Are Pandas Using QR Codes More Effectively Than Wawa?!

PandaQR (Quick Response Codes) have a ton of potential but businesses and marketers continually place them in areas where their customers will never have time or interest to interact with them. Because if you were wondering, a billboard is NOT the optimal place to post QR codes.

So where is the disconnect?

In this post, I’m going to show you how to use QR codes effectively by highlighting 2 real world examples of a company doing it right, and one doing it wrong.

Bad Dog

Wawa – The Door Poster QR Code

2013-01-20 22.44.17

There is nothing more disheartening for a social business professional to look at one of your favorite local brands face plant through a marketing effort. Wawa is an absolute giant in the Delaware Valley, Virginia, Maryland, and now Florida regions. They are a convenience market with one goal in mind: transaction speed. Yes, they’re concerned about their customer service and the freshness and quality of their refreshments, but they have become the mini-mart king because of their attention to timing. Getting folks in and out their doors allows them to make more money and create happier customers. So where does Wawa fail in their mobile marketing? You can see it as soon as you approach their doors.

Imagine that it’s 7:09 in the morning, you’re on your way to work and in desperate need of a coffee. The parking lot is packed, the lines long at the register. As you approach the entrance, some 20-something is standing smack-dab in the middle of traffic with his cellphone, trying to take a photo of a QR code. He may be oblivious to the world around him, but you as the career-minded bloke will be annoyed and wondering why the hell Wawa would place a stationary digital vehicle in a very busy spot?

That example is just to show how poorly executed that poster truly is. So where is a better spot for Wawa to place these QR code posters? The deli. It’s where the bottleneck of the stores operations occur meaning that folks waiting for their hoagies can interact with Wawa’s content while they are anticipating their number to be called.


Good Dog

Philadelphia Zoo – Animal Placards QR Codes 

I wrote about this during this past summer. Now granted, I was a bit critical of the way The Philadelphia Zoo is using QR Codes but, hey, they’re at least understanding the idea behind The Social Experience. Here’s a quick look inside the post.

 “In front of every animal exhibit there is a small sign with the creature’s picture, origin, and interesting factoid. For some of these animals there were avenues to access richer content through the use of a QR code.”


This small snippet gives you a glimpse as to the versatility of these mobile portals. So what is the best thing the Zoo has capitalized on with their approach? Location. They’ve placed their QR codes in places where their visitors will have the time and ability to access additional content in an area that won’t interfere or create a bottleneck.


Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Can the identity of QR Codes be salvaged? Obviously, I believe so – otherwise what’s the sense of this post? There will always be something coming next, in this case NFC (Near Field Communications) Technology, but it’s important to engage the current consumer. Today’s consumer is mobile and that’s not changing, only increasing.

People do need prompting in order to use these technologies. A little guidance at the beginning could mean a big payoff for your organization in the end. How could your company use QR Codes to create a Social Experience for your customers?

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  • Stephen App

    Nice article JS – I love some of the places that people put QR Codes. Billboards and TV commercials are two of my favorites. The key to QR codes is putting important, helpful, and/or entertaining information in an easily accessible place for customers and making it mobile friendly. At Temple Law School, a foreign research librarian approached me about repeated lectures he gave to visiting students about the different tools of US Law Research. To alleviate his pains, we filmed special presentations on each section, uploaded them to YouTube, and then placed cards at the various library stations with QR codes that led directly to his video explanations of each respective research tool.

    One thing we learned pretty quickly pertained to your guidance note at the end of this post. We found many of the students weren’t sure how to use QR codes, so we put up another card explaining what QR codes were and how to use them.

    Again, great post!

  • jwsteiert

    Thanks, Stephen. I appreciate you sharing your story too. How old were many of the students that weren’t sure of how to use the QR codes? In working with a lot of clients, they are eager to use QR codes because it simply looks like another fun marketing tool to throw out into the world. The point of this post, as you understood, was to discuss how much more substance there is in the world of Mobile Experience and social interaction. Thanks again.