If you’re unfamiliar with QR codes, they are an image that can be scanned with a smartphone app and then will take you to some action such as visiting a website or downloading someone’s contact information. (The one at right will take you to the edSocialMedia Facebook page.)
QR codes have been around for over a decade, but they started gaining ground in the marketing world in 2010. People seemed to think that QR codes were the answer to linking the physical world of printed material to the world wide web. They started showing up in print ads, magazines, brochures, posters, billboards and more. There are many services that allow you to create QR codes for free, and then all you have to do is pop the image into your printed materials. Plus, you can track stats on how many “clicks” you get. It sounds like a great idea, right?
So why am I not convinced that QR codes are the answer to bringing print and Internet together?
Limited audience. In order to get any clicks from your QR code, your audience has to filter through a funnel to get to that point. First, they need a smartphone, then they need to download an app that will read QR codes. Then they need to know what to do with a QR code, open the app and scan the code. There’s a barrier to entry when it comes to QR codes. This is Brad Ward’s No. 1 reason why QR codes will fail.
Convince & convert. As the marketer, you have to start the process by offering a convincing reason that your readers should scan the code. A QR code is a call to action. If you want your readers to take that action, you need to tell them why it’s beneficial to them.
It’s not the only solution. There are several alternatives that have much lower barriers if you want to get people to jump from your printed material to your web content. You could just type out the web address, contact info, etc. Text is much more user-friendly than that jumbled black & white box up there. Marketers will try to sell you on the benefit of being able to track “clicks” with QR codes, but remember, the most important person is your reader, not you.
Trendy vs. long-term. QR codes seem to be a “duct tape” solution to bridging print and web. It’s only a short matter of time until a better, more user-friendly solution will come along. In my opinion, I’d love to see augmented reality apps that can recognize our school’s name or logo and pop up all of our contact info – website, phone, address, email, and even social media sites.
I know several schools have started to use QR codes, so I’m interested to hear your stories. Have you seen results from using QR codes? Do you think they will last?