Remember when those odd-looking, square symbols started popping up everywhere on ads, products and signs? QR (quick response) codes hit the digital marketing world a few years back as the next big way to engage consumers. Just whip out your smartphone, marketers told us, scan the code, and you’re on your way to a “mobile experience.”
Or not. Many in the tech world are now singing QR codes’ swan song, while some statistics show increasing usage.
The Ticker asked a few local experts and users, and heard that it’s not the QR codes that are the problem, but the way marketers and brands try to use them.
“QR codes aren’t dead,” says Dave Crater. “They’ve just been utilized ineffectively for so long.”
The QR code was created by the auto industry in Japan in 1994. What caught the attention of people looking for a marketing advantage, however, was the ability for them to be scanned by smartphones. With the ubiquity of smartphones, this was a no-brainer, no?
Crater co-founded Hootster, a QR code generation platform in 2010 and currently works for Yo2mo, a mobile media consultancy he also co-founded in Traverse City. He says “marketing people fell in love with QR codes before the consumer did.”
All it took was a faulty web site or simply nothing of value to the consumer after scanning a few codes, and consumers were turned off, he adds.
Marketer Marika BeVier of TC-based Intersection saw clients rushing to the idea a couple of years ago.
“From a marketing perspective, there was response to the gimmicky aspect,” she says, with businesses wanting to incorporate them into their marketing strategy but not exactly knowing why.
She has seen emails containing QR codes when it would be much more efficient to just embed the info within the email or to include a link.
Beyond that, she says, they are ugly and the process “clunky” -- starting with having to open a scan-friendly app (but only if you had already downloaded one) and then scan. After all that trouble, “in many cases, it didn’t add any value.”
Crater agrees, though says image recognition technology now makes images readable so QR codes can be more “graphically pleasing.”
One local adopter of the technology is Bowers Harbor Vineyards on Old Mission. Having invested in the technology a few years ago, QR codes are now standard on all Bowers wine labels and print materials, says Justin Leshinsky, director of sales and assistant tasting room manager.
While he acknowledges the buzz around QR codes has died down, the winery still sees marketing value in them.
“Every time someone scans it, whether in Traverse City or metro Detroit, we can pinpoint the area,” says Leshinsky, adding that they’ve recorded several hundred scans.
Are there uses QR codes are particularly good for? According to Crater, “scan to win” or exclusive offers – where the user is taken to a mobile landing page to redeem an offer not available any other way – is a great one.
Have you ever scanned a QR code? Have you seen a good use of one? Please share below.