QR Codes Search for a Role

Discussion
Aug 09, 2011
George Anderson

Critics of QR codes say the technology is a cool toy that marketers fall in love with for reasons that often have little to do with delivering value to the consumer.

A Winnipeg Free Press piece says that QR codes “without a purpose … are nothing but pretty gimmicks.”

In June, digital strategist Dave Wieneke wrote on AdAge.com that QR codes are intended to create “an instant connection” with those receiving the message, but have not done so to date. In the sharply critical piece, Mr. Wieneke wrote, “If someone had figured out a way to do that with a QR code, we would know it by now.”

Still, there are plenty of proponents of QR codes who believe they have a role in the marketing of products and services.

Writing on ClickZ last month, Melinda Krueger of ExactTarget acknowledged that QR codes have not always been put to best use, but offered this insight. “[If] we take advantage of the unique characteristics of QR codes, perhaps we can save them and us from becoming extinct. To my way of thinking, these characteristics are discovery, depth, simplicity, surprise, and exclusivity.”

Erica Glasier, a digital media blogger, told the Winnipeg Free Press that QR codes are often a “tactic in search of a strategy,” but suggested valid uses exist. She pointed to a poster for a musical group with a link to a digital download of a song, or QR codes being used in stores to bring up reviews of products on shelves, as effective means to use the technology.

Many critics of QR codes suggest the technology is short-lived in any regard since near field communications (NFC) offer all of the features of QR codes plus the ability to conduct digital transactions with a simple swipe of a mobile phone.

QR code proponents suggest the advantages of NFC are not so clear cut. Chips for NFC cost up to 25 cents each while QR codes cost almost nothing. QR codes also work from longer distances than NFC.

Discussion Questions: What do you see as the proper role for QR codes? Will QR codes outlive the adoption of NFC technology?

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12 Comments on "QR Codes Search for a Role"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

QR codes are best used to provide detailed information, when an advertising vehicle cannot, and to deliver timely, valuable promotions. Otherwise, they are just a gimmick and consumers may tire of them, as they have with other gimmicks in the past.

Anne Howe
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

QR codes can be effectively used for delivery of more information, and I think a missed opportunity is in the area of instructions, especially in RTA furnishings and toys. I can think of many a Christmas Eve when a video of how to assemble Toy X would have been really helpful. I’d love to see West Elm or even IKEA print a QR code on their furniture so when it’s time to move, I would know how to take it apart and put it back together in the new location. I never seem to have the paper instructions when it’s time to take something apart.

Perhaps we need to think about QR codes as problem solvers, and stop thinking about them as promotional devices. There are many ways this technology could have more lasting value given a new frame of reference.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Put me into the “it doesn’t matter if NFC works and gets broad-based deployment” camp. There’s a danger in falling in love with any of these technologies — especially when they are half-baked.

John Karolefski
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

I think Anne Howe’s comment is spot on. I can see widespread use of QR codes that offer instructions for assembly of consumer goods like furniture and toys. When applied to food and beverage, fewer promotional messages and more cooking instructions is the way to go.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

I think QR and NFC have complementary potential capabilities. Sure, the actual benefits of both need to be refined over time as new ideas are tried by organizations of all types. However, that’s the beauty of it. QR is a decent, simple and cheap technology that both individuals and organizations alike can utilize. I don’t know what the magic “app” for QR will be, however, I do know that there are a ton of people out there with time on their hands and a need in their lives to figure it out. It will happen — very soon.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Has there been enough experimentation to know in which situations, for which products, with what information, in which retail outlets QR is most effective? I think not. Has there been enough research to examine all the possible uses of QR? I think not. Have enough consumers in a variety of situations in different retail outlets used QR to know what is the “best” use of QR? I think not. The use of QR is too new to answer the question of its best use.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

To date, QR codes have been used in quirky ways with much experimentation on display.

One local realtor I noticed changed his customary full page ad in a local publication to feature his Twitter, Facebook and YouTube icons as well as QR codes for featured property listings. The next month, he returned to a more traditional display ad with 4 color photos. I imagine that the social experiment represented too much “curiosity” for most people and that his inquiries either plunged or were for the wrong reason, e.g., “What is that thing in your ad”?

I believe QR codes can be used effectively but only in a secondary role as a way to make detailed information or videos more easily accessible. To “lead” campaigns with the codes would be less effective, maybe even dampening customer engagement rates.

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Gawd, this is getting tedious. Technological capabilities outpace useful ideas in all sorts of areas. There will always be folk that insist that they’re smarter and hipper than the rest of us because they see the future, while we Neanderthals stumble along. I keep saying, “Show me the money,” but the money is all too often in “negative earnings.” All this brings back vivid memories of the dot-con [sic] era.

Roger Saunders
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

If God had meant man to fly, he would have given them wings.

QR Codes are in the stage of gaining attention and awareness. Based on the BIGresearch June, 2011 Simultaneous Media Usage (SIMM) Survey, 33.4% of the 25,150 adult respondents point out that they have the QR Code Reader on their cell phones.

As marketers learn to bring value to the consumer, and a reason to make greater use of QR codes (save money, access needed information, be entertained, etc.), this app is likely to play a greater role in the marketing mix.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

After looking at, creating and working with QR codes for over a year, the defining moment for me recently was when my wife (super savvy retailer) looked at me after I mentioned the words, “QR code” and said, “What’s that?”

Lesson: at this point, we’re all talking to ourselves — actual consumer adaptation (i.e.: benefit) is a ways off.

Frank Beurskens
Guest
9 years 8 months ago
Implicit in a few responses regarding QR and NFC is a legacy based media assumption that emerging channels are all or none; that each advancing technology must displace those preceding or quickly become dominant in its field. The verdict is still out as to whether traditional media strategies reliant on common solutions delivered across common platforms is viable in a world where new delivery channels emerge faster than agencies and consultants can adapt to them; consumers are adapting to them. It isn’t about the sell side, but the buy side, and the needs are different. QR works great for those consumers seeking deeper information, or wanting to capture information in-store for later use. It may not be the next killer application, but it also costs little to offer, so why not? Our data shows they are being used by shoppers in the aisle and that is all we need to know to continue including them. NFC is yet another channel and will likely attract another subset of users. It isn’t either or, but both and.
Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
9 years 8 months ago

Cheap and easy doesn’t always spell indispensable.

QR codes are cool but with a couple of drawbacks. First, they require opening a 3rd party app to scan and view the content. I’ve been accused of overemphasizing the importance of this, but the way I see it, every additional step on the path to consume content is one more junction where consumers can lose interest.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, scanning and waiting for the QR code to take you to the content is often a long way to go for very little payback, information or entertainment. I liken them to the old grab bags you used to pay a dollar for in order to find out what was inside. Often we were disappointed with what was inside.

Personally, with the recent advent of protocols like Vision from Layar, I think augmented reality is showing more long-term promise and viability than QR codes. I wrote a brief article on Layar Vision for those who are interested.>

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