Are QR Codes loosing their appeal?
May 11, 2012 Leave a comment
QR Codes seem to be everywhere but are they already doomed? Several marketing blunders have given them a bad name but can they bounce back? Ross McGuinness @Metro asks the experts…
There is a website hosted by blogging service Tumblr called ‘Pictures of people scanning QR Codes’.
Underneath its title, there are just three words on a white background: ‘No posts yet’.
It’s a simple gag but it neatly illustrates the battle facing QR Codes and how they can be perceived by the public.
Quick Response (QR) Codes have become ubiquitous, finding their way on to billboards, posters and print media.
These patches of black and white were hailed as an immediate way of getting information on your smartphone: simply scan the code using a QR Code reader app and you would be directed to a website. It sounds easy and it is, when it works, but there are so many bad examples of the codes being misused that many people are starting to doubt their staying power.
There are websites filled with pictures of poorly placed QR Codes, ranging from those on underground trains where there is no internet connection to codes emblazoned on billboards that are just too far away to scan.
When used well, they can be an effective way of getting a message across or helping consumers. Transport for London’s QR Codes for its bus countdown service are regarded as a good example of how the technology should be used.
Argos has also introduced the codes to its catalogue to provide extra product information.
Mobile expert Terence Eden is the co-creator of QRpedia, which puts QR Codes in museums, galleries and zoos around the world.
They link exhibits to a Wikipedia page in the visitor’s own language on their smartphone to help them learn more about what is in front of them.
‘It’s a smart and cheap way for museums to make their exhibits more interactive,’ he told Metro.
‘They’re a great way to get mobile formatted content directly on to someone’s phone. Sadly, too many people in marketing are abusing them.
‘I’ve seen movie posters which link to sites which don’t work on mobile phones, a beer advert which was placed too high for anyone to scan and a QR Code in a shop window which was obscured by a tailor’s dummy.
‘There have been some really inappropriate uses of QR, and that has led to some commentators writing them off. But customers still seem to love them.’
Deaglan MacFarland, digital strategic planner at Spark44, the in-house marketing agency for Jaguar, said: ‘QR Codes can have a positive impact if they help people save time or kill time.’
He pointed out that a successful campaign last year by Tesco co-owned supermarket Home plus in a South Korean underground station allowed shoppers to scan QR Codes to choose the items they wanted delivered without going to the store.
‘This works in Seoul because the subway platforms there have access to wi-fi connections at platform level,’ he said. ‘Recent examples of QR in the Tube in London or the New York City subway system are embarrassing because they’re totally useless without an internet connection.
‘The problem now is that QR Codes are increasingly used by digital marketing professionals as short cuts to innovation, but it is superficial innovation.
‘The worst examples are always when QR is deployed without thinking about consumer insights. QR coding on scarves, gravestones, bed sheets and bill-boards above motorways all reveal terrible ideas they fail to put consumers at the core of digital marketing strategies. There needs to be courage to be innovative by those charged with wielding marketing budgets.
‘Without courage, great QR campaigns will not happen.’
Yet he believes great QR campaigns may be coming too late.
‘QR Codes will suffer at the hands of natural selection,’ he said. ‘They will soon be edged out by mobile visual search (MVS), tools such as Google Goggles and Blippar.
‘MVS reads the physical environment not pre-programmed code. In other words, you’ll be able to point your camera phone at your bar of chocolate and the phone will know what brand of chocolate bar it is and will be able to link you to any website the brand wants you to go to.
‘So, with the rise of more sophisticated, consumer friendly technology, QR will become moribund.
‘The truth is that technology such as MVS will soon overtake QR Codes.’
Kat Hannaford, editor of tech website Gizmodo UK, agrees.
‘Augmented reality services from the likes of the British companies Blippar and String are far better examples,’ she said.
‘The “trigger” is encoded in a picture, meaning companies don’t have to insert an ugly QR code on their advertising.’