list I grabbed from QRStuff ), but this list isn’t fixed. This list is just the tip of the iceberg. You can create your own categories. You control the experience. You control what the viewer sees and experiences. You can create your own mystery and intrigue..

Traditional QR Codes

Text, Website URL, Telephone Number, SMS Message Email Address, Email Message

Slightly Richer QR Experiences

Contact Details (VCARD), Event (VCALENDAR), Google Maps Location, Wifi Login (Android Only), Paypal Buy Now Link, Social Media, iTunes Link, YouTube Video

What would a truly create QR experience look like?

It would be dynamic, engaging, rewarding. It would make me want to come back for more. It would make we want to seek out more codes and more interaction.

What about a social game, sharing team challenges, focusing on world issues or local neighborhood issues, connecting communities and forging stronger local and global networks?

QR Codes are an open standard that you can extend. You can create rich, random rewarding experiences – just like opening a Fortune Cookie or Scratching a Lottery Ticket. Well that’s what the gamer in me believes. How about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Who’s going to wake up the QR Code’s sleeping giant? There is real power and deep emotion here. Someone needs to dig in and expose it.

Nick Kellet (164 Posts)

Nick is co-founder the social curation platform Listly, that combines crowdsourcing, content curation and embedable lists to drive high-level community engagement, live inside your blog posts. Connect with Nick on Twitter · Linkedin, Facebook and G+ and follow his writing via his other guest posts and on his blogs at and




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