First things first. What is QR code and why do we need to know about it?

We knew about the rise of mobile technology and anticipated that it is about to change how companies do business and reach consumers. Well, that day has come and we are behind already, desperately trying to catch up with a pace of new technology while assessing how that impact our business and consumers. We also understood how complex the world of mobile is and how many different components it consists of.

One of the components that I just recently got acquainted with is the QR code. Here is the taste of QR code that I enjoyed tremendously. It certainly gave me ideas about what ways of enhancing my personal brand and I am hoping it will also convince you of the QR code’s coolness factor.

Now if that leaves you intrigued, I am happy to provide more information and overview of the tool. QR code (or Quick Response) stands for two-dimensional code that you can easily capture, read and “act on something” with a smart phone or dedicated QR barcode readers. If it helps you to understand the concept, think of Universal Product Code (UPC), a barcode that has been a regular part of shopping experience all these years. UPCs are fairly limited and are only capable of storing up to 20 digits, and can easily be corrupted, while QR codes are more sophisticated way of encoding are encoding information in the form text, URL, or other types of rich media.

Although majority of US consumers haven’t heard of QR-codes, it has been developed back in 1994 by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in Japan, where it is used commonly for marketing and other purposes.

Here is how you can engage with QR code and consequently your favorite brand, people, products if you choose to:

  1. Search for a QR code reader application on your smart phone. There are plenty, choose whichever strikes your fancy. I usually pick based on the user ratings, utility provided and price (free being my strong preference)
  2. Download and application
  3. Choose one of the featured QR codes below and see for yourself what it does.

If implemented well, QR codes are a cost effective way to provide more information and drive consumers online. The consumer interaction with QR codes can measured and interpreted allowing brands to gain insights and learn more about how consumer engage with the brand and whether that engagement leads to a sale.

Having said that incorporating QR codes should be conscious, strategic and consistent with the brand and it has to serve a PURPOSE, otherwise a badly implemented QR code (hinting at Microsoft’s tags) campaign that doesn’t provide a great user experience can be damaging.

Once user are engaged, it really doesn’t take a long time to spot a stellar QR code campaign. Since my primary interest is fashion marketing, I was curious to see if fashion brands were incorporating QR codes. Here is the absolutely beautiful Louis Vuitton  QR code developed Tokyo-based creative agency SET using artwork from Takashi Murakami to promote the work that the two have done together.

Louis Vuitton QR code

The code sends you to Loius Viutton Japan mobile website that displays clean uncluttered page with most relevant to information. This QR code blew my mind.

Here is another one developed by the same agency for Coca Cola. QR code takes users promptly to SET Japan website.

Coca Cola QR code

I was truly excited to try them out, which is a good test of how well the campaign was implemented. On the other hand why wouldn’t you be excited to engage with these QR codes? They are not only pleasant to look at, but they also work very well and consequently win more respect for the brand in my eyes.

So the question is if QR codes are so great, why its adoption in western countries, particularly in the US has been so slow? There are several factors that make QR code usage hit-or-miss proposition, too risky and too uncertain for brands undertake.

Low awareness by the consumers. Unless the consumer is aware of QR Codes, it doesn’t make much sense for a company to incorporate QR codes in their marketing efforts.

Lack of standardization. The vast majority of mobile manufactures resisted pre-installing QR code readers on their handsets because there is not one unified standards. UPC’s success and worldwide adoption was primarily because it became a standard. As a result consumers have to download the various apps to read QR codes implemented with different standards.

Safety and security issues. QR codes can be easily defrauded, because it can reused over and over again by taking a photo of the code, which is especially concerning when it comes to using QR codes for payments or coupons. Another concern is a malware, that can be activated by scanning a QR code, so there has to be a certain level  of awareness and trust by consumer.

Overall, QR code can a powerful tool to engage with consumer and drive them to a desired destination whether it is a website or store, as long as it was done in a conscious day with a specific purpose in mind. Also consumers need to be educated and provided more information on the tool in order to maximize their user experience and avoid the pitfalls of adopting newest fads.

P.S. Both images and the video were originally posted on Mural Mutlu’s blog Mobile Inc, which I found to be a great resource for following the newest and the best in the mobile field.

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Filed under Mobile Media Development and Integration

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