QR Codes, Why Use Anything Else?

Ever since I began writing this blog, I’ve tried to remain agnostic with respect to showing support for one type of bar code format over another but, after seeing a recent print ad (see images below) from Ekornes, a Scandinavian furniture manufacturer, I believe it’s finally time to show some support for what, I believe, has become the de facto standard in the mobile bar code industry, the QR Code.

For well over a year now, the open-source QR Code has shown itself to be the most widely used mobile bar code format in the U.S. marketplace, so why does the company’s marketing/creative team go against the grain and use a code format which is much less well known, the Microsoft Tag. And, a customized Tag at that.

Also, if Tag is a proprietary code format (i.e., the Tag can only be scanned and read using the Microsoft Tag reader app), why not inform the reader of the ad about this? While it’s great that the company uses a call-to-action (“Scan to view our current specials.”), there’s no verbiage informing the reader of the ad that the Tag reader app is needed to actually scan and interact with the code.    

That’s two major strikes against this ad, and the reader of the ad hasn’t even seen the scan resolve content as of yet.

As I study this ad, let alone try to interact with the Tag, one word comes to mind, friction. If I were a novice at scanning codes there’s virtually no way that I would know how to go about scanning this particular code. If I were more practiced and knowledgeable about recognizing and scanning codes, this code would still pose a problem, due to it being customized to the point that it looks nothing like a generic Microsoft Tag.

In my mind, friction is the last thing an advertiser needs when attempting to interact and engage with a consumer, especially via a mobile bar code. As I have written before, in order for bar code-based campaigns/experiences to work, and work well (i.e., generate a positive ROI and favorable response rates), they not only have to be seamless and flawless with respect to execution, but they must also be frictionless.

One final thought/question comes to mind regarding this campaign. Did the company’s marketing/creative team ever really put themselves in the consumer’s shoes when developing the mobile bar code component of this ad, and see the code as an average consumer might? Yeah, I didn’t think so.    
2D Bar Code Litmus Test: FAIL

2 thoughts on “QR Codes, Why Use Anything Else?

  1. Perhaps, it's because in addition to:

    “…QR Code has shown itself to be the most widely used mobile bar code format…”

    It is also true that:

    “…QR Code has shown itself to be the most widely mocked and berated mobile bar code format…”

    Both are true statements specific to the past year.

    Mobile marketers and brands are well aware of this. Using a custom Microsoft Tag may have merely been an effort to separate itself from the general impression that QR generates in the mind of many marketers and consumers (the “why bother” impression). Whether a QR code would have received more traffic or less is a coin toss.

    That's one theory. Easy to discount. But, possibly true?

  2. Better Late than Absent… Whatever the marketer's intent, the bottom line is that the selection probably contributed more to the consumer apathy than the company's bottom line. Even if by some stroke of practicality, the marketer determine that the client prospect demographics fit the code used, the customization would effectively defeat the marketing. Beauty for aesthetic sake?

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