Death of QR

One challenge that physical advertising mediums have is their inability to draw consumers to the online medium, but the modern consumer has a constant connection to the internet through an array of devices such as smartphones and cellular enabled tablets that can re-direct consumers from the real to the digital. First utilised in Japanese automotive manufacturing QR (quick response) codes found their way into the marketers lexicon and begun appearing on billboard and poster ads worldwide. A QR code is a two dimensional barcode, making it an efficient way to store data, with  almost infinite combinations a unique QR code is likely never to be repeated. This allowed marketers to use QR codes that link their website or a specific coupon, and position it in their advertising where consumers could scan it with their handheld devices. This seemingly ingenious solution to bridging the gap between  multichannel marketing allowed consumers to instantaneously move from one medium to another, a physical link between the offline and the mobile digital.
QR banner

However the initial response was less than enthusiastic, initially acting as a footnote ignored by the vast majority of those exposed to the ad, desperately trying to rack up a high enough click through rate to impress whatever marketing boss they had. Very little effort was placed on what happened once the consumer actually got onto the QR linked site, particularly the emphasis placed on the mobile element of the site was underwhelming. Often they were applied to mediums where little thought had gone into whether it was necessary or even appropriate to attach a QR code, some undesirable examples;

examples where they have little concern for the safety of their scanners,


haven’t thought about why someone would want to scan,


and most definitely didn’t think about how someone would scan a billboard as they drive on a freeway.qr_road_sign-blog-full

But marketers did eventually find their feet and begin applying QR codes in a manner that actually allowed a consumers experience to be enhanced and not majorly inconvenience them to access promotional material. A 2012 study  by Ozakir, Li and Hirose examined QR codes in mobile promotions and the motivations for consumers to actually engage in the activity, and revealed some interesting consumer preferences. Respondents almost unanimously identified that QR codes were largely accessed in the attempt to access promotions, coupons or free product samples, indicating that an incentive was required for consumers to actively scan and access the content.

“I love Domino’s Pizza. The other day, I found a newspaper insert with a QR code for 25 percent discount! I scanned and ordered a pizza right away.” (29, female, housewife)

It is also essential that the code is implemented in a static environments (so not on a billboard you drive past or the back of a bus)  where one would be static as well, such as a bus stop, a point of sale or a magazine.

“I use a bus to go to my work, and always use a QR code to see approaching buses, their location, and estimated arrival time at the stop. In this way, I no longer have to wait at the stop wondering when and whether a bus is coming or not.” (41, female, service)

Brands begun utilising QR codes in a creative manner that actually benefited the consumer, saving them time and effort searching for content online by providing a direct link in the physical domain. Apps could utilise QR codes in a creative manner to incentivize people to access their product, such as Angry Birds giving people a scan-able poster that downloaded the game straight onto their phone,


Companies have also found success by offering incentives such as exclusive content to attract consumers to utilise in QR technology. Taco Bell recently offered analysts comments on upcoming College football games through scannable content on their boxes and drink containers as part of their partnership with ESPN, leading to over 225’000 scans in a 3 month period.


QR codes cannot be scanned natively by your smart phone camera, you either use the largely unknown Apple Passbook or Google Now apps, or download a code scanner app from either whatever app store your brand of phone utilises. This step limits the utilisation of codes dramatically.

Have you ever bothered to pull out your phone, open the scan app, and actually use a QR code?

Was it worth the effort?

Give it a try

Virtual Realtiy QR


One thought on “Death of QR

  1. Great post Elliot!
    I don’t recall ever actually scanning a QR code through my phone. But I think that I would definitely be tempted with incentives to scan the code, or to redeem an offer from a company, that I found worthwhile. It such an easy way to receive these incentives for the consumer!


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