Bathrooms, QR Codes, and Growing Your Email List

What does the door of a public restroom, a QR code, and email marketing all have in common?

(yes, that’s a serious question.)

Last week I was at Blowfish Sushi in San Francisco. Unrelated to this blog post, but this is BY FAR the best sushi place I’ve even been to in my life. Thanks to Tim Hayden for taking me there (2x!)

Anyway … One beer and four glasses of water later, I found myself making my way to the men’s room. I was just about to open the door when I saw this:

Holy cats … this is awesome.

Bathrooms, QR Codes, and Growing Your Email List

Rarely do I see a QR code / email list growth campaign executed as well as this one. There are 5 things that I absolutely love about this poster. From top to bottom:

  1. What’s In It For Me? One of my biggest pet peeves in email marketing – or any marketing for that matter – is when there is no value offered for me, the consumer. Messaging such as “Like us on Facebook!” or “Follow us on Twitter!” or “Sign up for our Email List!” without any mention of what I’m going to get in return is just … well … silly. The poster tells the WIIFM right away – “Enjoy a sake cocktail or dessert on us.” 
  2. What am I supposed to do? Too often I see marketers making a critical mistake by assuming people know what to do when they see a call to action – the QR code in this case. The messaging on the poster makes it pretty clear what action they want folks to take – “Just sign up for our e-mail list by scanning this code with your smart phone.” I’m not sure if this was intentional, but notice how they omit the acronym “QR”? My bet is most people don’t even know what “QR” stands for. Do you? No reason to take up valuable real estate with two letters that don’t  make sense to most of your audience.
  3. The QR Code: It’s large. It’s in the center of the poster. It’s clear. If you are going to ask people to pull out their smart phones and scan a QR code, be sure it’s large enough! Note: Unfortunately, because my flash went off when I snapped this picture, the QR code will not work. Sorry!
  4. The Promise: I normally am not a fan of messaging such as “we never spam,” but I think it works in this case. The addition of the “Don’t be shy” adds a bit of humor to the promise.
  5. What if you don’t have a smart phone (or know what a QR code is)? I’m still not sold on the fact that the average person (a) knows what a QR code is, (b) knows what to do when they see one, and/or (c) has a QR code scanner on their smart phone (if they do, they don’t know where it is). That’s why I love it when marketers add messaging that gives consumers options. In this case, they give people an option to go to their Twitter page and opt-in for their email list there. Try it. Go to the Blowfish Sushi Twitter page, then click on this link in their Twitter bio to subscribe to their email list. Pretty slick, huh?

BONUS: Did I mention this poster was on the men’s room door. Great location. Why? It’s the place that nearly everyone – well, at least all the males – will go at least once in the time they are at the restaurant!

I’d love to hear from the marketing folks at Blowfish Sushi SF. How effective has this poster been at growing their email list? What do the metrics look like – scans to clicks on URL to email opt-ins?

What do you think about this approach to grow your list? Do you have any list growth tactics you’ve successfully implemented? If so, leave a comment below – I’d love to feature you in an upcoming blog post!

DJ Waldow
Waldow Social

Speaking of growing your email marketing list, did you know that my buddy Jason Falls and I just wrote a book that has an entire section dedicated to growing your email list? In The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win, we also talk about a few ways to “break the rules” and still grow your list.

Break the rules and grab your copy today. AVAILABLE NOW!

Reminder: There is no such thing as “best practices” when it comes to email marketing. Best practices are those that are best for your audience.

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@AugmentedAdvert Thanks for the RT!

photosims 1 Like

I'm with @LynnDalsing on the hyphened email. But I love hearing different ways to collect addresses. Thanks for sharing!

LynnDalsing 1 Like

Thanks for sharing! It's great to see when brands do something simply, but extremely well. 

The hyphen in e-mail makes me a little sad, but I'll let it go.

djwaldow moderator 2 Like

@LynnDalsing and @photosims  trust me. I've been anti-hyphen for about 4 years now! Blogged about it back in my Bronto days:

Thanks for your comments!


  1. [...] Bathrooms, QR Codes, and Growing Your Email List – With a title like that, how can it not be a great post? DJ Waldow shares a little inspiration from a San Francisco sushi restaurant for growing your email list. [...]

  2. [...] forms at your cash register or near your door, have staff members ask for email addresses, or use a QR code that links directly to your sign-up form. You can also use a computer or tablet to obtain email [...]

  3. [...] What I love about this poster is that Blowfish Sushi nails the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). If you scan the QR code and opt-in to its email list, they’ll give you a free sake or dessert in return. Additionally, if you are one of the 91% of US adults who have not yet scanned a QR code – either because you are not sure how or your smartphone doesn’t have the ability to do so – Blowfish Sushi provides an alternate way to opt-in to its email list. Well done! (Read more about bathrooms & QR codes here) [...]