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Still think QR Codes might be a good idea?

Oh dear. “QR Codes” (those little squares of binary data) have been eagerly taken up by lots of marketing people over the past year, but the general consensus is that they’ve been a big flop. I did think this would be the case, although I’m ashamed to say I sat on the fence a bit on the only occasion I wrote about them, at the start of 2011. Then, as now, I think that they might be a good way for marketers to read data, but not to provide it.

You know that something in marketing hasn’t worked when people start to make fun of it, and that’s usually the point when the whole thing collapses. There are plenty of examples of QR Code silliness going around the social media networks every day now (this one made me laugh a lot). There are even entire blogs “celebrating the ridiculousness that is QR codes” which will bring a smile to your face. Or if you’d like a more considered view, read Why the QR code is failing on iMedia Connection.

The problem with QR Codes in marketing is that we’re expecting the customers to do the work: to have a smartphone to hand, to have installed a code reader, to find it, to launch it, to focus it on the little square of data …all so we can sell them something. Of course, used that way, the idea is going to fail. Perhaps the only reason they’re still going is that many marketers who are using them are committing the biggest sin of all: they’re not even measuring the response, despite it being so easy to do so.

Load the app. Scan the code. Oh, and did we mention run alongside the bus? Yeah. That too.
(from WTF QR Codes)

3 thoughts on “Still think QR Codes might be a good idea?”

  1. As a sales tool – no use at all.
    As a contact and tracking tool, it’s proven technology that I think works.

    As you said, it’s easy to track the response and for printed media, rather than having to spend a great deal of time creating unique URLs, you can add source tracking for Analytics and get a much quicker result. One for the ‘smaller’ team (one man band).

    Yes I agree that there are a huge amount of people that seem to be focusing all their efforts on it (bus? oh for pete’s sake). But it’s still a valid means of communication none-the-less.

    I think sitting on the fence on this one is a good thing and a measured approach is always best.

    They’ve been around for while and more and more services are using them sensibly – yes, the full on … ‘buy something, make my life easier’ usage is idiotic … but there’s always been those two ends of the scale.

  2. I agree that as a sales tool, it makes your potential customer work too hard, but, if you have a QR code alongside an advertisement, and the QR code tells you how to contact the seller, then that makes it really easy for someone to record your contact information, if they’ve already decided they’d like to know more.

  3. It’s true, it’s true. I got all “gadget nerd” and couldn’t wait to put the app on my phone and then paused for a moment while I thought how many industrial people would ever actually a) know what they are and how they’re used and b) have a smartphone with the app already installed.

    Another reason to envy consumer marketing whose target audience is tech-savvy teens.

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