QR codes where originally designed back in 1994 to track vehicles during manufacture. Since then they are used to connect the offline world to the online world.
I want to give you both sides of the coin and finish with my verdict on them. I’ll start with my negative hat on.
I knew the percentage of consumers scanning QR codes was going to be low, so I did some research and found out only 19% of USA consumers have ever scanned one. That’s ever; I can imagine a lot fewer have scanned one again.
The reasons why it’s so low, well it doesn’t help when advertisers aren’t using them correctly. Linking people to the wrong content is a key one, but more importantly what’s giving them a bad name is there placement. Sticking a QR code on a moving vehicle, on the other side of the train track or at an underground station (that has no Wi-Fi or connectivity) isn’t a good idea.
It’s also hard for QR codes with new technology making it easier and more engaging for consumers to get to your offering.
Here are some nice ways that advertisers have used them, to show that they can live on.
A simple and very effective use is when they are linked to interesting content. Like Australia mail that let consumers create a video stamp, a QR code that links to a personalized video message. The second best thing when you can’t be there to give your friend their gift.
Some advertisers have even edited QR codes and integrated them into their ads, like these Disney posters.
You can actually edit up to 30% of a QR code, which gives advertisers more flexibility and more of a creative opportunity.
The location and timing when consumers scan them is extremely important too. Like this supermarket chain, which was losing business at lunchtime, so they created a shadow activated QR code, an installation that only became a visible when the sun hit it between 12pm - 1pm. Leading people to discounts in their store.
I don’t think they are dead; they just need to be used in interesting, engaging ways. Advertisers need to stop being lazy and give people a unique experience, add value to the ad and reward consumers with good content.
If advertisers do link it to their client’s site, they need to make sure it directs the consumers to a mobile optimised site. So before advertisers just stick another QR code in the left hand corner of their client’s press ad, they need to think about when the consumer will see it and how they will interact with it.
Create a reason why they would want to scan it.