I must admit that I am probably considered a late adopter of QR (quick response) codes within the advertising, marketing and public relations professional arena. While I have been an owner of a smartphone
for several years, it wasn’t until recently that I downloaded an application onto my smartphone to read QR codes.
What I discovered about QR codes, from my personal experience, and to borrow a line from Shakespeare is that they are “much ado about nothing.”
There are some real problems with scanning a QR code with a smartphone and getting valuable feedback or in some cases getting feedback at all. As a consumer, I prefer to shop in large discount stores such as Costco, Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart. Often times, the reception I get within these large ‘warehouse’ stores is poor if existent at all. Therefore, the QR code means little to my shopping experience within these walls.
Freeway billboards often have a QR code in the advertisement. I have never been quick enough to complete a scan as I flash by a billboard. Plus, I like to keep my eyes on the road when I am driving so scanning a QR code from the
freeway is not a priority.
Then I have received a QR code within a text advertising message or e-newsletter on my smartphone. Hmmm? How is my smartphone supposed to read that code?
Having read that QR codes have been overwhelming adopted by various European markets, as well as Japan and South Korea, I thought I’d read some solid research on the topic.
I downloaded Russell Herder’s* findings on a research project they published in August, 2011 titled: The QR Question, Are QR Codes an effective marking tool for engaging customers?
Noted within the paper is that QR codes have actually been around since 1994. QR codes were created in Japan by a subsidiary of Toyota and were originally designed to track auto parts. No wonder Japan has a high usage rate of QR codes within the consumer market. Their use of QR codes has been evolving for seventeen years.
Some of their key findings include (and I quote the paper):
- “A surprising number of consumers demonstrate a significant lack of understanding as to what QR codes are and how they work.”
- “Seventy-two percent of consumers say they have seen a QR codes, yet nearly three in 10 do not know what it is. Further, nearly one in five people who regularly go online via their mobile phone do not know what a QR code is.”
- “Nearly four in five of those who have scanned a QR code have done so more than once. Perhaps more importantly, however, only 31 percent report that what they receive in return is worth their time.”
These finding support my personal experience with QR codes. That is certainly not to say that QR codes are going to have a very short life span within the U.S. marketing and advertising world. But it does seem obvious that if QR codes are going to find a solid and long-lasting spot within the advertising and marketing world, then the information provided by the QR code must have high value to the consumer.
*Russell Herder is a twenty-eight year old creative, strategic and research marketing firm based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The report The QR Question, Are QR codes an effective marketing tool for engaging customers? is part of their Thought Leader series.