Constant comments and articles that "QR Codes are dead" seem to keep sprouting up. I came home from work last night and the first thing my son said to me was, "Dad, QR Codes are dead". He heard it on Facebook as did thousands of others after retweeting and reposting a recent OP-ED article http://mashable.com/2012/02/15/qr-codes-rip/ posted on the Mashable Tech blog. I was very surprised by the author's reasoning but not surprised by the comments received from a community of supportive QR Code enthusiasts and experts. QR Codes dead? Nothing could be further from the truth.
QR Codes were developed by Denso Wave, a Japanese company that originally produced them for Toyota in 1994. I first encountered a QR Code printed on a banner advertising Ralph Lauren's Polo brand at the US Open in 2008.
QR Code scanning has dramatically increased in the U.S. in the last two years and recent research by ScanLife indicates a 300% growth in 2011 over 2010 – http://blog.scanlife.com/tag/qr-codes/. Recent research from Chadwick Martin Bailey indicates that 1 out of 5 people who have scanned a QR code, have also made a purchase – http://blog.cmbinfo.com/bid/73238/The-Facts-Marketers-Need-to-Know-Before-Using-QR-Codes With 20+ million people scanning QR Codes, I would say that is a market opportunity.
So, here are four essential elements that I believe marketers, enthusiasts and consumers should consider to keep the QR Code crops growing and flourishing.
Like any new process or idea, it is important to educate people on what a QR Code is, how it can be used and what value it delivers when scanned. Always include some instruction and direction when you are using QR Codes. The consumer needs to be guided through the "pitch to the package" (tell them where to get a QR Code reader, how to scan the QR code and what they will receive when they do). Marketers, follow groups that meet online to discuss mobile technologies and learn what works and doesn't work. I join a group of experts on a Twitter chat, #qrchat, every Sunday evening.
You can find many great use cases and applications related to QR Codes. However, "plan before the scan". Determine your goal, Identify your target audience, plan how you wish to reach them and include a "call-to-action" (CTA). Some of the most popular CTAs are coupons, discounts, free tickets and video content. The reason many people claim QR Codes are dead, is related to the poor user experience that many marketers have created while experimenting with QR Codes. Many QR Codes still direct the viewer to a company homepage (that is not optimized for mobile viewing). Plan a memorable and actionable user experience and your visitors will spread the word and return.
I have seen some great QR Code applications lately and they go beyond the traditional scan to a mobile web page/video scenario. Some smart marketers are learning that QR Codes can be more interactive and are developing some very clever and successful campaigns. Scandinavian Airlines recent "Couple Up to Buckle Up" QR Campaign required two people to sit down and plan a trip together. As each partner scanned their own QR code, a split video of a young man on one phone moved towards the women on the next.
Our company, Webinar Resources, recently launched QRCombo, a QR Code application that combines two destinations into one QR Code. There are other innovations on the horizon and you will see QR Codes included in a multi-channel mix — web, email, SMS, social and print. Innovation will keep QR Codes alive, fun and profitable.
Marketers are learning more about the power and influence of a community that can essentially like or unlike your brand in seconds. QR Codes are an ideal way to reach out to communities and connect people. The city of Dayton, Ohio, recently launched a Scavenger Hunt that included the use of QR Codes. When communities start engaging in activities that involve QR Codes, adoption of their use will happen much faster.
Four essential elements, education, utilization, innovation and communitization will be required to keep QR Codes alive. Each of these elements are building blocks for the others. Look at the structure of a QR Code. It is basically made up of a series of different building blocks, like Legos (they have an application too). We need to work together to strategize, plan and execute successful QR Code campaigns that people will remember, revisit and recycle into new innovations that will be building blocks for future marketing, selling and learning opportunities.