These days it can be hard to pass a poster or pick up a jar without finding a QR code promising exciting extras and exclusives staring you in the face. But are those ubiquitous monochrome squares more loved by marketers than anyone else?
Recently, bieMEDIA, an online marketing and media company, predicted the end of the QR code based on the fact that very few consumers actually use them.
We’ve blogged before about the good, the bad and the pointless ways brands are using QR.
But as they move into maturity what are the main arguments for and against these matrix barcodes, and just how valuable are they in driving word of mouth?
QR codes are so popular on posters, flyers and other marketing material because companies can use them to convey specific information about their brands to a target audience. Because the majority of people who use and recognise QR codes fall into the 18-34 age bracket, it means campaigns can be specifically developed for this demographic.
Their versatility also means they can be tailored to all sorts of needs as long as the creativity is there. Just look at this case study from India:
It looks pretty impressive from a community engagement and WOM perspective. But despite the initial positive response, how lasting do those conversations prove to be?
As a QR-virgin myself (someone who has never actually scanned a QR code despite being surrounded by them every day), I am sceptical as to how these codes can be incorporated into a meaningful and lasting campaign. And the data is on my side.
According to an October 2011 survey from strategic marketing firm Russell Herder, although 72% of consumers say they have seen a QR code, nearly 30% of them don’t really know what they are.
More worryingly, 57% of consumers who have scanned a QR code say they did nothing with the information. This means that brands and marketing companies are spending time, effort and money on campaigns that don’t really seem to have an effect on consumers.
Couple this with the fact that other technologies such as NFC and mobile visual search are now on the rise, the trend seems to be towards QR codes becoming nothing more than distant relics of a past era: the marketing equivalent of the MiniDisc.
As with all tools, QR codes are only as good as the strategy or creative execution behind how they are used – and not very many brands are doing that well.
There are shinier alternatives creeping up too. NFC provides the potential for commercial services as well as marketing opportunities. Aurasma, an augmented reality app, acts as a much more tangible ‘bridge’ between the real and virtual worlds we inhabit, providing users with an interactive way of enhancing everyday life, such as this example of a polar bear on the River Thames:
So what do you think? What are your best and worst case studies of QR codes being used by brands? And how often do you use them yourself?
Social media are all about the spread of information through networks of individuals. In other words, WOM: people talking.
But what happens when these conversations are curtailed, constricted and controlled?
There has been a fierce debate raging over the past few days – both online and offline – about the relative pros and cons of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in America, and it could have big implications for the future of the WOM industry – not to mention our everyday online lives.
The bill, originally presented to the United States House of Representatives in October 2011, is intended to pre-empt the problem of Internet piracy in the US by targeting sites that promote and enable the sharing of copyrighted material.
So far, so simple.
But what SOPA and its sister bill PIPA (the Protect IP Act) have done is effectively turned a debate on piracy into a pitched battle between two cornerstones of Liberal ideology: free speech and free markets.
The disagreement pits Internet giants such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia against businesses such as television networks, record labels, book publishers and the film industry. The latter want to be able to protect their copyrighted material from illegal distribution over the Internet, while the former wish to enshrine the right of their users to upload and consume content according to their will (within certain legal parameters, of course).
Although the vast majority of law-abiding citizens agree that Internet piracy is A Bad Thing, many equally believe that it is not the place of government – any government – to control and restrict what they can access on the Internet.
On the other hand, companies, brands and individuals who produce copyrighted material do not want to see their goods trafficked and bandied about (either on the internet or in the so-called ‘real world’) by others who are not them.
Which puts us somewhere in the middle.
As a word of mouth company, we are committed to the spread of information and ideas around the world. Equally, we are committed to our clients and their very real need to keep their goods and services protected from those who wish to abuse them. The question here, then, is whether the proposals put forward by SOPA and PIPA will help protect both agendas. This is a question that does not as yet have a clear answer.
What is clear is that by limiting the number and type of interactions a web user can experience, the checks and controls proposed by these bills may inadvertently stifle the sort of innovation and creativity that is such an integral part of the online world.
But then again, SOPA and PIPA have got people talking – and this itself may help drive change where it is most needed.