QR Codes in June SWA Spirit Magazine

I was on a flight home from a chiropractic conference in Reno this past weekend and I met a nutrition supplements marketer on the flight. During our conversation I mentioned QR Codes and she didn’t know what I was talking about. It reminded me of a time in 2007, when Tony Adam (an SEO marketer) and I were talking to patrons in a bar about Twitter, not one knew what we were referring to.

From a marketing perspective, we often take for granted that people know what we know, but if that were true, everybody would be going to the chiropractor at least once per week (yes, I am chiropractic biased). While in flight, I wanted to show my fellow marketer how QR Codes were being used, so I reached for a June copy of Spirit Magazine (by Southwest Airlines), assuming that there would be at least one example to share.

Fortunately for me, there were examples of QR Codes (in fact there were 11 QR Code including advertisements that I counted) in the 272 page magazine (which is mostly advertising). While the quality is not the greatest, I took photos of each advertisement, so we can look at them together here. I’m sharing them in no particular order.

bmlg music qr codeThis first QR Code appears in a music related advertisement. Notice that nothing is mentioned about the code. Below the QR Code (it’s on the right side) is information about visiting the related website. Shouldn’t that be bigmachinemusic.com instead of big machinemusic.com? Looks like a typo to me.

vacation destinationsNext we have a QR Code appearing in an advertisement for tourism in the Charleston area of South Carolina. Notice that next to the QR Code (on the left) is text that reads “Scan to watch the unforgettable beach vacation that awaits.” At least in this case we’re given a clue as to what that symbol means.

grill 25 beefI like this one, but I can’t remember if this is a steak place or not, by the tagline I’m assuming it is. I love that it says “moblie reservations” in bold, followed by clear directions that read… “Scan this QR code with your smartphone to receive our special gift with your Market Pavilion Hotel, Grill 225 or Pavilion Bar reservation.”

hand crafted vodka qr codeI think this vodka advertisement was the first one seen in the magazine, appearing on one of the first several pages. It almost looks like an ad that was made specifically for those with a QR Code reader. Highlighted in orange is “scan this code” and I like that it’s followed by the question “Don’t have a QR Code Reader?” They are still telling people they want you to browse their site via mobile. Excellent.

howl moon danceThis was the only red QR code (instead of black on white) I spotted in the magazine. It was for a nightclub that apparently has locations in numerous cities across the United States. No mention what the QR code is referring to. I think whoever’s marketing with this ad is missing out.

luggage onlineThis next advertisement was for an online luggage site (notice they even have a special URL) and the QR code includes some information in the upper right-hand corner. It reads “scan here with your mobile phone” which is probably a great model to follow, especially if there’s no other information about the QR code in the advertisement.

nova southeastern university smartphoneSpeaking of no mention of the QR code appearing in advertisements, here’s one that doesn’t mention the code (it’s on the left), but does mention using your SmartPhone. This advertiser obviously thinks you know what they are referring to.

photographyIt may be cool to be artsy (the above ad is for an Art Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina) but I think it’s too early to be running advertisements without explaining what that thing is on the bottom right side of the page ( that’s the QR code). Just my opinion of course.

pig qr codeThis advertisement for the Piggly Wiggly tells you straight out what they’d like you to do. “Scan QR Code to order your very own Pig T-shirt.” I didn’t read that until now, maybe I should have scanned while in flight, so I’d have a shirt of my own.

thriller charlstonThis tourist attraction in Charleston (maybe these were all put out by the same ad agency?) doesn’t mention anything about that QR Code appearing on the left. Maybe it’s not my grandma’s kind of tour boat, but she owns a smart phone, and she likes to buy things for her children and grandchildren. Why blow the chance to reach an expanded audience?

yardhouse qr codeIs that a QR Code on the left? I tried about a dozen times to scan it and it just wouldn’t take. I was convinced that it wasn’t a real code and made mention of it on Twitter, to which YardHouse replied and suggested I use a specific app. Apparently, I’m not the only one to think this wasn’t the best of QR Codes (someone posted a beer coaster image to Flickr). Perhaps this QR Code is only readable in the ScanLife App, which means I won’t be viewing it, especially since all the other codes registered fine using my current QR code reading app. (Note: I love Yard House, nothing against them personally.)

No doubt more businesses are using QR codes in advertising, and I think in-flight magazines are probably one of the best ways this marketing platform can be tested. If you ask me, we’ve got a long way to go before the average consumer knows what that square pixelated box means, an even longer way to go before they start scanning, and even longer still before these marketing efforts begin to convert en masse. Let’s make the path for them as easy an enjoyable as possible.