Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
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?
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?