QR Codes: Where can users really benefit?

QR codes might be attracting a lot of attention as the bridge between mobile and content, but so far, where it it being done well?

With a few exceptions, QR codes have yet to hit the consumer mainstream (beyond the tech-savvy) and in many cases seem a little, well, try hard. I suspect that many brands using QR codes out of “look at us” vanity rather than to make a meaningful connection with customers.

It’s a fine line between differentiation and irrelevance.

As with all emerging technologies, it’s only really useful where it genuinely adds value to the user, rather than being forced upon them as the next big thing.

So it’s time to even the balance – QR codes should benefit both sides of the marketing coin.

I’ve been considering where both the brand and the consumer can benefit the most. Here are where I see distinct possibilities for that crucial value-add:

Where data-rich context is needed NOW

Ever walked past a for sale board outside an amazing house and wondered what the asking price is, how big it is and whether the garden is bigger than a postage stamp? Enter QR code. QR stands for “Quick Response”, after all. To be able to capture that data on your phone there and then has to be better than faffing about with badly optimised sites on a mobile phone. Estate agents, take note.

Where I don’t want to take that bit of paper, thank you

Leaflets, flyers and even petitions being proffered when I’m on the move get little attention from me, even if I think they might be interesting. I just don’t want paper! But offer me a QR code so that I can access that information in my own time on my own device, and you’ll have my attention.

Where advertising can take on a whole new meaning

Mobile and contextual advertising are a fact and we’ll see more of it, but the ultimate opt-in, and therefore buy-in, is where I can see an ad and respond to it meaningfully. So a QR code that takes me where I need to go and tells me what I need to know about a product is the ultimate. A boon for advertisers – can lower costs significantly (page spend, design) and vital data about consumer reactions can be attained.  But this should be used thoughtfully, as Yush Kalia points out. QR codes are already used in advertising, as we’ve seen, but it’s where it can do something that a print ad cannot do that we will see a compulsion to engage.

Ultimately, QR codes need to be introduced and used judiciously – consumers are still sceptical about their worth, relevance and even how to use them. Yet as smartphones become the norm, here’s a chance to use them well and add value – not vanity. And they most likely will enter the mainstream in time – and we may be surprised to see how their application developed.  In Japan (where QR codes are widely used) they are even used in cemeteries to add additional information to graves and unite mourners.

We might be some way from that example, but its clear that the key to QR code effectiveness for marketers will be in providing relevance, convenience and value.

Kate Spiers is director at Wisdom London, a creative communications consultancy.

3 Responses to “QR Codes: Where can users really benefit?”

  1. Interesting analysis that could be replicated for visual search and augmented reality technologies.

    Thank you

  2. Real estate agents yes, but we have found it handy for health charities – a simple and cheap way of giving patients lots of information about their condition and where to go for help – all off a poster in the clinic

  3. Great post Kate!

    I’m actually tired of seeing brands (and actually agencies within our industry) using QR Codes from the vanity perspective. Like a lot of technology that is available to them and us right now, it should only be deployed if it can ADD VALUE.

    The analogy of the house for sale is bang on. Perfect.

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