Research Highlights QR Code Awareness Issue

Research from youth communications firm Dubit suggests that a lack of awareness is preventing Quick Response (QR) codes from achieving their full potential as brands look to engage teenagers through their mobile phones.

QR codes are slowly growing in popularity, but with 72 per cent of 11-18 year olds either not having or not being aware that they have the software to read QR codes on their phone, these brands may be missing out on a significant proportion of their audience, the company says.

Dubit’s research questioned 1,000 teens aged 11-18 with an equal balance between gender and age. When shown an image of a QR code, only 43 per cent correctly identified that it could be read by a mobile phone, while 19 per cent admitted they didn’t know what it was. 8 per cent of girls suspected it might be a magic-eye picture. Only 33 per cent of those questioned correctly identified the image as a QR code, with 22 per cent believing it was called an RFID tag and 12 per cent labelling it as an infograph. A positive note for marketers is that despite only 19 per cent of teens having used software to read QR codes, 74 per cent of those who have used it say it was worth doing so.

“Although this research highlights a lack of awareness with teens, it goes to show that when the technology is being used, it is being done affectively,” says Paula Cubley, head of marketing at Dubit. “What’s missing is the messaging alerting teens to the opportunities. Marketers can’t just stick a QR code on a poster or in an advert; teens need to be told what to do with them. It might even be advisable to suggest places to download QR code readers. Considering teens are very much attached to their mobile phone, this lack of awareness is surprising.”

Dubit’s research shows that the most desired application for QR codes for teenagers is to receive vouchers or exclusive content to their phone. Automatically ‘liking’ the brand on Facebook was the least attractive option, closely followed by being taken to a brand’s web presence or Facebook page. Both of these examples appeared below the relatively mundane option of receiving directions to the brand or store. The opportunity to receive a ringtone or wallpaper, to view an ad, or to make the current advert interactive, all ranked joint third.

“It might not be rocket science that teens like discounts and exclusive content but what is interesting is that they are prepared to receive such content through the use of QR codes,” says Cubley. “Historically, when compared to Americans, Britons have been adverse to using coupons and vouchers. However, the popularity of Groupon and the promotion of Facebook Deals and Foursquare have made the practice more acceptable. What our research shows is that QR codes may be the way to get these vouchers into the hands of teens.”

The survey was undertaken using Dubit’s monthly Direct to Youth Digital Omnibus. The survey offers brands the opportunity to quiz the agency’s panel of over 40,000 children, young people and families.

Dubit is a youth communications company, established in 1999 by teenagers who wanted to improve research and marketing to young people. The company says it runs the largest youth panels and networks in the UK. Clients include Vue Cinema, Nintendo, Kellogg’s, the NSPCC, and the BBC.