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Why do some marketers hate QR codes?

It always takes time for some people to understand the power of an innovative technology and accept it into their lives. When I was working my way through art school, I had one job that telemarketed to people, trying to offer them a free switch to touch tone service for their telephones. Yes, it seems to be a million years ago, but it wasn’t that long ago. It was the last hold outs with rotary dial phones and in a few months, they wouldn’t have any choice in the matter. Still, aside from the ease of use and the options touch tone service offered, people screamed at me to leave them alone and how they hated the thought of a new way to dial the phone. Obviously, those hold outs eventually learned how to use touch tone phones or they died.

QR codes are, in some ways, the new touch tone phone. They are ATMs to people who preferred waiting in line at the bank to cash a check and the remote controls for people who were used to getting off the couch to change TV channels. Some people just don’t see the possibilities, or care to see them.

The funny thing is, the possibilities offered by QR codes are still being discovered and, as technology evolves, so do the future possibilities of the codes. After searching the web for all of the “I hate QR code” articles, I settled on one that encompassed all of the hate reasons in one place.
This is what the writer had to say:

[pullquote]“Usually I say ‘QR codes are the scratch and sniff stickers of our time.’ Which leaves (people) a little confused. Especially, if it is some youngin’ who didn’t even live through the  scratch-n-sniff sticker crazy of the very early 80’s.”[/pullquote]

Why the hate? BECAUSE! QR Codes require an active audience, someone who WANTS to engage, and go through the effort of scanning the stupid things. And for what? What is the pay-off? Self promoting brand DATA; A commercial that pimps your services, products or promotion. So I hate them because any marketing tool that requires the consumer to expend energy (no matter how little) to engage is on the losing end of a deal. The viewer has to be MOTIVATED to WANT to know what lies behind the QR code and currently the effort to pay-off ratio is skewed.

To be fair, some brands are trying to up the pay-off. One wine company has QR codes on their bottles which offers the consumer a free winery tour, should they be near the winery location. Which is fine, but why make people jump through hoops for that perk? Why not offer free winery tours period? And of course other brands are offering those who take the time to ‘unlock’ the data on a QR code a discount or coupon.

Another reason I’ve heard repeated is that marketers have tried QR codes and they didn’t work for the campaign. There are reasons why, however. All of those reasons are; they weren’t used correctly. Some codes were placed on printed material too far away to scan, on fast moving vehicles or the codes were printed too small to be used, but most of all, because the codes were never tested across all the scan apps available to smartphone users. It reminds me of a meeting I was invited to attend at one of my employers to see a presentation on T-ink products. The manufacturer had sent dozens of samples of how it could be used on products. While we designers were inspecting the products, oohing and aahing about the possibilities, the head of the meeting was belittling the T-ink representatives because none of the products worked. One of the representatives picked up a product the meeting head had slammed down on the conference table and he removed the little paper tab that read, “remove before using.”

That little blunder of pure stupidity almost left the company out of a huge innovation and millions of dollars in sales. Likewise, those who cannot see the possibilities of QR codes will be left behind, but that’s the main principle of Darwinism. Let the weaker of the species die off and make room for evolution and not stagnation.

The writer who hates QR codes has ignored the principle usage of QR codes, and that shows her utter foolishness. For instance, smartphone users are addicted to their phones and apps available for those phones. There is even a phobia coined for these people. “Nomophobia,” which is the fear of being away from one’s phone, affects between 61% to 70% of cell phone owners. Getting users to scan for QUALTY material is not the problem. As the writer points out, one marketing plan offers a free tour of the winery. Quality and usable information are the  wonderful thing about using QR codes.

The problem is not with the users or the codes themselves but with the content marketers attach to the codes. With a plethora of choices for a link to land a viewer anywhere, on any content that truly creative thinking, along with knowing the demographics of the target consumer can think up, QR codes will continue to be the bridge between print and digital offers, information and anything at all.

Next article: “Great uses for QR codes you probably didn’t consider”

Image ©GL Stock Images

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