Lowe’s and Home Depot use 2D Barcodes

Over the past several weeks, I have noticed television commercials by Lowe’s and Home Depot, both of which feature a 2D barcode. In the Lowe’s commercial, you see a Microsoft Tag placed on garden plant care stakes, and in the Home Depot commercial you see QR Codes placed on garden plant care stakes too. The only real difference between the two commercials is that in the Home Depot spot you actually see a customer scanning the QR Code with a smartphone.

While it is great to see two major retail brands making use of the technology, the average consumer (i.e., a consumer with no previous knowledge of 2D technology) probably would not realize what they are being shown during the commercials and, even if they did, they stand a good chance of missing the visual, because in both spots the codes are shown for only a few seconds. So, in my mind, why bother placing the codes in the commercials at all?
Yes, I realize these two companies are in the experimentation phase with 2D, as many others are, but how much of an experiment is it when codes are not presented as the focal point in an advertisement, or are figured into an advertisement as an afterthought? Why not create a 30-second commercial that really features the technology and puts it out there front and center for all to see and experience? How else does a company believe that consumers are going to 1) learn about the technology in general, and 2) know that the company itself makes use of the technology and provides it to their target audience?

Another question to ask is, why can’t information about the use of 2D be found on either company’s website? I searched both the Lowe’s main website and the Home Depot main website and nothing…no press release, no general information page, no additional information on the garden center product pages…nothing. If a customer wanted to learn more about the technology and how they can make use of and/or experience it, the opportunity does not present itself. Once again, this points to an advertiser not fully thinking through their use of the technology and the role they need to play as 2D barcode educator/ambassador/evangelist.

It will be interesting to see for how long, and in what context, Lowe’s and Home Depot stick with 2D.

(Note: I have not scanned the codes in store, but I assume they both link to plant care information.)


7 thoughts on “Lowe’s and Home Depot use 2D Barcodes

  1. I look at this somewhat differently.

    The ads for these companies are charged with fulfilling a number of campaign ingredients, from emotional to practical.

    Presenting a quick shot with a QR or 2D barcode in a casual manner shifts this from presenting a “technology” to presenting a standard “consumer habit.” That may be more powerful than positioning QR-2D as something “new.” It moves it into the realm of mainstream, at least in terms of the impression the ad is supposed to deliver.

    That being said, it also feels like it's a use of QR-2D as a “prop” to indicate that the company is technically hip. There's a lot of that kind of usage around, where the use of QR-2D is not about the value to the consumer but is merely a message about the company (sort of like when the first companies started including their URL in their television ads, which is now commonplace, but at one time was considered really edgy and innovative).

    It would be interesting to know if the codes resolve to plant care information. That is information that has existed ad infinitum in a more simple and direct format: print. Do we really need that info on mobile? The misuse of mobile to deliver content better delivered in other media is a growing concern.

  2. Interesting, Roger! I conducted a live experience survey of a few big-box retailers and compared use of barcodes for an upcoming presentation, Home Depot being one of them. Of numerous missed opportunities to engage store visitors (notably in grills, lawn mowers and appliances), I thought I'd had a “bust” experience in the store until I realized that the Easter lily I'd purchased had a care stake with a QR code on it, and that, only as I checked it at the cash register. Definitely concur with your assessment. The retailers may be experimenting – but the experiments won't succeed very well when the user is not guided to the experience meaningfully.

  3. Most big box retailers don't think they need to educate consumers on anything other than what products they have available. And, probably with the amount of advertising they have to run in order to get a response, they may be thinking consumers will catch on “at some point.” Also, look at all the businesses utilizing these 2D codes — national brands, media, local retailers, and B2B — they are getting more and more 'common' place.

    What concerns me greatly is how these codes are being used — they will end up being another fad if they're not used with more ingenuity than sending someone to a website (yawn).

  4. Anonymous: I agree with your comment about companies making use of mobile just for the sake of doing so and 2D just to appear cool or hip or innovative. Wrong move across the board.

  5. Bill: My point exactly re: making consumers aware enough so that the 'experiment' matters and is of such significance that the advertiser can actually learn from it for the next campaign.

  6. With Home Depot requesting it's vendors use QR codes on future labels, it seems that they are adopting the technology rather than using it as a show of hipness. After a weekend visit to a local Home Depot garden center, I am convinced of HD's commitment to giving their customers added information both in store and after purchase. Anyone planning to plant a spring garden or many of their annuals and shrubbery can scan the plant labels and get planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning tips and more. One thing they can improve on is to train their employees about QR codes and how to scan them. A few demonstrations or well place instructional signage and customers will recognize QR codes and how get to the extra information!

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