QR Codes and Digital Watermarks

PSFK published an article today titled “Are Digital Watermarks the New Alternative to QR Codes?” and I just wanted to share, discuss and comment.

The article mentions how digital watermarks leave the design of an editorial piece or advertisement in tack, more so than when a QR Code is placed in a similar piece, but what the brief article failed to mention, and for some reason many individuals/companies seem to forget, is that QR Codes can be highly customized and stylized. In fact, QR Codes can be customized and stylized to the point that they can become part of the marketing piece itself, from an overall design/aesthetic perspective (see example).

Sure, a digital watermark, which cannot be seen by the naked eye, is aesthetically more pleasing than even a customized QR Code but, at the end of the day, the real issue at hand is the consumer experience. With both technologies, or any marketing-based technology for that matter, there is a need to educate the consumer as to how the technology operates, what’s involved from the consumer’s perspective (i.e., does an app need to be downloaded/used, etc.) and how does the consumer stand to benefit by using it. Until these types of issues are addressed by an advertiser, publisher, etc., it matters little as to which technology is being used or which might look better than another. At the end of the day, for any of these technologies (e.g., 2D barcodes, watermarks, near field communications, augmented reality, etc.) to work and truly deliver, advertisers must put themselves in the consumer’s shoes and view the campaign, the end-to-end experience (much of which is now via a mobile platform), from their perspective.

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