The QR Code puzzle

Lara O’Reilly is Marketing Week’s digital and telecoms specialist and here she gives her own view on what companies from Apple to Zynga are up to in the wired world of the web.

It seems everywhere we look in the marketing industry we are confronted by these ubiquitous, Magic Eye-like squares of fuzz.


The majority of marketers have already seized the opportunity to embed QR codes into their ad campaigns.

The new-age barcodes allow users to receive extra content, such as websites, games, offers and video, when scanned by a smartphone’s camera.

But despite the penetration of smartphones, many users have never unlocked the potential of the QR code, with most people unaware of how to use them in the first place.

There are a couple of straightforward solutions to this: pre-installation and education.

Why is it that mobile phone manufacturers, despite developing the technology and often even using QR codes in their own campaigns, have yet to pre-install QR Code readers on their phones? Why should the user have to do the graft and search through the app market to find a suitable reader?

Secondly, the advertisers themselves should add to the user learning process. Some form of instruction should be built into the advert in order for the user to know what to do and more importantly what to expect.

I understand it is tricky when most packaging leaves little space for extra text and words can make ads look too busy, but I have seen it in action. It’s so simple even I can rustle it up in 30 seconds:

1) Go to your AppStore/AppMarket on your smartphone

2) Search for “Free QR Reader” (Perhaps brands could even lend a hand and make their own)

3) Download and view code through smartphone camera

QR Codes have been in the public domain since at least 2008, yet advertisers are consistently failing in making them effective.

Yes, they are free and easy to make – I have just created my own to link to the Marketing Week site – but a return on nothing is never likely to amount to more than nothing.

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