It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The people who created you said you were hip.
— “QR code? Cool!”
They said that strangers seeking information would turn to you; that they’d pull out expensive smartphones and take your picture.
— “…they’ll just scan the QR code and, boom, it opens our website.”
— “Can it link to a video?”
— “Sure, great idea!”
Your creators said you were beautiful and cutting-edge.
They said you deserved to be seen in prominent locations: on colorful ads hanging in airport terminals; on decals in the windows of high-end stores; on posters adorning the walls of busy thoroughfares in our grandest cities.
They inflated you with purpose and self-worth, then sent you out into the world…
… the cold, cold world, where busy people on busy thoroughfares hustle right past you without slowing their step; where smartphone cameras abound – they were right about that – just none pointed in your direction.
It’s said that the opposite of love isn’t hatred but indifference.
Poor, poor little QR code, you were set up to #fail.
The author of a recent article on Tech Crunch shared an observation that has also struck me over the past couple years: you see QR (Quick Response) Codes all over the place but never see anyone using them.
The author goes on to speculate that usage may increase if smartphone cameras were to more naturally scan QR Codes.
I’m skeptical, but perhaps easier scanning might yield more QR code usage in certain scenarios, such as:
- Scanning a code yields an immediate and meaningful benefit, like getting a coupon for a product you’re just about to purchase
- Someone sitting leisurely with a nearby mobile phone happens to come across a print ad for a product and/or offer that closely matches a current need (an infrequent situation to begin with)
However, one current QR Code usage that’s simply a losing proposition: out-of-home (OOH) ads with QR codes that lead to more information about the product or service being advertised.
There is no shortage of such examples — you see them on posters, billboards, store-window decals, etc. This week I saw one on the side of a city bus.
QR codes in OOH brand-awareness creative represent wishful thinking that’s out of touch with actual consumer behavior.
No matter how simple the scanning technology, all the enthusiasm in the corporate world will not make people interrupt their activities —whether that may be walking to meet a friend, looking for a snack in the airport or paying a bill at a cash register—to learn more about your product.
QR Codes in OOH promotional material are a waste of space, design effort and whatever time is required to create the landing-page content.
Perhaps in the future QR code technology will evolve and become more commonly used in certain scenarios. But OOH creative? No way. This usage should – and probably will – go the way of Second Life meeting spaces and corporate podcasts.