For about a year now, I’ve had to ignore all the marketing gurus and their posts about QR codes. At best, these scannable ads are, well, scannable ads. There was once a little company called StickyBits that let you scan any barcode to see what consumers thought about a product. It was a brilliant concept driven by consumer input – it just had a bad business plan. QR codes are generated by brands – so the only thing you see when you scan one is what the brand wants you to see. An ad. But because they’re tools to get people to do something, QR codes are probably here to stay. So long as smart phones don’t devolve.

If you can intrigue someone to break out their phone to scan it, the QR code is the most direct way to get someone from offline to online. And put them in a controlled environment. But still, at best they’re just ads.

All that said, I have just employed QR codes for Boxman Studios.

With a concept as unique as Boxman’s, people are intrigued. Boxman Studios designs, builds and leases custom branded mobile venues created out of decommissioned shipping containers. They’re absolutely the coolest things. And since day one, I’ve harped on how our best ads are the venues themselves. I guarantee that when you see us at an event, you will gravitate to it, walk around it and ask yourself if this is really what you think it is. And you’ll want to know more. This happens to everyone who interacts with our creations. Except – when we’re at an event representing a brand (our client), we’re representing that brand – not Boxman Studios.

So how do you run the marketing arm of a company that builds these cool venues branded to the teeth by a different company? Well, for one thing you utilize the immense power of digital media and social networking (in the three years we’ve been operating, we’ve never used traditional media in any capacity – except for printing a few business cards). But then what? You can’t advertise in the field using your product because it’s being utilized by clients (other brands.) Think of this conundrum as a new medium to paint upon. The medium is secondary. The artist’s work is the focus.

Currently we have a small stainless steel badge attached to the rear of our units. A simple rectangle with our name and logo. And they’re pretty cool, but that’s all we have. The rest of the surface area is reserved for our clients. Until today. Today we have employed QR codes. Yes, we’ll have to clear their use through our clients at the front end of contract discussions, but because they’re inconspicuously placed 3-inch squares, we’re hopeful that they’ll start showing up on all of our venues in the future.

The reason I’ve decided to do this is simple – to satisfy the curiosity of everyone who interacts with us. I even set up a specific page on our website that links from the QR code. But rather than use this page to pitch someone on Boxman with an ad, I quickly let the person know who we are and encourage they come back to our site after their event.

So there it is – I’m a QR code guy now. Kind of. I don’t expect much from employing this technology since our client’s customers aren’t necessarily our own. But maybe, just maybe, the QR codes will help us spread the word about our brand. Because if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about turning decommissioned shipping containers into sustainable branded environments these past three years – people like to talk about them when they experience them in person.


Jim Mitchem – CMO @boxmanstudios

Cult of Personality: Seth Godin
The Raping of the Sick

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.