They're everywhere. And lead nowhere.
QR or 2-D codes can contain hundreds to thousands of characters, instructing high-speed automated equipment, delivering mail, tracking records, getting you onto your flight and many other complex tasks. Sadly, the great majority of today’s marketers aren’t using QR codes to assist with complex tasks. They’re using them to make one simple task infuriatingly complex. The task of getting a user to a website. Maybe.
The Quick Response (QR) Code was developed at DENSO Corporation's Industrial Systems Product Division (now called DENSO WAVE Inc.) to track Toyota vehicles and related bits and pieces throughout the manufacturing process. A QR code can house just over 7,000 numeric characters, 4,200 alpha numeric characters or just shy of 3,000 binary characters.
With all this capability, the best many North American marketers can muster is a code that will take a user to their home URL. Instead of adding tugboatgroup.com to this column, we could generate a code with the URL, which would make it worthless to damned-near everybody save for the few who have downloaded a QR reader to their smartphones and are Star Trek fan enough to aim their mobile devices at the pixilated square.
Oops. Not yet. You didn’t aim it right. Try again.
Bugger. Still not right. Maybe try a different reader.
Maybe try not trying so hard. Right now, the rush to use QR codes feels like our parents getting on facebook for the first time. Or the interweb.
At the recent PMA Fresh Summit, we met a few people with QR codes on their business cards. One earnest executive even went so far as to add a flap to her card to house the ground-breaking beacon. Where does it take a user? To her organization’s website, of course.
Wow. So the user takes their phone, which is already capable of character inputs, like a web URL, and must now try to photograph a piece of the card to get somewhere in four steps versus one.
There are some organizations that are really knocking it out of the park with these handy little codes.
Some real estate companies slap a QR code for a particular listing right onto the for sale sign. Instantly linking walk-by prospects to the particular URL for that listing. Remax is doing a good job on this in some markets paired with a mobile version of their site.
In Japan, QR codes have been part of the communications landscape for a long time. Movie posters in the subway can take a user to locations and show times and let them buy tickets.
Tesco in Korea is really doing it up right by using the technology to power virtual grocery stores where users can shop on their way home and have their groceries arrive just after they do. Take a look:
If someone comes along and tells you that a QR code is imperative to your marketing, they may well be right. But chances are that they're not.
If you're not using QR codes to do stuff like this: