Jon Pollard, Head of Operations at Mighty Mouse Digital, ponders when the popularity of QR Codes will spread beyond early-adopter countries such as Japan and S. Korea
Weve seen a relatively slow uptake of mobile marketing in the UK, despite the inherent and obvious opportunities which exist for the marketer. However, the increasing interest in QR (Quick Response) codes might finally see things change.
The QR code, essentially a 2D barcode, is a compressed form of data, which, when interpreted by a QR Code reader, generates a specific action such as a link to a website, or the creation of a voucher. All the user needs to do, provided they have a QR Code reader on their cameraphone, is to use the phones camera to take a photo of the code. The conventions used are an open standard, therefore anyone can generate a code and they can be read by anyone with a code reader. People might currently see QR codes in action scanned on airline boarding cards and for shipping/ delivery companies such as FedEx where they form part of their tracking process.
The take-up of QR technology in mobile
marketing is still somewhat elusive, however, and this is especially
true of the UK market, though our US businesses see a similar
situation. Despite this, the potential is huge, given that QR Codes
allow both immediate and delayed audience response. Furthermore,
because, as noted above, they can be used for multiple applications,
the potential exists for the codes to become familiar as an intrinsic
part of everyday life, rather than just as a marketing technique.
key advantage is in eliminating the need for users to remember a URL
they've seen in an ad. In the same way, QR codes hold direct benefits
over SMS shortcodes, as asking consumers to send a text to a shortcode
requires them to physically remember the number, whereas, once scanned,
QR codes point a user directly to a mobile site.Therefore, in theory,
QR codes should improve response rates by creating direct interactivity
between the audience and the call to action. Experience from
territories where QR Codes have taken off also suggests that they
become part of the viewers engagement with the marketing piece in a
way that shortcodes dont. At the same time, this method has the
potential to be deployed in a fairly guerrilla manner, for example,
placing a QR code in a completely unexpected place, without any obvious
Its not difficult to understand why this
technology has taken off in Japan, the home of technological
innovation. Indeed, its tempting, if stereotyping, to say that
gimmicks and new technology appeal wholeheartedly to the Japanese user.
However, the uptake is more likely down to Japanese mobile phone
companies, who saw the potential and embraced the technology early on.
By embedding a QR Code reader into mobile phones, they made the
technology available to the masses. In fact, QR codes are so
universally used in some Asian markets that in many cases, the QR code
is the only call to action in a marketing piece. The key to
mainstreaming this technology is, of course, access to the decoder.
what about mass adoption in the UK? Already, we have seen News
International and Emap begin using mobile barcodes in a bid to direct
users from print ads to mobile sites. In fact, in the last couple of
months, readers of The Sun and Kerrang! have been exposed to QR Codes,
as the publishers attempt to educate both their audience and
advertisers about the technology. At the same time, use of mobile
Internet is growing at a steady pace, as devices which can properly
view websites become more common.
Rather than waiting for people
to proactively seek out and download the decoders, the next step,
however, is to ensure that the technology is in their hands in the
first place. That means exciting new technologies such as QR codes
need to become standard on UK and EU mobile handsets. This rings true,
even if handsets begin to ship with the software pre-installed, as on
the Nokia N95. On this device, consumers still have to navigate the
phone in order to find and open the QR Code reader in order for the
application to work. Ideally, in the same way that most phones offer
you a series of actions you can apply when youve taken a photo
(store/email/MMS the image), one of the default options should be
To this end, I read recently that the GSMA (GSM
Association) and the OMA (Open Mobile Alliance) have both started
looking at developing technology and standards for the marketing
industry with regard to mobile barcodes. This is clearly a step in the
right direction, and one which will give those engaged in mobile
marketing confidence for the future. Because its only through
increased knowledge and understanding that the lure of being able to
interact with ads will draw people to them. Before too long, we might
actually start to experience the mainstreaming of QR technology here in
the UK, as already witnessed in Japan and elsewhere.