The article below was recently published on Business2Community’s website and it just makes me laugh. My comments to the author, and in general, are listed after “2DBS” and are in bold. Enjoy. (Note: the author is based in Singapore and I assume English is not his first language.)
6 Reasons Why QR Code Won’t Work by Jacky Tan
Recently, due to the rise of the smart phone users, many marketers are beginning to jump onto the QR code bandwagon in order to take advantage of this group of new-age consumers. Being a brand with its unique QR code makes the brand looks trendy and keeping up with the time, it seems like having a QR code is a must have for all marketers and branding managers.
2DBS: Yes, QR Codes and other print to mobile technologies have the ability to help brands appear forward-thinking and technologically savvy, but these technologies are hardly must haves for marketers and brand managers. If there is anything that is a must have these days is a mobile presence, but even here mobile may or may not make sense for each and every company and/or marketing situation.
However, in my opinion, QR code may not be that great even with today’s new age consumers due to these reasons.
In order to check out the QR code, one has to get a smartphone with a camera. Download a QR scanner, scan and take a picture of the QR code and then ‘VOILA!’ you can finally see the promotion and ad messages behind this code!. The question is why take the trouble to do all these in the first place.
2DBS: First, any smartphone on the market will have a camera. Second, with regard to the trouble of downloading an app, if apps were such a nuisance to download and make use of, why would millions of them be used each and every day? Once a reader app is downloaded it is only a matter of seconds to open the app and scan the code. The app argument is old and holds no water, next!
2.Psst…it’s a Secret
QR codes are secretive and totally lack of openness and transparency. Imagine you are going to a shop to buy some jeans. When you reach that shop, the doors are shut and you can’t see anything inside the shop as the walls are painted all black. And then you saw a message at the door that reads, “says these 4 secret words so that you can come into this shop”. Would you want to come to this ‘mystery’ shop with no idea what’s inside?
Well, QR codes works ‘secretly’. Well it does give an element of surprise, however at the same time, it also creates a cloud of doubt for your potential consumer on your brand as well. So why the mystery?
2DBS: Here is when people get the technology of QR Codes confused with the strategic use of QR Codes for marketing purposes. Sure a consumer is not going to know what’s really linked to the code, but if the advertiser provides a well thought out call-to-action or incentive for scanning the code, the consumer should have a pretty good idea of what lies behind the code and why it makes sense for them to scan it. In addition, the same can be said about email marketing. With only the subject line to go on, what does a consumer really know about the contents of the email itself? Last I heard, no one really considered email marketing secretive or mysterious.
3.Many Brands Are Doing That, It’s Nothing Special
Well, when QR first started, it does aroused much curiosity among consumers especially when they want to find out how QR codes work for the first time. However, when more and more businesses and brands are doing that, consumers are beginning to feel that QR codes are just like any massive interrupting advertising messages. Hence eventually when the frenzy dies down, the QR code advertising will no longer special to the consumer anymore.
2DBS: I’m the first one to agree with Seth Godin, much of today’s advertising interrupts the consumer from one end of the day to the next, but no brand is out there forcing a consumer to interact with their code. The code and its scan resolve content is there for the taking. With respect to so many brands making use of codes, the specialty has worn off. Sorry disagree here too. Of all of the advertisers in the market, I would say that the vast majority are still not using codes.
4. Creating a Difficult New Habit for Consumers
QR code creates a new kind of habit for consumers to view promotions and changes the way one looks at advertisement. The question here is, will the consumers able to be accustomed to such new habit?
In other words, the marketer need to ask “Does this habit simplify one’s life or making someone’s life more difficult?” “Does the consumer prefers to see the advertisement and ad message straightforwardly or the consumer prefer to go through the hassle of scanning, taking picture and then view the ad?”
Smartphones, unlike QR codes, is considered an easy switch for the new age consumer because of the fact that people are already used to getting information via the Internet through computers, and smart phones just make one able to access the internet and get information faster and easier even on the move. Therefore, it is an easy switch of habit with the same yet improved main purpose that is access the internet.
However, the purpose of QR code is different. It is to encourage people to view advertisement in a new, difficult and indirect way hence making it a difficult habit switch such that people need time to adapt and accept.
2DBS: Let’s back this “argument” up. First, can’t this be said about any new technology, disruptive or not? People needed to learn how to use a radio, a television, a personal computer, an iPod, a tablet, email, a facsimile machine, etc. Yes, QR Codes require consumers to learn something new, but again, no one is forcing them to do so. The use of a code is there simply as another form of engagement and interaction between the brand and the consumer. Will it take time for consumers to learn new “habits” with respect to scanning codes, sure, but that’s when an advertiser can help (see best practices).
5. What About Smartphones Without Cameras?
QR codes work with people who have smartphones with camera. What about people who do not have smartphones or people with smart phones that does not have the camera function? These groups of people can also be your buying consumers; hence if you focus too much on QR codes branding, you might lose out some potential clients along the way.
Consumers without camera functioned smart phones may also feel that your brand is unfair towards them. Why can’t they enjoy the same benefits of your brand just because they don’t have a smart phone with camera?
2DBS: Mr. Tan, now you’re really grasping at straws. Yes, there are two audiences in the marketplace: those with smartphones and those with feature phones (i.e., a non-smartphone). If an advertiser wishes to focus only on smartphone users, and alienate feature phone users, that’s their pejorative. If, on the other hand, an advertiser wants to market towards both audiences while making use of a QR Code then they should offer another means by which feature phone users can access the scan resolve content. To do this, they could offer a short code. Pretty simple isn’t it?
6. Wait a Minute, I am Trying to Scan this Code!
People receive tons of marketing messages all day. Now, they have one more QR code to entertain. QR code is a good innovation however it creates too many points of contact between the consumer and the brand.
The less the point of contact between the consumer and the brand, the better. The best marketing or branding messages is something that one sees and immediately register that brand in their minds right away. Vice versa, when there is more point of contacts and steps to do in order to receive the marketing messages, people would simply ignore it.
Your consumer has no time to follow your instructions step by step in order to see your ad message. If this is true, you would be seeing this as an everyday phenomena that people would crowd around an ad poster in your train station trying their best to scan the QR code. It’ll never happen. Hence, don’t beat around the bush, you got to tell your consumer straight.
2DBS: Mr. Tan, it seems as though you are confusing branding and advertising. They go hand in hand, but not all of the time. If the goal is to raise pure brand awareness a company might do X. If the goal is to sell a particular product a company might do Y. If the goal is to raise brand awareness and sell product a company might do Z. My point here is that it all depends on the goals and objectives that are set for a campaign, QR Code-based or otherwise. I have heard that the more pieces in a direct mail campaign the higher the response rate. Why? Because there are more touch points to catch the interest of the consumer. I would argue the same with code-based campaigns. Displaying a code and offering scan resolve content merely provides the consumer with that many more reasons/chances to engage and interact. None of this is a zero sum game.
In summary, QR codes are good additional marketing tools for your brand but do not have to focus too much energy and time on it. However, you can still test it to see if it works or don’t work for your business since this is something new and trendy since everybody is doing it.
2DBS: After writing six reasons why QR Codes won’t work, you now say they “are good additional marketing tools.” Mr. Tan, if you only spent as much time truly researching the technology and how it can and should be used, you could have saved yourself, and your readers, a lot of time and effort.