QR Codes – Gimmick or Tool?

QR Codes are popping up everywhere, and marketers are scrambling to figure out how they can be effectively incorporated into an integrated marketing strategy. Simply put, QR (Quick Response) Codes are 2-D barcodes that allow the user to move from print to web. (Think “print-based hypertext link.”) Using a smart phone enabled with a QR scanning application, the user scans the QR Code and the decoding software directs the phone’s browser to go straight to the encoded URL.

But are QR Codes a flash-in-the-pan marketing gimmick or are they a new tool in the marketer’s new media toolbox?

In my opinion, the answer lies in how we introduce QR Codes to the public. The task at hand is to figure out how to optimize and incorporate the technology to provide value to the end user.

So before you slap a QR Code on your next marketing piece, consider the following:

User Experience – The technology is still in its infancy in the United States. There are dozens of applications that create the codes, dozens more that read the codes, and dozens of mobile phone models. Bottom line – the technology doesn’t always play nicely together so a particular code may or may not work on any given phone. The American public will be turned off by a technology that doesn’t work reliably.

Mobile Optimization – In our haste to bring QR Codes to the public, marketers are linking QR Codes to web pages designed for computer screens. QR Codes are all about mobile technology. The URL must be optimized for mobile.

Value-added – Again, because of our eagerness to bring QR Codes to the public, marketers are sending users to pages with little or no value-added. If the user experience ends with the question “what was the point?” the marketer has alienated his audience from the QR technology and possibly his product.

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