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The QR dilemma

November 4, 2008 at 6:14 by Martina Comments

I’ve been fascinated by QR codes since the very beginning, a couple of years ago. And I’ve always asked myself the same questions: how many people have the QR reader software installed on his/her mobile phone? How many people really understand there is something they can do and access to through that barcode? Is it really worth and cost effective to launch an action with QR codes (outside of Japan, of course…)?


The disappointing thing is that I’m still looking for relevant answers to the questions above. I keep reading about QR actions but it’s impossible to get any number on the spread of QR enabled phones nor on the results of QR campaigns. To give you an idea of the lack of information in the industry and among consumers, I think it’s interesting to read an article Ralph Lauren has published on its online magazine. A fashion brand that explains its consumers a technology… let me say that this is a bit curious, unless you have realized nobody has interacted with your QR code…

Today I read on NMA that Pepsi “is to launch on-pack and on-shelf mobile QR codes in a bid to increase consumer interaction with the brand“. This is definitely a mass marketing action, but again, it raises concerns on the actual reach and redemption it can generate. In a way, I have the same feeling I had when Second Life launched. Brands opened their store or space in SL just because it was a cool thing to do that was able to generate a lot of press clippings


Another thing that gives you an idea on the lack of knowledge around QR is the fact that in every article that presents a QR action, the journalist always feels the need to explain what a QR code is and how it works. Just to give you an example, this is an article coming from Australia about the latest Sony Ericsson Quantum Solace QR enabled campaign.
Ok, I’m done for today with my concerns around QR. Don’t get me wrong I think QR codes are a potentially great marketing tool but you know, marketing resources are limited, and before launching a QR action, I need to find an answer to the question: is it worth it?
Any number or thought you could share will be highly appreciated!

12 Responses to The QR dilemma

  1. Frank says:

    You could re-write that article and simply replace QR Code with RSS only that RSS is probably a little bit further in its lifecycle. I guess the key enablers are the phone companies. If they push that the QR code reader app is preinstalled and web access enabled on every phone and advertisers keep pushing, especially towards the younger audiences then we have a winner. Inevitable but will take time.

  2. steve says:

    This is an interesting question.
    I think that the Australian market will be a good test case as QR adoption has recently been taken up by the largest telco (Telstra). Telstra launched a large scale consumer education programme aimed at increasing awareness of the technology.
    As a result we are now seeing significant advertiser adoption also,. However, it is thought that less than 5% of phones currently suppport QR.
    Interstingly it has been taken up by some high end brands,not just the youth end, notably Lexus.
    I would hypothesise that if the carriers and the media continue the education peice, and advertsiers keep on including it on the pack/ad etc. then it will gain traction.

  3. Eugenio says:

    To answer (partially) to your question: the QR reader comes preinstalled on new Nokia mobile phones, at least on the business-line “E” Series (but I suppose also on the fancy “N” series).
    And also, nokia makes available a very smart and easy “Matrix Code Maker”:

  4. Alex says:

    Great Post! I work with digital agencies (specifically media) in New York and I would easily say 80% of them don’t even know what a QR code is.
    I agree that mobile companies need to take the lead on introducing QR technology. For advertisers like Pepsi, they should release a commerical clearly showing how the code works/benefits the user. Apple did this with the iPhone and mobile websurfing - look how big that is in North America now.

  5. Morgan says:

    Great post. As for adoption, I think that soon someone will concept a campaign that requires a QR code, which has such appeal, that QR ready phone owners (iphone, G1) will download the app to their device.
    Until that time, it’s going to be a slow roll out.

  6. Fethi Uluak says:

    I saw an interesting slide about Polo’s campaign.It explains the process step by step and you can obviously see the poor user experience:
    Also you can look at Vespa�s QR code based campaign in Toronto. Its looking much better than Polo’s:

  7. Roger says:

    Hi there,
    I am most certainly biased as we are in this business. But what I can tell is this. QR Code campaigns beat out SMS already here in Switzerland and Germany. And with every campaign this gets stronger and stronger.
    And like with the iPhone, it’s not the telcos doing the spiel, it’s small companies as ours which do the job.

  8. Ian - QRMe says:

    I run a QR code website in the UK and the visitor numbers are doubling month on month. There is a lot of interest in the QR code readers section of the website at the moment so consumers are gaining an active interest in the technology.

  9. St. Mark says:

    I think photo-recognition will leapfrog QR technology in western countries - these MMS-based solutions require no software download at all..

  10. Hi Guys.
    Interesting post :-) I’m working at a media agency in Copenhagen and here our mobile experts have looked at some interesting software which works without installing software on your phone (It uses picture recognitions):
    See it here:
    and a case study:
    I think this could be the technology which could really help revolutionize the market.

  11. Dan Neumann says:

    I have done some pretty extensive research on this for some of our clients and pitch work.
    To answer the question of QR reader install-base in the US, it is sub-one percent.
    That said, expect to see major growth as adoption of android devices increases. Google’s open source reader comes pre-loaded on the G1 and has been already been incorporated into several popular apps.

  12. John says:

    Bullying UK also uses QR technology as part of its award winning project Click, Create and Print

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