I recently was chatting with a guy from SoMo - the aristocrats of the UK mobile advertising industry - and I was quite surprised by his opinion on QR codes. There was a distinct sigh about them, they are ugly and backward. What is an alternative? AR (augmented reality) was the response, and NFC (although Apple need to give their blessing before that is pushed harder). Yeah, both of those things will probably grow, but AR has been around for a while, but is still seen as a bit of a gimmick. Blippar are offering their services all over the place, but does it really solve a problem that mobile phone users have? It’s never that I have caught myself thinking “Oh if only that Tesco poster had AR that enabled me to buy stuff”, er no.
The trouble with both of these is that they should not be viewed as alternatives, they are what they are. NFC is going to grow, but it still requires more setting up and it requires hardware, both in the phone and the surface that is being tapped. Moreover NFC is near field, so you have to be close, 4cm or less. AR has a high entry barrier, and a lot of fiction to even have the AR experience.
It seems fashionable to bin QR codes as an ugly fab, and it is sad that people in large agencies want to be part of that crown. However, like a no nonsense defender, they serve a great purpose and should not be ignored simply because they aren’t attractive. Practically all smartphones will come pre loaded with a barcode reader and a camera, so the user only has to open it and scan. The setup cost of a QR code, nothing. There are countless free QR code generators out there, it just needs to be added to the artwork.
When I was consulting for a small agency we were coming up with fun ideas for a large alcohol multi-national, and many of them revolved around AR campaigns. For example, a game using beermats for markers, but the trouble is that the user would need an app in order to see the magic. This in itself is a stumbling block, but if they were interested to get the app how would you get them there? A QR code. A quick scan would take the user to the correct page on the relevant app store. This is far better than “search: I am a cool AR advert” and forcing the user to type and search.
If you are thinking about how to get a QR code campaign going, or when and where would be good to place them, then just think about how you can ease the friction for a user, what added value will scanning the QR code provide? We have our own service called www.qrlme.com that massively eases the friction of getting a twitter follower, facebook fan and / or downloading a vCard, as they are all on one page. (Hence it is called Quick Response Like, because it’s quick.)
If you have any question regarding your own QR usage feel free to get in touch.
By: Lindsay Butler+