Monday, June 27, 2011

Quick Response

Quick response, a.k.a. QR codes – fad or trend?

Read On:
QR codes are rectangular codes that enable smartphone equipped consumers with the proper scanning applications to instantly receive information that has been encoded/decoded. They are slowly evolving into the mainstream and being utilized primarily by marketers seeking to instantly engage with their consumers – immediate link to a mobile site, customized content, video, etc. In addition to outbound messaging, QR codes facilitate tracking measurement.

I am real bullish about QR codes. Why? They are an excellent hybrid marketing tool – intercept marketing (a proven classic marketing strategy) combined with a Web 2.0 collaborative tool that facilitates engagement. Thanks to a project I am currently working on, I have been researching the current utilization of QR codes. When I discuss their unlimited potential, I have been challenged by my peers who believe they are a passing fad. Consequently, I would like to document why I think QR codes will become an integral part of marketing moving forward, a great touch point for both B2C or B2B marketers to engage and get closer to their customers. Rationale:

1. We are in the midst of a learning curve as it relates to QR codes. I apologize for being candid. I deem that the early adapters have misfired in their execution. One major example; too many companies have placed codes without any support copy (call to action) like scan here to get your free widget. As we become more familiar and marketers become more knowledgeable, everyone will know what to do when they spot the funny little rectangular codes.

2. Nielsen projects that half of the mobile phone user population will own a smartphone by the end of the year. More importantly, early smartphone users experienced some confusion about what scanners to download based on their equipment. A majority of the new models already come with a scanner app built in.

3. Google recently reported that 79 percent of smartphone owners use their phones while shopping (product and pricing information) with 90 percent resulting in a purchase or store visitation. In response, Retailers are placing QR codes in their stores to facilitate the shopping experience and provide a platform for engagement.

As most of my readership knows, I am a specialist in the foodservice channel. Restaurant operators utilizing QR codes as a promotional tactic will be a given – couponing, free samples, sweepstakes, etc. I get excited about other future applications – videos that communicate the source of the operator’s food or beverage (e.g., sustainable fish, fair trade coffee, etc.), recommended wine or beer pairings, exhibition cooking of a special dish, etc.

The utilization of QR codes will vary by industry. Once marketers work out the kinks and consumers/buyers become familiar with what they are, QR codes will be a great hybrid marketing tool. 2012 will be the year of the QR code.

Are you ready to scan with me?


  1. I recently met with a top marketing executive of a major book publishing company that is testing QR codes on the back cover dust jackets of its new books. The codes connected browsers in book stores to videos and web sites that told more about the book under consideration. The publishing executive said, "I can't tell you the exact response rates, but will say that we are going to add QR codes to the covers of all our new releases going forward."

  2. Another piece in the communication tool-box. Like any emerging or existing technology, the utility is in the ability to achieve an objective. I would never recommend everyone jump on QR codes unless the application drives a result that is a priority given available resources.

    Finally, marketers need to make sure the QR links to something they want or need. The dumb marketers ruin it for the rest of us if the link is useless thus diluting the impact.

  3. You nailed it, Jimmy. QR codes are inexpensive, and offer the user a plethora of possible product details. ANd you are right that many companies have squandered the opportunity by simply linking to a corporate website (that is often not even optimized for a mobile device...WUH!). It is still very early in the process, but like websites, once consumers are educated and the momentum builds, it will explode. Definitely a trend...not a fad.

    Having said that, companies who elect to use QR codes now must realize they are on the leading edge, and their ROI will be miniscule. Over time, early adoption will pay off.

  4. I just read a piece about a Kellogg's campaign this morning ( What they are doing nicely here is keeping the code/text number the same but switching up the content every so often depending on time of day but then also switching out "stale" (pardon the pun) for fresh content so that you never quite know what to expect.

    As with anything, your mileage may vary. It's not so much the QR code as it is if you have a meaningful and measurable business strategy.

  5. I love these QR codes. I think they have unlimited potential. I will agree that the reason people believe it is a passing fad is the inexperience of the early adopters.
    Just the other day I saw a delivery truck with a giant QR square that covered the back door of the truck. The only words associated were, "do not scan while driving". It didn't say anything about where it would take you, or even who the company was. And personally, made me want to scan even more while driving.
    To your points 2 and 3. Anyone not taking advantage of these statistics will most definitely lose out. I could see these codes replacing business cards, take out menus, anything that is print copy now that people give out for free...why not?

  6. I toyed with some QR codes this weekend, and perhaps it's just that my iPhone is a little slow, but one has to really want to know what that QR code says in order to go after it. Getting out the phone, loading the app, getting it to scan, waiting for the page to load... In the same amount of time, they could have put forth zero effort and watched 2 commercials on TV.

    I can see this really taking off if the technology gets as fast as bar code scanners at stores, but until then, I have a hard time seeing it anything more than a cool novelty.

  7. Jim
    I agree with you that QR codes have a great potential. When you look at the Internet, browsing capabilities, the need to track items all leads to labeling and information providing capabilities auch as RFID , QR and others

  8. Agree they have potential, fundamentally disagree this will be their year. Why...they exclude:

    1) Users who dont have smartphones - still the majority

    2) Smartphone users who dont want to down load apps

    3) Smartphone users who have the app but dont know how to use their phone.

    So you have a populations issue, several usability issues and finally a lack of strategy issue. If QR codes are simply an elaborate ruse to get people to buy something else, then the emperor will continue to be naked.

    And finally, our track record is not good here. Most US companies have failed to grasp social media - which seems to continually be a tactic in search of a strategy, so I don't have any more faith they will grasp the potential of QR codes.

    Nice article - but am not with you.

  9. "I deem that the early adapters have misfired in their execution."

    Agreed. I cry inside when I see poor executions of QR codes.

  10. Great comments everyone. Thank you.

  11. I agree that where most marketers are lacking in their QR implementation is a good call-to-action. The second area of opportunity is the landing page in which the scanner is directed. Most are not mobile optimized, so getting around and viewing or completing forms is not worth the hassle.