The QR Code is Dead

In North America today, the general consensus is that QR codes have a low adoption rate due largely because they are difficult to use. It is thought that if you aren’t tech savvy, the QR code is simply another design element crammed into an already-crammed print ad. Although this may have been true in the past, change is certainly on the horizon.

According a report by Mobio Identity Systems, Inc., released in February 2011, QR code adoption in North America is increasing exponentially. Use has been reported to have jumped more than 1200% in the last six months of 2010. As the adoption rate continues to increase through 2011, how can smart marketers best leverage the medium as a part of their overall communication strategies?

More than just a bridge

At the core, Quick Response Codes offer the ability to bridge traditional media to digital media. It’s short sighted to think that its purpose is simply to create a shortcut between a print ad and a website. Looking beyond the obvious functional applications, QR codes offer the ability for marketers to enhance the overall user brand experience. Effective QR code strategies are contingent on user adaptation. Therefore, the challenge for marketers is identifying opportunities where 1) the QR code function makes sense, and 2) ensure the user receives an appropriate pay-off. As is true in all marketing communication strategies, content is and will always be king.

To truly take off, QR codes need to extend beyond their current role within print ads and other traditional advertising media. Today’s exhausted consumers do not need another call to action shoe-horned into an already busy print ad. What they will engage with is an additional touch point that will add value to their interaction; a place where their consideration will be rewarded. The nature of QR codes lends them to an almost unlimited number of possibilities for usage. Consider the following completely different applications:

  • Although slightly cryptic, QR codes on tombstones that instantly connect family, friends and passerby’s with the obituary of the deceased.
  • As seen at the 2011 SXSW in Austin Texas, independent bands handing out business cards with QR codes connecting interested music fans with a richer and more dynamic multimedia experience than a CD or press kit could ever provide.
  • Automotive retailers adding unique QR codes to the showroom floor model displays that provide interested prospects with a shortcut to running footage of the vehicle in action.
  • For QR codes to be successful, marketers need be certain that the user’s consideration is rewarded. That means ensuring that the destination is not only optimized for the complexity of mobile browsers, but that the content at the destination is relevant, succinct and ultimately worthy of the interaction (linking to your website’s generic landing page is not enough).

What’s next?

It’s not unreasonable to assume that the QR code of tomorrow will replace the standard URL of today and that mobile-commerce will overtake e-commerce. Strategy aside, one of the big issues preventing (or slowing) QR codes from being omnipresent in our day-to-day lives is the general lack of unifying standards. Once a firmware QR code reader is incorporated into smartphones at the production level (as opposed to having to find and download a specific application), North American usage will meet current usage levels of Asia and Europe. Marketers that embrace the medium today and realize the true potential for enhanced user experience and brand engagement will be well positioned for success.

How do you see QR codes being incorporated into the fabric of today’s marketing communication strategies and do you agree with our view on their potential?

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