The Misconceptions of QR Codes

The other day, I noticed an article titled “QR Codes: Fad, Marketing Trend or …” on The Social CMO Blog, and I thought it fitting to discuss the content of the article for the first post of the New Year. The article is brief and reprinted below.

QR Codes: Fad, Marketing Trend or…
December 9, 2012, Ted Rubin
“I read a post last week debating whether QR codes are a fad or a marketing trend ripe for growth. My thought was…REALLY?

QR codes are not a fad, that would imply they ever had value or were a phenomenon in the first place. QR codes were dead on arrival. Sure, they have their place, and can be useful here and there, but who needs another thing to do to get information. Just what today’s overloaded, over worked, no hands free shoppers needs… to hold their smart-phone up to a code, wiggle it around, wait for it to load, then observe.

Reminds me of the big plastic keys we used to have at the Bronx Zoo in the 1960′s that you inserted in a box outside the animal cages to hear a story… yeah, let’s bring them back.”

After reading an article like this I can only imagine that Mr. Rubin is not a fan of QR Codes.  But, a few comments/questions for Mr. Rubin, if I may.

First, Mr. Rubin, you’re right, QR Codes have and never will possess any value but then, why should they? QR Codes, in and of themselves, are a technological by-product, they hold no value. The value to which, I believe, you are speaking about lies in the content and/or experience that the QR Code scans to, not with the QR Code itself. Furthermore, if I follow your line of reasoning, what value is in a fax machine, a PC that generates an email, a television that airs a commercial? These, QR Codes included, are all just different mediums, channels, platforms, by which a brand chooses to communicate, engage and interact with a consumer.

Second, over the past couple of years, research from various sources has shown a dramatic increase in the number of QR Code scans taking place, so I would hardly say they are, or were, “dead on arrival.” Sure it has taken some time for consumers, and brands, to adapt and adopt to the technology but, can’t this be said for most technologies? Also, now that we have passed the tipping point with respect to smartphone ownership and usage, it will be interesting to see what really starts to happen with scan rates.

Third, Mr. Rubin, you write, “who needs another thing to do to get information,” but what, then, do you make of all of the apps that are on the market, which do just that, help provide information? And, since when does information just flow without people having to do something like read a book, listen to the radio or talk with someone else? “Experts” like yourself always want to make it appear as though the process of using a code reader app and scanning a code is so arduous when, in fact, it is just the same as using most any other app. You locate a code reader app in a mobile phone store/market, download the app to your mobile phone and then launch the app when needed. Once the code reader is up and running, all that’s left to do is place the phone’s camera lens near the QR Code, so it can be read and then scanned. Done. For most people this only takes a few seconds.

Fourth, Mr. Rubin, may I ask, is there anyone holding a gun to a consumer’s head to scan a QR Code? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Then, what’s the problem? What’s you’re point by writing, “Just what today’s overloaded, over worked, no hands free shoppers needs…”? If a brand wishes to provide an additional means by which they can engage and interact with consumers, why not let them? If a consumer wishes to make use and take advantage of the QR Code experience being offered by a brand, why not let them? Sure, it all goes to pot if the scan resolve is not of value, relevance, meaning and benefit to the consumer, but that’s an entirely different situation and problem to contend with. Also, I believe it’s somewhat myopic to believe that QR Codes are only for “shoppers.” Post-sale there is a myriad of uses for QR Codes. 

In summary, Mr. Rubin, instead of putting down the technology when, in actuality, the technology works just fine, why not put down the people who misuse the technology? Or, better yet, instead of putting them down, why not try to be more helpful, like me, and teach marketers how to make better use of the technology, so that it works to everyone’s (brand and consumer) advantage?


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