QR Codes: When Unintentional is Intentional

The other day, a story was reported about QR Codes being placed on the bottoms (i.e., bikini bottoms) of Britain's female beach volleyball champions, all in time for this week's test London 2012 Olympic beach volleyball tournament.

Since the story broke, the campaign has garnered a great deal of attention in the 2D barcode community, as well as outside, and it has raised some interesting thoughts and questions about how clever the use of QR Codes, in this manner, may or may not be. One camp believes that using codes in this manner makes little or no sense, because the codes are too small and the players are too far away and moving too often to make the codes scanable. The other camp believes that it was never the advertiser's intention to have the codes scanned in the first place, and that it was more a matter of generating some free publicity for the brand. While I can understand each camp's perspective and reasoning, I believe an interesting word/idea is being used here that we don't often see or hear when discussing and analyzing 2D campaigns, and that word/idea is intention.

Developing and implementing 2D-based campaigns that hinge on the idea of intent, I believe, starts to create a slippery slope for advertisers, and here's why. When a consumer sees a 2D code, their reaction is to scan. But, if the advertiser's intention was for the code not to be scanned, and there was some other modus operandi behind the campaign, what does this mean or do to the consumer? What will the consumer think or how will he/she react to the next 2D code that he/she comes across from this brand or others? How does the consumer benefit or win in this situation? What happens to the consumer's set of expectations, as they relate to the advertisement, offer, call-to-action, brand experience, mobile experience, etc.? Sure the advertiser knew what they intended to have happen via the campaign, but no one clued in the consumer.

While there is probably little denying that the company got a great deal of free publicity from this campaign, was that their only objective? If not, what were the others and were they met? To make 2D campaigns intentional or unintentional may be clever at best, but if the idea is to drive business and raise awareness and adoption of the technology, I don't see how playing clever mind games like this really helps. To me, it's kind of like saying, here's the URL for our company's website, go check it out, but when you get there don't be surprised or disappointed if the home page and everything you thought you were going to be able to see, read about and do is not there. Something just does not sit right, or is it me?

1 comment:

  1. Advertising styles and humour vary from country to country.

    Not to overly stereotype, but this is a peculiarly British ad unit that is both revered and acceptable. It also falls into the category of "taking the piss" which is uniquely British and falls somewhere between irony, sarcasm and self depreciation.

    Just Google "Kyle Minogue bum" and you'll see the reverence and obsession the British have in this, um, area.

    Does it matter that very few people will ever scan this code? Not at all. It's an ad unit that achieves everything it's supposed to.