QR codes seem like a good idea – a way to allow readers the chance to find out more about something than an advert or packaging space permits. It seems good for the reader and the brand.That ‘s why they have been cropping up everywhere for nearly a year or so.
So why is that a quick straw poll among typical consumers here in the office, mostly under 30, reveals what I’ve been suspecting for some time – hardly anyone actually scans QR codes.
Do they know what they are? Mostly. Do they know how to use them? Yes
Then why do they not use them ?
Well, I reckon it’s for a number of reasons. Often it’s down to location. Many brands now use QR codes and they crop up in the oddest and most impractical of places. I spotted a QR code last night on my tube of toothpaste. How can I be in a position to grab my phone and scan the code while brushing my teeth? Or indeed want to? Bizarre.
This brings me to reason number 2. Relevance. Brands need to first of all consider whether their consumers are likely to own a smartphone and secondly whether they have one to hand in order to scan the QR code. QR codes on promotional material such as posters or adverts I can understand, but on cushions, clothing and cupcakes? I don’t get it!
Final reason – content. ‘What’s in it for me?’ is the question on most people’s lips when presented with a QR code. If it enables access to special offers, promotions, events or hidden content, then the appeal is obvious. If it simply provides a link to the general website or content that can easily be found elsewhere then there’s no added value.
Maybe they are an idea that is currently ahead of its time. Years ago text messaging was around for a long time before it took off and became widely used – I know because we were the PR company involved in building usage for the mobile operators when they felt it was underused.
Another similar current situation is contactless payments – paying for goods under £15 by prepaid or debit card without having to insert your PIN. It’s growing slowly because hardly anyone thinks of using it even if they have a card that allows it.
Perhaps both QR codes and contactless payments need a major PR generic campaign to raise awareness and educate everyone about the benefits.
Until then, I remain to be convinced about the widespread use of QR codes in marketing – and that tube of toothpaste will remain unscanned!