QR codes are here! QR codes are dead!

15 Jun

QR code on a tombstoneHeralded as the Next Big Thing in mobile marketing just 12 months ago, Quick Response codes are already being eulogized before people have barely gotten their heads around how to use them.

And so it goes in the brutal you-have-30-seconds-to-make-your-case world of new tools and gadgets.

So who says they’re dead and why?

Google does. Ah.

Frankly, they are backing another horse: Near field communications. But that’s another post altogether. (Another Next Big Thing!)

For marketers today, the issue is that mobile search is just too damn fast. It’s quicker to type in a URL then to take a pic with your phone.

I would suggest that the real problem is not the codes but rather how they’re being applied.

Drilled down, QR codes offer the ability to bridge traditional and digital media. But it’s incredibly short-sighted to think that their purpose is simply to create a shortcut between a print piece and a website.

The real opportunity for marketers is to use QR Codes to enhance the overall experience the audience has with the brand. In doing so, we can bring traditional media to life in inspiring new ways.

Take this example from Reporters Without Borders.

Three things are working for the advertiser.

First : the presence of the code in the ad is explained to the reader. I can’t figure out why advertisers just plonk them in ads without an explanation of what they will deliver and expect people to drop everything and grab their mobile devices. They’re not that cool.

Second : the QR code function makes perfect sense. There is no mindless redirect to a self-promoting website. The content beyond the code IS the idea.

Third : the QR code function adds value. Anyone taking the time to take a pic of the code is rewarded for doing so.

What our audiences don’t need is yet another self-serving call-to-action stuffed into an ad, that then asks them to haul out their phone, take a pic and wait for a website (which may not even be mobile-friendly) to download.

What they will respond to is smart, creative applications that take the estimation of the advertiser up a notch or two.

Ultimately QR codes are going to sink or swim depending upon how we (that’s the ad folks) apply them.

Download your QR reader here and stay tuned.

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7 Responses to “QR codes are here! QR codes are dead!”

  1. Felix June 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    Any insights on why they’re wildly popular in Japan and not in North America or why there’s such a giant lag in adoption between the two countries?

  2. Doug Brown June 15, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    I remember travelling in Japan in 1998 and being amazed at how small their cell phones were, and how they were being sold on every street corner. They’re just ahead of the curve in mobile, But I will do some research and see what else I can come up with Felix.

  3. Jack Steinmann June 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Jon Stewart sums it up nicely: http://bit.ly/iNCmJH

  4. Doug Brown June 16, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    True Jack, but then he sums up everything nicely! 😉

  5. Jack Steinmann June 16, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    Can anyone explain the difference to me between a QR code and an embedded web link?

    Except that, the QR code is opaque, and more work to use?

  6. Doug Brown June 16, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    Jack I found this link here makes a pretty good case for the little guys> http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-qr-codes-can-grow-your-business/
    The reader I use is faster for me than typing in the link. Some people argue the opposite of course.

  7. Jack Steinmann June 16, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    The problem, then, is that QR codes are being used primarily as web links, rather than to (say) activate other phone functions.

    Hard to get excited about poor uses of QR codes.

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