Sean Cummings has an interesting article at iMedia Connection on “Why the QR Code is failing.” This prompted some discussion between a couple of colleagues on whether the QR Code is really failing or if it’s simply a matter of time before we get a bit further along on the adoption curve to see the real value of the QR code take center stage. Sean takes a pretty tough stance on the QR code:
From the relative lack of public understanding of what they even are, to the dearth of creativity in their usage, the QR code is destined to become just the little box that geek built. But if it does go the way of CueCat, only we are to blame. Here’s why.
Is the QR Code to blame?
Actually I don’t think so. Sean makes reference to the old bar code scanner device called the CueCat, which, at first blush, had a similar model to the QR Code, save for the fact that the QR Code (as well the Cue Cat could have had this as well, if if were still around) has the power of mobile hand held devices behind it. The universality of the QR Code is something far different than the desktop-only application of the CueCat.
What about adoption?
My colleague Donna made an excellent point in a LinkedIn comment:
The headline is a bit misleading in that the article goes on to explain some great uses for QR codes. Like most current technology, it is a moment in time and we are waiting for the next evolution – but there are some current and useful implementations.
She’s right and her comment can be linked to a William Gibson quote that I’ve long believed:
The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.
It’s the marketer’s fault
Actually, I think that the issues surrounding the QR Code are really a marketer’s problem. In fact, if we did a better job:
a) Explaining the QR code to clients – What can a QR code do and not do. Why should you use them and who are the ideal targets so as to set the right expectations
b) Getting national brands on board with educating not only on their products but, if they want the QR Code to add value for them in the future, educating the consumer on why and how with the QR code
c) Working with the phone and software manufacturers – Once QR code reading is embedded in every device and is as easy as taking pictures, then we’ve got something. Think of all of the obscure things people have figured out how to do (check in, format hard drives, work with DOS). Surely the consumer can figure out the QR code.
d) Doing better marketing with the QR code. Donna’s right – there are some really great and creative uses for the QR code, but I think it’s like so many things that marketing adopts – we put it in our work about three paces ahead of where it should be…and we should have started back up the road a bit.
e) Remembering that the technology behind QR codes was not invented for marketing. In fact, it was created by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in 1994 to track vehicles during the manufacturing process because two-dimensional bar codes allow their contents to be decoded at high speed. Like everything that marketing adapts (remember, even our own discipline is originally a derivative of economics), we need some time to make the tools fit our application.
That said, what I took away from Sean’s article – and what I hoped others will as well – is that its up to us, the agencies, to do a better job of communicating the value of the QR code to the consumer and to come up with more creative uses for them that hold intrinsic value for would-be QR code scanners. Perhaps the article title is misleading in that I don’t think it’s the QR code that’s failing, but rather, it is we who are failing the QR code.