QR Codes: Where are we now?

QR codes are used extensively in Japan and other developed markets, why haven't they taken off in the U.S.?

This Conversation is closed.

Special thanks to participants Howard Brandeisky, James Tenser, Lance Jacobs and Albin Andolshek.

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Howard Brandeisky said:
Though perhaps adoption has been slower than other countries, I do think they are starting to take off here. The key is for 1) marketers to realize the ease of connecting consumers to their social media 2) for marketers to provide a destination that is in some way valuable to consumers.
James Tenser said:
I think marketers here may have discovered that QR codes do not by themselves deliver a meaningful difference in promotion performance. As with so many technologies, they can be a useful solution element, but they do not constitute a complete solution.

I have noted QR codes popping up more frequently in several contexts, however. Often they are used to guide consumers to a link where they may download a proprietary app offered by a brand.

In addition to the black and white QR format and Microsoft's color Smart Tag version. There are also several kinds of proprietary 2D codes in use, such as the JagTags appearing recently on Heineken packages.

I have also noted a steady increase in the number of QR codes included within print ads. Often they promise a downloadable offer in exchange for opting in to some kind of marketing list.

In the last election, some campaign signs posted locally included QR codes. I presume they connected users directly to mobile sites for micro-donations. Since many of these signs were erected on street corners, they gave rise to a number of partisan quips about the perils of scanning and driving.

I have even added a QR code to the back of my business cards that links directly to my firm web site. This is very easy to accomplish using free online utilities.

In countries where usage of mobile technology has outpaced PC-based internet use, it is not surprising that scan-able codes achieved faster penetration. Creativity may help close the gap - or two-way technologies like NFC will eclipse QR. Marketers may be well advised not to get too comfortable with such a fluid reality.
Lance Jacobs said:
The consumer’s fundamental knowledge of QR code technology, much less an understanding of their advantages, is lacking. It’s an issue of education. When it comes to the adoption of new consumer-related technology, education does not often arrive via formal mechanisms, but rather through the prevalence of relevant applications which the consumer finds valuable and for which they are prepared to make a learning investment.

The larger question relates to the lack of prevalent applications. Awareness and knowledge will come naturally if QR-based applications become more ubiquitous. The question is will that critical mass ever be achieved given the virtual certainty of the inherently more flexible NFC technology. Most developers of smart phone operating systems have declared that they will be supporting NFC chips in the not-too-distant future. NFC will eventually become truly ubiquitous. For IT and software development organizations juggling dozens of projects, it is not irrational to sit tight and wait for the emergence of NFC.
BlackBeltAlbin Andolshek said:
QR codes are not moving the needle anywhere. It makes sense to scan UPC's and bar-codes for a price check, index, or more information inquiry. They may be big in Japan, but there seems to be too much friction for them to make a difference in the US. Awareness is lacking.

A campaign for QR codes that I've not seen but feel would make an impact would be to have QR codes on perishable foods for health information, recipes, and other relevant information. Further, it would be nice to have QR codes on products for automatic restock, pricing checks, special alerts, and other action items for use in the home as products become depleted.

While they seem to be an easy option to add action to an advertisement, the adoption is not there. In fact, there is a Business Insider article titled "Death to the QR Code" ( Towards the end of the article, they mention improving mobile technology and some of the new options out there such as NFC that will enhance data capture such as bumping your phone or being in close proximity.

Another futuristic technology to aid in action advertisement is tineye,, and it will do a reverse image search for you. You simple capture an image and have multiple data points for further engagement/research. That's a utility that would greatly enhance a marketing message.