QR Codes – Smart Technology Or A Marketing Fad?

On the way to work today I counted 6 QR codes. I saw a couple in my morning newspaper, some on billboards and and one outside a shop. It’s clear that this relatively new technology is being embraced in marketing circles with some gusto but I wanted to ask are QR codes a useful technology that will be around for a generation or are they a passing fad? We have written about some fairly innovative ways in which QR codes are being used here in the past but are they actually working and does the man in the street understand the technology? Are we seeing a new trend emerge that will be around for generations to come on lots of physical products or is this a fad that will be gone this time next year?

Proliferation Of Smart Phones

The main reason that we are all starting to use QR codes is because so many more of us now have smart phones that are able to read the QR codes. The technology is hardly earth shattering but the fact that a large percentage of us now walk around with powerful computers in our pockets means that new technologies are starting to emerge and QR codes are one of the biggest winners to date.

Technology Needs To Improve

The technology of smart phones has improved massively in the last 18 months but reading QR codes is still a but of a pain as it involves opening an app which is a bit of a cumbersome experience. I think the experience needs to be a lot smoother to encourage wider adoption and ideally would need to be built in to cameras as a native function on all phones. I want to be able to take a picture with my phone and be taken straight to the link. The barrier to entry needs to decrease a little more and that is up to the phone manufacturers in my opinion.

Linking Real World To Online World

Some of the most innovative QR code campaigns are extending the experience of the offline marketing in to the online world. The beauty of QR codes is that they can increase measurement and effectiveness of ads. I’ve seen this in particular with iPhone app ads (where the QR code links through to a download) which is an effective way for app developers to promote their apps in a notoriously difficult market place. The danger is that people slap a QR code on to things just for the sake of it and while that might work in the short term while QR codes are still new it’ll take innovation in the future when asking people to click through to your link.

Fad Or Marketing Genius

I love them. I think there are endless possibilities that brands and businesses can use to bring their customers form the real world in to the online world. Used correctly QR codes can increase engagement and even boost sales. There is however a danger that brands and businesses are getting caught up in a technology that a small percentage of people understand. Most people don’t have a notion what QR codes are or what to do with them but the people who do are very likely to activate them. In my opinion QR codes are here to stay but the technology needs to improve and brands and businesses need to think about ways to use QR codes that actually add value rather than just adding them for the sake of adding them. Anything that brings technology in to the real world and bridges the gap to the online world is a winner as far as I am concerned. What do you think? Marketing genius or a passing fad?