April 30, 2013

You put a QR code where?

Point the finger at poor implementation of the technology and too many companies scrambling to get a piece of the niche pie.

Point the finger at poor implementation of the technology and too many companies scrambling to get a piece of the niche pie.

Have you ever said, “Wow! I just had an amazing experience with this here QR code!”

It’s safe to say you’ve come across many “Quick Response” codes over the past few years, whether you knew what they were at the time or not. And if you’re in the marketing business, you’ve been asked, “Do you think we should add a QR code?” on more than one occasion.

In 1994, Denso Wave, a subsidiary of a Japanese automotive manufacturer, invented the QR code to track the company’s production process. The idea behind altering the technology for smartphones came soon thereafter — and presto!  People could connect the offline world to the online world by simply scanning a code with their handheld device. Since more than half the country owns a smartphone, you might assume that QR codes are all the rage.

Well, they’re not.

They’re everywhere — some placements are better than others: T-shirts, license plates, metro boards, billboards, websites, gas pumps, buses, TV commercials, etc. Sure, consumers are scanning QR codes here and there, but not regularly.

So why isn’t the man or woman you’re trying to reach using the little black-and-white box at the bottom of your ad? Maybe he’s not tech-savvy. Maybe she doesn’t really understand what the thing is. Studies show a staggering number of people are unfamiliar with these codes, and they’re useless to the other half of the country that doesn’t own a smartphone. But don’t blame the consumer. Instead, point the finger at poor implementation of the technology and too many companies scrambling to get a piece of the niche pie.

When I’m at the airport, I adore mobile boarding passes that allow a code to be scanned on my phone. No paper, no fuss. This is the only place where I actually use QR code technology, and I do so because there’s no need to download an app. Most of us are willing to try out the latest and greatest technology. But when the return doesn’t align with the level of effort required, we quickly move on.

If you want to use a QR code, make it part of the initial marketing idea, not an afterthought. Use them only when you can add something unique to the user experience or when you’re promoting a special offer; where cellphone service or Wi-Fi is sure to be present; and when the site the code directs to is optimized for mobile. And please, don’t place a QR code on a moving object or somewhere people can scan only while driving at high speeds.

Check out a few ridiculously creative and effective ways people have used QR codes: http://www.mediabistro.com/appnewser/top-five-creative-uses-of-qr-codes_b32766.

Here are some that could have used a little more thought: http://wtfqrcodes.com/.

And if you’re looking for a fun office prank, this is the link for you: http://whatdidericsay.com/2011/12/how-to-do-qr-codes-right-2/.

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