FirstBank uses QR codes in a ‘novel’ giveaway

Travelers passing through the Denver International Airport with time to kill and a digital device on their hands will be provided with electronic books, crosswords or Sudoku for free, courtesy of FirstBank.

Backlit posters inside the airport, headlined “Free Books,” “Free Crosswords,” and “Free Sudoku” show QR codes linked to a URL where travelers can download 12 classic novels. Crosswords and Sudoku puzzles are also available at the novice, intermediate and expert levels. Those without a QR-enabled smartphone can go online to download the same offerings from their computer.

The campaign has only been running a couple of weeks, but in that time, there have been over 750 downloads. 9% of the downloads have been via QR codes. Downloads take under 30 seconds.

Based on the first week’s results, the most popular books, in order, are Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, and James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. Least popular are Walden, Emma and Don Quixote.

The bank estimates that 7,000 classic novels and puzzles will be given out during the five-month promotion, the latest effort in the bank’s ongoing “helpfulness” campaign, created by TDA Advertising & Design.

Other “helpful” FirstBank campaigns have included free mock holiday gifts, free thumbless gloves for mobile banking skiers, an airport treadmill to tire out traveling children, and oversized bank furniture displays for online banking customers nostalgic for the bank lobbies.

What are ‘QR codes?’

If you haven’t yet heard of QR codes, it’s time to start paying attention as they are rapidly gaining popularity. QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that are readable by smartphones and other mobile devices equipped with a camera. The information encoded in a QR code can be text, data or, most commonly, a URL. All you need to do is point your camera-capable phone at the QR block, take a picture, and a website will automatically pop up on your screen.

You can see a typical-looking QR code above. It should point to this article. Take a picture with your phone and give it a whirl.

Experts in the tech sector are confident QR codes are the breakthrough needed in order for mobile marketing to deliver on its promise of opportunity. It’s surely a step in the right direction, but it’s really no different than asking someone to type your URL into a browser, it’s just easier…and a bit geekier.

Key Takeaways: The novelty of QR code campaigns will not make them successful. While the technology may be slicker, strategically speaking, nothing has really changed. You still need to deliver a relevant and engaging experience (e.g., a killer microsite) to have any impact. The Golden Rule of the Web still applies: “It’s all about quality content.” If someone loads the URL you’ve linked to your QR code and finds a lame, silly website, your campaign will be a big dud, no matter how snazzy your QR codes may be.

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