After seeing JenNTW's link to the kooaba Paperboy app. I was wondering how members of the group feel about print to web marketing.

My Twopenneth

Personally I'm a big fan of QR codes, but I am a geek, and I'm also quite realistic about how little they are used. My take on it is this:

  • QR codes are free and easy to create
  • They are an open standard and so there are many apps available to read them
  • Readers can see that they are expected to do something with the code (even if they don't know what)

Therefore no loss is incurred by using them, and you look a little bit futuristic in the process.

Paperboy seems to put the onus on publishers to register all of their content with a third party provider so that the app will recognise the article (at some expense) and still cross their fingers and hope that it adds value.

What's in it for the user

Picture the scene. You're walking through a shopping arcade and see a poster - and actually take the time to scan a code: how would you feel being presented with someone's homepage? Particularly one not optimised for mobile viewing. This more than anything in my opinion is why QR codes are not taking off. Nothing to do with the technology, nothing to do with the public, just a lack of creative application by designers and marketers.

Regardless of the method you use to get people to convert from print to web - I think the biggest question is what they get for their trouble once they've scanned the code (or page in the case of Paperboy). I've often had to advise clients not to just point people to their homepage. This would see the most obvious thing to do - as a straight replacement for printing your web address, but I believe context is vital. Wherever your sending people needs to be useful (to them) and relevant to where they are or what they are likely to be doing.

That's why I chose to use a QR code with contact details rather than a web link for my business card. The website is included and it's what people actually want from a business card.

What do you think?

How do you deal with getting people to make the jump from your print marketing to the web? How successful is it? And what needs to happen to make the process more fluid?

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Replies to This Discussion

I completely agree with your thoughts on QR codes (and other similar AR systems, like Paperboy). It's a great way to enhance content or make something easier for the user but far too many people are just linking QR codes to a homepage and in many cases one that's not even mobile-friendly. 

I've seen a couple of people's business cards that use a QR code to add them to your phone's address book. This is good because it solves a problem (in this case the time taken to add details manually and the possibility of entry error). 

One way I did come up with for the arts to use QR codes better for print-to-web is similar to that. You have a poster or flyer with a QR code and, when scanned, it takes you to a web page into which you input your email address and the event details and booking link are sent to you. This could also incorporate the standard social share gateways. The other thing to do with this in a similar way is an 'add to Calendar' version like the 'add to address book' one, though I suspect this would be more difficult as different mobile OS have different calendars. 

I think the lack of initial knowledge is what has led to QR codes being used by excited marketers without the technical familiarity to use these codes well. I think we're probably right in the middle of the timescale where we need to start using them creatively before people just start to ignore them! 

Add to calendar is part of the QR spec and actually pretty solid as far as I know. As well as:

  • URL
  • Email address (which, depending on the app, should just open a blank new email)
  • Phone Number
  • Contact info
  • Calendar Event including start and end date/time, location and description
  • Geo location - so a pin in your map, which would be great for treasure hunts or similar
  • Text - so just a message on the screen of the phone.
  • SMS - which would open the messaging app on the phone with a pre-composed message ready to send. (have implemented this for charity donations but would work for booking/subscribing)
  • WiFi network - SSID & Passphrase

I agree that lack of knowledge + enthusiasm to jump in quickly may be to blame, but I think there is another dimension to that worth noting. Quite often clients will ask for a specific thing to be implemented and designers and developers will just deliver that thing exactly as requested, get paid and move on. All great. But better than that would be for the client to present the problem and ask the designer/developer to find the solution. This is much more likely to produce innovative results beyond what's already in the marketplace.

Part of the responsibility for this lies with the designers and developers who don't question what they've been asked to produce. A marketing exec may not delve into an API to find out what's possible, whereas that is/should be what good digital creatives are there to do; but this can depend entirely on the relationship and a good deal of trust between client and producer.

One little birdie told me a great tip!

Use something like to shorten your web URL (links to page optimized for mobile) then you can track how many people have scanned your code.


I really like that idea. So often we're throwing ideas out there with no tangible way of evaluating their success.


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