Posted April 12, 2011 5:06 pm by with 7 comments

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If you believe the results of a recent survey by MGH, QR codes are making an impact on mobile users. Their new study says that “72% of smartphone users would be likely to recall an ad featuring a QR code.”

Nice results, but I’m not sure they asked the right question. It’s kind of like asking, “if you saw a pink elephant walk down the street, would you remember?” Okay, so QR codes aren’t as obvious as a pink elephant, but they do stand out because they’re new and perplexing. As we’ve discussed before, a QR code means nothing to the observer. They must interact with the code in order to see what it’s all about and how many people do that? Of the 65% of smartphone users who said they’ve seen a QR code, less than half have actually used one.

When asked if they’d like to use them, 70% said yes. Again? It’s the wrong question. If you ask me if I’d like to use a “hoobalblink” in order to get deals, I’ll say sure, why not. I have no idea what a “hoobalblink” is or how much trouble it will be to use it, but I’ll try anything once if it means saving money.

And saving money is the main reason people are interested in QR codes. Just look at the fancy chart.

Great information, except for one thing. Because QR codes can’t be read with the naked eye, there’s no way to know what I’m getting until I scan it. For example, today I scanned an internet coupon QR code and found that it was nothing but fraud detection for the merchant. So disappointing. I was hoping to find an additional discount or other hidden goodie. QR codes are excellent Easter eggs but only if there’s something sweet inside when you crack them open.

I have no doubt that consumers are more aware of QR codes. I’m sure they see them. I’m sure most people don’t know what they’re for and I’m sure even fewer people think what they got for their trouble was worth the effort.

QR codes could be the next big thing in interactive, mobile marketing. But right now, despite what these survey results imply,  it’s just a novelty that hasn’t taken hold.

  • They won’t catch on until the perfect storm happens. Phones have the app built into the camera function. Marketers/businesses offer enticing “easter eggs” or valuable content. Users get educated on what they are. I don’t see them reaching critical mass for at least another year or so, but everyone could lose interest altogether in that time too.

  • Cynthia, you are so right about the the Easter Egg theory. When you have 87% scanning the codes to get a coupon or a discount, to me that is a big group that opens to find something.
    My theory is Give Them What They Want, (train them) every time they come by you have a different code in the window every day or every couple of days. Don’t forget to tell them how often they should check back.

    Use them in your ads and flyers. Look at all Verizon brochures have QR Codes in them. Sure they are a phone company, but they are leading the charge with the QR Codes.
    A pain, yes, but if you get your customers looking for that QR Code and you are the only one on the street doing it, where are they going to go first, your shop just to see what you have.
    To Me that is huge. It is too cool a gimmick not to use it, especially if your competition isn’t using it.
    If your customer base has smart phones then you need to cater to that. You won’t be sorry.
    I use them on my business card and over half of the people that I hand it to if they have a smart phone scan it just to see if it works, and it does every time.

  • It’s interesting to see how different companies are exploring the use of QR codes for their products: movie companies have been using them for a while now to show trailers to consumers, Sam’s Club and Best Buy have begun to use them to allow consumers to product reviews online, and, like you say, some aren’t being too creative with them at all. Probably the most intriguing use of a QR code is in this TV ad I found and posted on my blog: It uses a QR code within a TV commercial to enhance the ad experience. Pretty awesome!

    The key to QR codes is to explain how to use them and offer an incentive to do so. You make a very valid point that researchers haven’t asked the right questions when doing research on the codes yet, so it will be interesting to see how the technology continues to evolve.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • die Technologie wir sich rasend von Tag zu Tag weiter Entwickeln . es wir soweit kommen das man in ein paar Jahren nur noch mit der kraft der Gedanken telefonieren kann

  • Jon Bell

    I love using QR codes especially the codes created at You can create and manage your codes.

  • Jonathan meek

    I found your article full of more speculation than the original, most of the time you were talking about yourself as if you WERE the majority. I have a smart phone and not only do I enjoy the new media outlet I think it does have a future. I can scan contact information directly into my phone. No more typing in wrong information by accident. In response to your comment about only being interested in easter eggs… you should read the articles about european museums using this new “novelty” to inform people about their exhibits.

  • Agreed about the deals… that is a bogus question… ask anybody do do anything that takes 2 seconds to get a deal, and they will say yes.

    QR Codes work if they can be used to go to a web page where it is easier to scan then type in, or if the page provides additional benefits…. a great example… create a QR Code for an individual business card and have it link to a specific bio page for that individual who has a vcard to download…. now, you have created a way to take all the contact information off a business card and easily implement it into your contact list on your phone.