Should you bother with QR codes?

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Should your union bother with QR codes? I was recently asked my opinion on QR codes and whether a union should start to use them for a campaign. I was luke-warm on the idea to say the least, but apart from a general distaste towards them I couldn’t name any specific reasons.

Well, regular columnist for Marketing Magazine and digital marketer, Simon Dell reckons QR codes are rubbish. Here’s what he has to say:

Forget the QR code, the utterly pointless piece of faux-3D trickery. They’ve popped up in places we don’t want them, need them or will ever use them and we should think about taking them off the marketing pitch and sending them in for an early bath.

Radical the opinion might be, but radical a QR code is not. I sense whispers in marketing WIPs around the country discussing what brands should do with a QR code, how we should embrace them and the results we’re looking for. I sense the same whispers discussing whether the consumer actually, really cares.

A QR code is just a bar code. It’s a different shape and size but its purpose isn’t much different – to code and deliver information. They have been around for years, but with the increase in smartphone usage, some bright sparks have decided that now is the time for the QR code to shine. How wrong they are.

‘But wait’, squeal the QR fans, ‘the QR code can deliver us exclusive content.’ Like when we’re standing in a bus stop: just the place we want exclusive content. Or an exclusive video: that a brand is going to want us to watch anyway because it spent $10,000s of making it and showing it to five people will never justify next year’s marketing budget.

But don’t take Simon’s word for it.

Sheldon - QR Codes

Ad Age columnist David Wieneke also recommends against QR codes:

QR codes can actually impede the conversation. First, you have to assume not everyone knows what they are, so you have to explain how they work. Then, you just hope people are willing to download the app and go through the hassle of getting it to work. Then and only then will they be exposed to whatever brilliant website you have put together. And the majority of the time, this process neglects the critical issue of why someone would want to do any of this in the first place. Right now the answer to that seems to be, “Because marketers thinks it’s cool.”

This is a dead-end technology. This is a transitional technology, and other options are headed to market that will quickly displace it. Improvements in mobile search far outpace QR capture. Near Field Communications will provide richer machine interfaces. Google Places has already abandoned QR codes for NFC chips. Does “mini-disk” ring any bells? They were smaller than a compact disc and couldn’t hold nearly as much information. The QR code is the mini-disk of the future.

So, if you’re thinking about QR codes, perhaps you should reconsider.

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