The renaissance of the QR code
Did you stay up to watch last Sunday’s Superbowl? Me neither. But, that didn’t mean I wasn’t interested in playing catch-up on Monday morning, namely for the star-studded halftime show.
However, it wasn’t the posts about the surprise appearance of 50-Cent or Eminem taking the knee that caught my attention. Instead, it was the abundance of content talking – shouting – about an awfully simplistic, yet dramatically powerful, ad. Coinbase quite literally stole the show with a single QR code.
For 30 seconds, the square made up of lots of smaller squares bounced around the screen, changing colours as it ‘hit’ the edges. Initial reactions included confusion; really, you’ve spent $5.6bn for this ad that is just a QR code? Some viewers questioned whether there had been a technical glitch; after all, there weren’t any Hollywood stars promoting products in front of Hollywood sets. However, in our world where we quite simply must know everything in an instant, intrigue quickly took hold.
As has become second-nature when we see a QR code, viewers took out their smartphones/devices and scanned. Within minutes, Coinbase’s website had crashed due to an intense volume of traffic. The product, here, is a place where people can buy and sell cryptocurrency. Before its now-worldwide famous ad aired, the Coinbase app sat at position 186 in the Apple Store (US). Since, it’s peaked at position 2, currently holding rank among the phenomenon that is Wordle! and the globally-used YouTube.
Simple, but effective
Like many of the best ads before them, Coinbase capitalised on a singular, relatable truth: the connection we now have to the QR code. The pandemic catalysed mass change to the ways in which we normally operate, with accessibility forcing itself to the front of the queue. QR codes were the simple answer to the complex problem the pandemic induced: distanced interactions.
I doubt that you, reading this, haven’t ordered from a restaurant menu via a QR code in recent years. Hospitality settings embraced their popular return; as one of the industries hit hardest by lockdowns and restrictions, the QR code became a certified way to fight back. Scanning the pattern of squares drastically reduced the need – and risk – of face-to-face interaction, hypothetically lessening transmission of the virus.
Despite the moves towards the ‘new normal’, the QR code looks to be a trend that’ll stick around in our post-pandemic world. Continuing to take centre-stage on menus, some restaurants have even gone as far to embed codes into furnishings, like tables. If that hadn’t already cemented that the QR code was here to stay, this Superbowl ad did.
Now, more than ever, consumers crave personability through relatable and accessible messaging. By presenting a significantly user-friendly and instrumentally inclusive experience, Coinbase tapped into every post-pandemic want and desire. And there are some incredibly valuable lessons to be learnt. Like, where’s your QR code?
Incredibly easy to make, QR codes direct their audience to a specific area of a website. Within seconds, you’ve got your audience exactly where you want them. That could be a landing page dedicated to a specific product; an article that’s gained significant coverage; where to find contact details to encourage conversation.
It’s convenient and it’s fast, and there’s still just enough novelty in the black and white barcode that we keep on scanning. Despite the fact they’ve been around since 1994…
And the realm of possible placements for QR codes continues to grow. Though usually found on physical marketing materials, like product brochures or window-signs, QR codes are helping to bridge the gap between more traditional and digitally-charged practice.
Take the business card, for example. Networking historically relied on the sharing of 84x55m cards; now, you’re more likely to send a connection request on LinkedIn or source contact details from an email signature – the e-business card, if you will.
Whether or not you think they’re a bit too ‘old school’ (that’s a blog post for another day), there’s still something memorable about sharing details physically. Least because we’ve been sitting at home in front of screens for over two years; more because we’re entering the era of the smart business card.
Much like Coinbase’s ad, the oh-so simple idea of having a business card that incorporates a QR code is oh-so effective. You can’t omit the risk of a card being lost among wires in a laptop bag or being accidentally discarded in the bin – yet. But, you can work to increase the likelihood of its use, especially as it can be tapped into instantly.
Think about it: you don’t even need to hand over the card. You can simply present it to a prospective customer who simultaneously scans it. Once again, they’re taken exactly where you want them to be – most likely in this case to your most relevant contact details. So, even when home screens are locked, your name, your business, even your product is still live, nestled somewhere among open internet tabs.
Coinbase have certainly provoked a real renaissance of the QR code. Where will it trend next? That’s left to be seen. But if you hadn’t thought about harnessing their power, it’s definitely time you did.
Find out more about how we can help you to get the most out of QR codes today!