It’s mere months from Election Day. That means it’s the season of unity where Americans from across the political spectrum break bread over a shared sense of national pride. Just kidding; if you work in politics, you know how ferocious the arena of public opinion is. Heck, even if you don’t work in politics, you know this. Election season is nearly impossible to ignore, especially with how much media there is nowadays. And with there being so much of it, savvy political campaigns have embraced technology to break through the noise and win their elections.
One of the technologies that’s found new purpose is an old one - QR codes. However, despite QR being an old piece of technology, it’s being applied in novel, valuable ways; becoming the edge that helps campaigns win tight elections.
In this article, we’ll discuss the current political marketing landscape and demonstrate how QR codes can be used to tip the scales in any election.
Since Obama, we’ve seen the zeitgeist of digital marketing permeate our politics - leveraging the detailed data and insights that come from tracking software on social media, search engines, multi-devices, and more. In the modern political arena, campaigns live and die by their online presence.
However, with more digital marketing, comes more advertisements. More ads mean more distractions. Estimates show that the average person is advertised to 4,000 - 10,000 times per day.
Think about it: how are people supposed to make any decisions when there is so much to choose from? Answer: they don’t. In psychology, it’s called the Paradox of Choice, where too many decisions lead to no decision. People also tend to tune digital ads out since it’s easy to use AdBlock, or simply scroll past them. In other words, there’s too much digital marketing and it’s easy to ignore.
Despite being easy to ignore, that doesn’t mean that digital marketing is not extremely powerful. The data and sophisticated sales funnels that digital marketing provides make them more highly regarded channels by CMOs than offline marketing like print and television.
With so many distractions, the key to any successful political message is to get people to pay attention. As we mentioned before, attention is where digital marketing suffers. So if people won’t pay attention to digital, where do we turn? Television, because sometimes new isn’t always better.
Television ads are paid attention to two and a half times more than digital ones. This is why the Washington Post says thatTV ads still win elections and why in 2020, campaigns bought twice the amount of ads as they did in 2012 and 2016.However, television is still antiquated. TV has limited data insights, and once the commercial ends, that’s pretty much it. Sure, you can have a call to action, but audiences often don’t take action because typing in a website or a phone number takes effort (and when watching TV the last thing you want to do is expend effort). Contrast that to digital ads, where, heaven forbid they were paying attention, all they would have to do is click the link, which takes no effort at all.
There is nothing like a powerful political ad to rile up someone’s sense of identity and get them to act. Problem is, people are often onto the next thing as soon as it’s over since the world is uber-distracting, and typing in a website, or calling a number to take action takes effort.
Where QR codes shine is that they reduce the friction between the call to action and the actual action - unlike typing in numbers or websites. Just like their name suggests, “Quick Response” (QR) codes were designed for a quick response. Therefore, by using QR on TV ads, clever marketers can first, get people to pay attention through the power of television and then use the QRs to bring them deeper down the “sales” funnel - sending them to whatever online destination they want. Then, once audiences land online, marketers can start gleaning a ton of different data insights and retargeting capabilities previously unavailable to them.
The number of applications of QR codes in political ads is limited only by the imagination of the marketer. Here are some of these applications, as well as what kind of data and influence they provide for political campaigns.
Right now, only 168 million people are registered to vote. That means there are a lot of votes left on the table. 2017 estimates show that 20% of the American populace wasn’t registered. One of the main reasons? They were never asked! According to Pew, 60% of Americans say they’ve never been asked to register to vote. 60%! So how can you get more people to vote for you? Just ask the unregistered popluace and then use a QR code to direct them to a voter registration page.If you want to go one layer deeper, you can use the scan to grab a ton of information from these new voters by dropping tracking cookies, pixels, and tags on their system. From this you can gather demographics, search history, location, devices, and way more, allowing you to retarget them through digital marketing channels with language and ads that motivate them to act further.
Before online tracking software, polls were the primary way to measure people’s opinions on issues. However, with a traditional TV ad, the calls to action are difficult since most people don’t want to type in a website while they’re watching TV. However, people are usually browsing their phones while watching TV, which has built-in QR code scanners. This provides a “quick response” opportunity that savvy marketers can seize.
Once audiences scan the code, you can poll them, drop tags on their system, and use a pixel to track and retarget them with ads informed by both the polling and tracking software in tandem.
This one kind of goes without saying, but on TV ads, messaging has to be simple to get through to a broad audience and short so as to not be prohibitively expensive. This leaves out opportunities for nuance. However, if an ad is well done, people will want to know more… if only for a split second. This split second is the moment that marketers must seize, and where Quick Response codes come in since they allow for a “quick response.”With QRs, you can also figure out what issues people respond to the most by tracking which policy commercials get the best response in tandem with retargeting campaigns that can further measure people’s responsiveness to said issues.
Let’s say that there is a cause you want your constituents to take action on. For example, you want audiences to email their representative. With QR, you can have people scan it, and have a developer send them directly to a prepopulated email that opens in their mobile email app, with the proper email addresses filled in. This is called a Mailto link .
Commitments are a powerful cognitive heuristic well known in social psychology. It’s no surprise that this heuristic extends to voting as well. Research demonstrates that for young voters, pledging to vote increases voter turnout by 3.7 points for all voters, and 5.6 points for people who have never voted before.A QR code makes it easy to get people to pledge from your television ads, increasing turnout for your campaign.
22% of all funds raised in the 2020 election came from small donors. With compelling commercials and strong calls to action, you can use QR codes to get people to donate to your campaign with less barriers than having them call a number or type in a website.Let’s say they scanned the code but didn’t donate this time. Well, since you brought them online, you can use tracking software you embed in their devices to retarget them to donate another time.
The difference between Flowcode and other QR codes is that our QRs look good. Flowcode’s QRs are not the boring, flat, stagnant black-and-white QRs you see from our competitors. Flowcode’s designers can incorporate logos, brands, slogans, and more into the QR’s aesthetic. This is one of the many reasons why brands like BMW, NBC, and ESPN use Flowcode over others.
Additionally, our design team can incorporate stunning calls to action right in the design, encouraging people to scan the QR to complete the action.
If you’re in politics, you know how close races can be and how much of an impact advertising has on successful campaigns. That’s a major reason why political ad spending is set to smash records in 2022.
With TV ads still playing a huge role in political wins - evident by the doubling of TV ad spending in 2020 - what do you think will happen if you bolster the attention of TV with the power of the internet through QR?