Recently, I read the website of a company that consults on brand management and marketing strategy and, in doing so, it dawned on me that with all that has been written or spoken about 2D barcodes, and how they are used for advertising and promotional purposes, no one has touched upon the fact that a 2D code, and the interactive experience that goes along with it, is really an extension of a company's brand.
As marketers, we know that a brand is an encapsulation of just about anything, tangible and intangible, that a company projects into the marketplace, whether it be a logo, corporate colors, a promotional tag line, a print advertisement, a product or service, a phone representative's voice, a mission statement, a URL address, an in-store display, a customer service policy, a technological application, a shipping box, a website, a public relations statement, a direct mail package or a live event, etc. so, why should a 2D barcode, and the interactive experience that goes along with it, be any different? Additionally, when a brand related component or element is used in an advertisement, the company's brand reputation, credibility, image and value are put on the line so, here too, why should it be any different with 2D barcodes? To illustrate how 2D codes and the accompanying experience is an extension of the brand, here are a few examples.
Company 'A' displays a 2D barcode in a print advertisement, but the code is printed too small and cannot be scanned. The consumer walks away frustrated in attempting to access the code's contents. The result: brand value decreases.
Company 'B' displays a 2D barcode on an out-of-home advertisement and, when the code is scanned, the consumer is linked to a 30-second self-promotional corporate video which, when finished, links to nothing (i.e., no additional product information, no special offer, no information about retail locations, etc., etc.). The consumer feels as though his/her expectations were not met and spreads negative comments socially. The result: brand value decreases.
Company 'C' features a 2D barcode on an in-store product package label and, when the code is scanned, the consumer is linked to a mobile website that provides all of the product and company information that a consumer would want or need, as well as an incentive for purchasing the product right there and then in the store. The consumer is more than satisfied by the experience and spreads positive comments socially. The result: brand value increases.
Of course, these are simple illustrations of what may or may not happen in the real world, but they are not that far off. Companies work long and hard to craft, produce and foster a brand image, and a positive one at that, but all of this can be easily ruined if, when using 2D barcode technology, the code resolves to content and/or an experience that does not offer and/or deliver value, relevance, meaning, worth and benefit to the consumer, as well as a seamless, well-executed end to end mobile experience. It's that simple, or should be.
The main take away for those considering the use of 2D barcodes, make sure that the people involved in the decision making process (e.g., marketers, creatives, developers, etc.) fully understand that it's not just the ad's return on investment that's at stake, but the much larger and more important corporate brand as well.