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Shazam and QR Codes in Marketing


For those of you who don’t know what Shazam or a QR code are, let’s start at the beginning.



Shazam was created in 2002 in an effort to “connect people in the UK with music that they heard but didn’t know” (according to their website). The app has since grown to connect over 350 million people to purchase, listen to and identify music, as well as connect to company websites off of commercials. Easy to use, a smartphone user just needs to download the app to their smartphone. When a user wants to identify a song they are listening to or follow the Shazam prompt from a commercial, they just need to pull up the app and then hold it up to the sound. The app will then connect the user with either song information or, in the case of advertising, a website.



QR codes were first created in 1994 as a way for Toyota to track their vehicles through manufacturing. They have since grown to be used in print advertising, digital billboards, and more. Similar to Shazam, a user just needs to download the app to their smartphone and pull it up when they want to use it. After the app is opened, a user just needs to fit the QR code into the box shown on the screen. From there, the app usually redirects to a website.

So, let’s start with the benefits of Shazam over QR codes. Well, for one, it doesn’t require as much effort. This probably sounds ridiculous, but Shazam allows you to be even lazier when you want more information about a product (or song for that matter). Instead of needing to hold the phone up until it focuses, scans and then redirects, a user just needs to hold it close enough to the sound source to catch the information. Once the app identifies the commercial or song, it redirects the user to an information screen. Many companies are now using Shazam as a marketing tool. I know I’ve seen commercials from Progressive, Home Depot and more use the Shazam symbol in the bottom of the screen. When a user Shazams the commercial, it usually takes them to the website or some special offer or download.

Second, QR codes just aren’t practical in a situation where the target market may be zooming by in their car or walking quickly past the TV. The QR reading app does not have time to load or scan the code before the opportunity has passed. If a commercial on the radio or on TV offers the user a Shazam option, they don’t necessarily have to stop what they are doing to catch the message. (Although no one should Shazam and drive!)

There are benefits to QR codes over Shazam, however. The first being is that they can reach a large market via print advertising in magazines, bus stops, billboards and so much more. These are situations where a user is not listening to something, but merely looking at it. A print ad cannot be ‘Shazamed’, so that target market is lost completely when choosing Shazam over QR codes.

A second advantage of QR codes is that anyone can make them. There are several websites that are QR code generators. Once a code is made, the user may copy and paste it and print and post it as much as they like. It is much more difficult to get a ‘Shazam code’ and, to be honest, I doubt a small business would be able to do so.

With mobile marketing on the rise, more and more customers are looking to their smartphones to do all of the researching for them. Both of these apps make it easy for consumers to learn more about their products and both have distinct advantages and disadvantages when compared to each other.

What is your experience with these apps? Have you ever scanned a QR code or ‘Shazamed’ something?

Until next time!