Barnes & Noble uses QR Codes

Barnes & Noble is currently using this brochure to promote its NOOK eReader and NOOK app. On the last page of the brochure, there are two QR Codes (one for Android phones, one for iPhones), which can be scanned to automatically download the appropriate version of the app. Nice.

Barnes and Noble QR Code

While this QR Code campaign may seem simple and straightforward, I question how the codes are being used, or not used for that matter, from one medium to the next. Here's my point. The company has this printed brochure, which is displayed and made available in the store. Fine. On the Barnes & Noble website, QR Codes are listed on the NOOK app pages to facilitate the downloading of the app from there. Fine. But what about making use of the codes elsewhere and in/on other mediums? For instance, why not create store window posters or point of sale signs with the codes? In print advertisements, why not include the codes? And what about in direct mail or any collateral that gets packed with an order?

Barnes and Noble QR Code

Barnes and Noble QR Code

For some reason, when a company chooses to use 2D technology they seem to want to limit its exposure and reach, so only one, maybe two mediums, out of a multi-medium campaign, gets the code. Why not cast a wider net for a potentially larger audience? Why not offer that many more people an opportunity to engage with the brand and interact with the 2D technology? Yes, it might take a bit more effort and cost a bit more to place codes on all mediums, but isn't this also the only and or proper way to thoroughly experiment with 2D codes (see yesterday's post)? If set up correctly, once the multi-medium 2D campaign is finished, the company should be able to determine which medium pulled the greatest response (i.e., scan rate).

In thinking this through, I believe companies limit the use of 2D, because they do not view it as a long term tactical element of their advertising and overall marketing strategy. Why this technology should be viewed any differently than a Facebook or Twitter, in the sense that on almost any advertisement, in any medium, consumers will find a Facebook and Twitter icon in the lower left or right hand corner, I do not know. If it's all about engagement, sharing, interaction, social, etc., 2D helps to facilitate all of that if done properly.


  1. There are two glaring issues that arise with this:

    1. If consumer's see a QR code and then realize they need a certain device or app to read it (your run of the mill QR Reader does diddly-squat), then QR no longer means QR. The irony of QR companies blasting 2D and proprietary formats while creating this sub-genre of proprietary QR is not lost on most of us.

    2. Haven't these fine people ever looked into device detection software? One code could easily post-resolve and direct the consumer to their device specific offering. And, even satisfy non iPhone or Android users with something/anything.



  2. A: Thank you for pointing that out re: device detection software. You're right, there is no reason to create sub-genres of QR Codes.

    As a follow-up to your comment yesterday, are you able to share some of the technology that you believe will be introduced in 2011 that might bypass QR/2D.

  3. Thanks for the post Rodger. Observation: the marketer choose to provide (2) 2D codes (one for Android...one for iPhone). This points to confusion in the marketplace. 2D codes and QR codes are two very different things. There are a wide variety of proprietary "2D codes" on the market today (Scanlife's EZ Code, MS Tags, etc.). But what marketers seem to get tripped up on is that there is a standard - which is the "QR Code", not any sort of 2D codes. Proprietary 2D codes require a special 2D code reader. Any viable reader (pre-installed on the handset such as the iPhone BARCODE or Android BARCODE READER...or available in respective app stores) today is able to read QR Codes but may not be able to read proprietary 2D codes (EZ Codes, MS Tags, etc.). Yes, I agree - the marketer should use these codes more throughout traditional media (print, web, ooh, even tv...) - at no incremental cost I should add...BUT the marketer should rely simply on one "QR Code" for each marketing campaign (not proprietary "2D codes"). Reasoning: QR Codes are read by all readers that have any wide-spread adoption on handsets...proprietary readers that only read proprietary codes just can't compete. Google Shopper is a good example. I encourage marketers to understand the ZXing project from Google to start to think about how they can incorporate QR Codes into their marketing mix.

  4. Anonymous's comment regarding device detection is a great point, and one which should certainly be taken into consideration for future campaigns. Let's face it, both designers and marketers will be happy to reduce the amount of space hogging info that needs to be included on adverts.

    Regarding his first point though... huh? Proprietary would mean it belongs or is controlled by someone. That does not apply here. The codes are open to be read by any scanner, but they are device specific due to the content - not the code itself. That does not make the codes proprietary.