QR codes, those little square quirky looking things are popping up everywhere and on everything from print ads to direct mail to TV commercials, to magazine ads and just about everything else in between. They were first made popular in Japan, and are starting to show up everywhere here. With the huge growth in Smart Phone users, is it the next big thing in advertising?
Before you rush out and start plastering QR codes on everything, consider the following.
1. Their usage has already begun to decline in Japan where they first became popular. Their usage is being replaced in ads with “key words” and searches associated with simple, modified landing page url’s.
2. Without a mobile website, if your QR directs people to your site, the viewer will be challenged with the task of trying to use their fingers and turn their phones sideways as they try and navigate your “full” site.
3. It takes some time for the person scanning the code to get their phone app open, hold it at the right distance and right angle from the QR code and hope that it does not register a read error, as still happens much too often.
4. Google has already phased out support for QR Codes from its Google Places. They already consider it old technology. They are replacing it with “near-field communication” (NFC) chips that ship with phones and provide a much easier way to accomplish many of the same tasks.
5. When QR codes are added for the sake of adding them to a print ad, because everyone else does it, for example, they can easily clutter up that ad, making it too busy.
The debate continues regarding the value of using QR codes. Some are passionate in their belief that they are the next big thing, and some are equally passionate in their belief that they are fading fast. Personally, I think they can be useful in specific advertising campaigns. I’m not quite ready to throw out the “baby with the bath water” yet. Just be careful when using them in your advertising. Earlier this year, JetBlue ran an ad campaign using QR codes on posters in the New York City Subway. Once the campaign launched they recognized they had a major problem. Cell phones have no signal in the subway system.