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.

This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at

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