QR codes – on the way up or DOA?Posted: January 27, 2013
I asked a friend, “You know what QR codes are, right?”
A blank stare and a “no.”
Okay, so perhaps QR codes have not yet won the hearts of most customers and marketers, despite controversial predictions that 2013 may be the year the codes finally take off. For some reason, I still want to believe they will hit their stride in the United States and go from ugly grids on subway platform posters to useful tools for exploring and understanding our world.
But now, this. Perhaps taking credibility away from the usefulness of QR codes, McDonald’s has started using them as an option for retrieving nutritional information. This has led some thought leaders like Adam Singer to term it a “brilliant” tactic because McDonald’s doesn’t really want people to think about the nutritional value of their food, and since no one knows what a QR code is, much less how to use it, this a great way to release the information without worry it will deter consumers from chowing on hamburgers and fries. After all, they’ll probably never see it! A smokescreen for transparency, if you will.
Hmmm. Well, that sounds convincing.
But there’s one glimmer of hope — a comment on Singer’s post cites a survey that suggests 19% of Americans have scanned a QR code. Taking that into consideration, it seems QR codes are *not* dead and useless. If almost 20% of Americans have used one before, why not use them instead of — or along with — a short link, as some marketing leaders propose?
So what do you think is going on here? Would you scan a McDonald’s QR code to find out how many grams of fat and sodium you’re eating? Do you think the company’s motive in using QR codes is honorable?
Do you know what QR codes are?
Let’s chat in the comments!
This morning, Gini Dietrich observed that people in other countries appear to use QR codes frequently and with ease, but not so much in the US. She wonders what’s behind the apparent difference, and that got me curious about existing research on QR code adoption. Certainly some good research does exist, though most of it focuses on demographics, awareness and motives for scanning. I can’t immediately find qualitative research on attitude toward the codes — the missing piece of this puzzle, in my opinion — which might provide an answer for Gini and others who sense the potential of the technology. Here’s hoping we see such a study in the near future, because it would help marketers determine where and how to employ QR codes best, if at all. At the moment, the prescriptions I see seem to echo “educate the consumer.” But with such significant push-back from people who despise QR codes more than Madonna *loathes* hydrangeas … well, maybe it’s just not time in the US yet, and those who figure out how to do it well will pull ahead. I hope I have cause to write another QR code update soon!
Here’s a link to some of the information I found today. Enjoy, and please leave a comment if you find more!
Two thirds of consumers don’t know what QR codes are: survey — Analysis of a 2011 survey by UK research agency Simpson Carpenter. The link to the comScore article embedded in this page is definitely worth viewing as well.
MGH’s QR Code Usage and Interest Survey (pdf) — Results of a survey on QR code awareness plus demographics and motives behind scans.