QR Codes On Campus – A Reply

Last month, Archrival, the youth marketing agency, published the results of a survey they recently conducted titled “QR Codes On Campus.” In essence, the agency showed a QR Code to about 500 students on 24 college campuses across the country, and then asked questions like: Can you identify what this is? Do you know how to use it? How likely are you to engage with these in the future? Some of the results to these questions and others indicated that:

  • 81% of students owned a smartphone
  • 80% of students had previously seen a QR code
  • 21% of students successfully scanned our QR code example
  • 75% of students said they are “Not Likely” to scan a QR code in the future

While various aspects of the survey’s methodology could be questioned, my questions for the agency go straight to some of their comments, which were published on their website (see below).

Archrival: “In the midst of the growing industry pressure to force-feed these barcodes into the marketplace, we noticed a profound indifference being shown to QR codes by the one demographic that can make or break a trend — college students.”

2DBS: To the research team at Archrival, where is there “growing industry pressure to force-feed these barcodes into the marketplace?” As far as I know, no one is holding a gun to a CMO’s head demanding that a 2D barcode be used in their next advertising campaign. Let’s get real, brands and agencies are using codes for any number of reasons, rightly or wrongly, and it’s all their own doing.

Archrival: “QR codes do enjoy a high-level of awareness among college students yet only a fraction (21%) could properly scan and activate the code. Why the discrepancy? According to our findings, students simply struggled with the process. Some didn’t know a 3rd party app was needed, many mistakenly assumed it could be activated with their camera, and others just lost interest, saying the activity took too long. This could be why 75% of students said they were “Not Likely” to scan QR codes in the future.”

2DBS: Why the discrepancy? I’ll tell you why the discrepancy, because marketers/agencies are not willing or wanting to help educate consumers, regardless of age or level of technological experience, about QR Codes and 2D barcodes in general. All they are willing to do is publish a code and cross their fingers with the hope that consumers get it.Were any scan instructions provided in the survey? Of the 21%, would they scan again, do they find codes useful?

Archrival: “These are serious barriers marketers must account for and overcome if they plan on incorporating QR codes into any strategy that targets young consumers.”

2DBS: Archrival, must we be so dramatic? The only “serious barriers” or barrier for a marketer to account for and overcome is to develop a 2D campaign which offers value, meaning, relevance and benefit via scan resolve content that can be delivered seamlessly from end to end (i.e., from the moment the code is first seen on a printed page to the time the whole 2D/mobile experience ends). And, this goes for any and all age groups, not just the youth market. Is cost a barrier? Maybe. Is technical capability a barrier? Maybe. Is internal resources a barrier? Maybe. Is the development of a mobile website a barrier? Maybe. If and while all of these can be considered as barriers, my response to a marketer is that unless these other types of barriers can be overcome then don’t bother using 2D technology. (Oh right, but there’s that industry force-feeding again, so what difference does it make?)

Archrival: “Remember, when it comes to trends, especially those in the tech fields, adoption doesn’t trickle down to college students but rather the other way around. The college campus is what drives our popular culture — always has, always will. Without adoption or buy-in from this segment, a product will continually struggle for relevancy.”

2DBS: Not for nothing but, who owns the majority of iPads and/or tablets in the U.S.? Studies by comScore and Nielsen indicate that the majority of owners were older than college age. To me, it doesn’t seem like the iPad, or tablets in general, are struggling for any kind of relevancy.

Archrival: “Unless QR codes become easier, more nimble, and can provide content that engenders a more meaningful connection to the brand or product, students will continue to shower them with apathy.”

2DBS: Frankly, I am not sure how much easier a QR Code can become. Once you know how to scan a code the process is very easy. If it is a matter of getting a consumer, of any age, to scan his/her first code, therein lies the rub. This is when it is up to marketers to take it upon themselves and work to educate the consuming population on what QR Codes are, how to scan them and how useful they can be. Ah yes, the “serious barriers.”

Other than the comments above, to Archrival and others, I would say, take this research with a grain of salt and know that as with most anything that’s marketing related it’s all a matter of trial and error, learn and adjust, overcome and adapt. There are no single or simple solutions, for any target market, product, service or technology, and all 2D technology is is another form of direct response which, if developed and executed correctly, will serve to increase the odds of campaign success (i.e., achieving the desired marketing or sales goal or objective).


One thought on “QR Codes On Campus – A Reply

  1. roger…i saw this article and i did some quick math…the sample they took is not relevant for a real study…it is so small i belive the survey people were on vacation. these surveys of 24 schools, were a road trip for some one to get paid and not be accurate, or worse… asked to skew the results. these questions took about an house of someones time at each place…not a good use of time and travel investment…how and where were these questions asked? maybe the freshman dorm suring the first week? maybe the parking lot? where the food service people were? this survey was not taken in major metro areas….What? that byitseld skews the results….no boston no newyork or chicago surveys? what? Nebraska is not the end all decision makers for the rest of the states…so why were the surveys taken there? No LA or San Fran…something is wrong with this survey! just in the places chosen and the small numbers of surveys based on the number of students at the schools make this such a skewed smalple it should be outed for what it is…Fraud or outright inept statistics! what was their agenda? not accuracy for sure. who paid for the survey? Tag? NFC? i wonder…

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