QR Codes: Why Marketers Shouldn’t Slow Down


Share on LinkedIn

Earlier this month, AdAge published an article suggesting QR codes have not taken off with consumers, claiming that only 5% of Americans have actually used them. And why the latter statistic may be true, the assumption that the technology is a waste of time would certainly be a misstep. Not only should marketers not throw in the towel on using QR codes, they have many reasons to be optimistic, proactive, and innovative as they think about using them as part of their marketing strategies in 2012.

QR CodeFor those of you that are new to the concept of QR (quick response) codes, they are basically the next gen of bar codes, designed to go hand-in-hand with mobile technology. Product manufacturers can place a small code on any item, which can then be scanned by compatible cell phones and mobile devices to create any number of extended customer experiences. What this experience looks like is completely dependent on the craft of the Marketer. Some allow consumers to get more information on the product itself by linking to demo videos, how-to-guides, and project ideas. Cosmetics manufacturer Clinique placed a QR code on some of its print advertising, which readers could scan into their smartphones to get access to special promos and discounts. Other companies have taken a more creative approach: As part of their “Our Turn to Serve” campaign, Heinz allowed customers to use QR codes to send personal messages to U.S. troops, while J.C. Penney allowed users to give holiday gifts with personalized voice messages, accessible via the attached QR code.

Clearly, then, the possibilities of customer engagement and sales opportunities are endless. But according to Forrester, the 5% of Americans using QR codes yields only about 14 million consumers, and these early adopters tend to be young, male and affluent. So is QR consumption simply too sparse and narrow to be worthwhile?

Not at all, in my opinion. Here’s why:

Every new technology starts with a small minority of early adopters. Not long ago, Blockbuster thought online movies would only be popular with a few technology-friendly adopters. So they brushed off the emergence of Netflix, only to find themselves bankrupt and obsolete a few years later. From digital books to Mp3s, all new technology starts with a small subset of, yes–technology-savvy adopters. You may never have been able to imagine your Uncle Larry without his morning paper at the breakfast table, but now he enjoys his blueberry muffin with a neat little iPad, while book-loving Aunt Barbara is in the next room over, nestled in her easy chair with a Kindle. Just because a technology begins with a certain subset of consumers doesn’t mean it stops there. The more appealing you make your campaign to a mass or target market, the faster they will join the club.

It only takes a small niche following. Unless you’re Wal-Mart, chances are you don’t have to convert the entire general population into QR code junkies to make their use worthwhile. As with any sound marketing campaign, clearly define your target market, what outcome you’re hoping to achieve, and then work backwards to create a campaign that will be compelling, engaging and have a real value proposition to your target consumer. The more you know about this consumer, the better you will be at doing this. But if you make a strong enough value proposition, your customers will find a way to leap onto the technology. It might be a small, niche following – but if that’s your target market, then great!

It’s different for every product/brand. Just because a campaign didn’t work for one brand doesn’t mean it won’t for yours. And just because it didn’t work for one of your products, doesn’t mean it won’t for a different one. Each brand and product offers a unique spectrum of possibilities through QR code marketing. Perhaps one brand or product simply wasn’t compelling enough to get customers over the hump of trying out a new technology. Or perhaps the QR campaign simply wasn’t designed and executed well enough. While it is true that 2011 saw many failed QR campaigns, like users, marketers too are inexperienced with the technology. In a sea of opportunities, at the beginning of a new trade, one failure should not signal defeat.

Technology will catch up. Many of the challenges with QR codes are technology related. In some cases, users were given error messages, hyperlinks did not work, or their devices were simply too slow. Furthermore, using QR codes requires special programs, which not everyone yet knows how to use and access. Even further, many consumers still don’t have smartphones, but the rise of the percentage that do is inevitable. Like a good football team, technology will adjust. Every projection supports massive growth in mobile commerce, so all related players have every incentive to ensure quick innovations and improvement. As technology improves, so will the ease of use and possibilities of marketing with QR codes.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Sakina Walsh
Sakina Walsh is Sr. Manager of Strategic Planning at Quaero. With a strong background in digital strategy and multi-channel consulting, Sakina brings a deep expertise in the various nuances of the online customer experience to Quaero's Strategy group. Her insights help clients answer key business challenges, increase revenue, and create industry-leading interactive experiences.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here