De-Mystifying the QR-Code for Marketing

sonncom's QR code

sonncom's QR code

Recently, they seem to appear everywhere: QR-codes (=quick response codes). Initially developed for Toyota to track vehicles during the manufacturing process, they have become one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes due to their fast readability and comparatively large storage capacity. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data (e.g., binary, alphanumeric, or Kanji symbols). In marketing they are used mainly to lead to a web-address.

What is actually behind it? The encoding of a QR-Code:

Starting from the lower-right corner, the first four bits define the encoding (Enc) – in this  case 8 bits per character. Next is the length of the message (Len 17). Now comes the message itself, then the end-of-message marker (End) and finally the error-correcting codes (E1-E7). These are great for advertising, because you can print your logo just over the QR-Code and it will – within certain limits – still produce the right message.

But most important for marketers: does it makes sense to put QR-codes into all your printed publications and even online?

Lets see some stats first:

Again: does it makes sense to put QR-codes into all your printed publications and even online?

NO, it doesn’t, because

  • It’s a fad. Usage of QR codes has exploded in 2010 at 1,200%, but has peaked and stagnated since November 2010 (according to Mobio, who offers a code reader).
  • Nobody can use them. Well, almost nobody. You need to have a phone that has a camera and is capable of running the software. Then you need to download the software and install it. And you need to actively run that software to process the code. How many consumers have the gadget for that and if they do, are they willing to fool around with it endlessly at the supermarket?
  • Have you ever used them as a consumer/client? If not, you are either just ignorant, or you did not have a reason to use them. Maybe your target group is just the same?
  • You used them once to see how they work, but have not tried ever since? You seem to represent a typical pattern. 1,200% growth then stagnation is a pretty obvious sign that people use them only once to try the game and then have enough (because most of them do not offer anything new).
  • It’s a waste of packaging space. You need to inform about your products on the packaging anyway, so why add a code to drive people to a website that offers another piece of information that, if important, should be printed on the packaging in the first place.

Oh YES, it definitely does because

  • It shows that your company/brand/product is technologically up to date. Even if the code just leads to your website, your consumers/clients will find it cool that you have that code on the product.
  • You can do nice things with it. Be innovative, have the code link to social media, a game, poll, app, widget, etc. Anything but your website is good. Anything that leads to a further transaction will give you real value by using QR codes. Use the code for clever marketing stints. Use it to drive your customers to engaging stuff.
  • In the future, we will probably be able to pay with it. Payment methods which initiate the transaction by scanning the QR code are ready, it will just take some more time for industry and retailing to establish and manage the necessary processes. So, gain experience and get a head start.

Summary: Know that QR codes are mostly useless for your customers/clients, but still use them to your advantage. Have a little fun in marketing.

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