Do 2D Barcodes Need Scanning Instructions?

Casey Barto2D barcodes seem to be popping up on nearly everything these days. Everything from menus, to business cards, to the “for sale” signs in the front yard of homes have the little square codes somewhere on them. Many codes have accompanying instructions such as ‘scan this code with your smartphone to xyz…’, but some don’t.
Do you need to include code scanning instructions with your 2D campaign? To get some answers I sat down with Dave Lawson and Elizabeth Huebner from our mobile engagement team.

Dave says:

“If you are putting a code into an acquisition-focused ad campaign where you are trying to buy eyeballs that are unfamiliar with or new to your brand, I would recommend assuming no one knows what a code is and accompanying the code with smart instruction that aligns with your brand tone and the creative its placed within.

If you are placing the code in front of an audience you have previously cultivated (e.g. within a magazine that has a high 2D engagement among readers because the publication has been committed to socializing the benefits of scanning over time OR with those your brand has already engaged via 2D means and they know they can have a valued, extended brand experience by scanning), instructions may not be necessary at all.

Basically, if you can define your audience and know they are acclimated, speak to them on their level. If you have a more general exposure that you hope the 2D codes can assist in delivering a tether/start into, go with lowest common denominator in the treatment.”

Elizabeth says:

“The audience at Target, for example, is very digitally savvy, in fact (from a shopper marketing perspective) out of all the retailers I have worked on, Target had the greatest opportunity for incorporating new technology/digital tactics because we knew it wouldn’t be as much of a learning curve for the audience. However, with that said even in free standing inserts or other print pieces in store that weren’t necessary acquisition pieces, we would always include a snippet about how to use the 2D code because the digital tactic became the center of the marketing campaign. Despite the digitally savvy audience, without the directions the campaign ran the risk of leaving someone completely lost and failing to maximize our efforts.

Another example of a brand re-enforcing directions on how to use the digital technology is Lucky Magazine. The target audience again, is very digitally savvy and a prime target for participating in the digital experience. The magazine has a Lucky Shopper app that allows consumers to scan all tags, watermarks and UPCs scattered throughout the publication to browse and buy anywhere, anytime. To Dave’s point, one wouldn’t think that the brand would need to spend a majority of the time educating the audience on how to use the tags once the app is downloaded, but like Target since the codes and content within the codes is critical to the Lucky experience, multiple pages throughout the magazine are utilized to reinforce and capture engagement.

In my opinion the amount of space the directional copy takes up can be as simple or as complex as a brand determines. (1 line or 1 full page) As a digitally savvy consumer, when I am familiar with the code or tactic then I glance over and continue on with the engagement, doesn’t faze me at all.

However, in the instance I may not be familiar, the extra copy provides direction for me to continue engagement vs. ending it and losing me at that moment.”

Do you agree with Dave and Elizabeth? Share your thoughts below.

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