Custom barcodes as a call to action

Custom barcodes as a call to action

Spotted this six sheet ad at Canterbury West station on my way to work this morning:
Being a bit of a marketing geek, what caught my eye was the inclusion of a bar code as a call to action for the poster:
I’m a cynic when it comes to the use of QR codes in many forms of marketing collateral, so I took a closer look at what this bar code was for.
It turns out you to use it to access the George Michael album on Amazon, most users would need to:

  1. Go to the app store on their mobile
  2. Download and install the Amazon app
  3. Scan the bar code
  4. Finally arrive at their desired content in the Amazon app

Or they could save themselves the hassle and use the URL as an alternative call to action:

  1. Open the web browser on the phone
  2. Type in the 25 characters of the URL
  3. Arrive at their desired content on Amazon’s mobile site

I can understand there are strong commercial reasons why Amazon would want people to use their app rather than the browser route, but I can’t see a compelling reason why a customer would use the barcode call to action instead of the URL from this poster.
My instinct tells me that users will naturally default to the simpler URL route, but it’d be fascinating to see some data on how different calls to action like these perform on a single advert.


I work with founders and senior leaders in rapid growth businesses. My focus is building resilience, coherence and high performance in teams and organisations to enable sustainable business growth.

2 thoughts on “Custom barcodes as a call to action”

  1. I’m completely with you on this Simon and the subject of QR codes too. Until the day the phone OS includes a QR/Bar Code scanner as standard, they’re not going to take off in this country. My understanding of why QR’s were developed was that URLs were once exclusively in English and if you didn’t speak English or have an English keyboard they were really hard to type in. In those circumstances you can understand why Japanese phone manufacturers would include a scanner app as standard.
    With the advances in OCR and general scanning from phone cameras I’m quite surprised someone hasn’t developed an app that can scan a standard URL off a poster / flier and take you to the website. It could do phone numbers too while it’s at it. (c) MJPotter 2014 🙂


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