Friday, 28 August 2009

QR codes – form over function?

QR codes have been around a while and are slowly beginning to pop up in more and more places.

As ever more mobile phones ship with the reader software installed, then we should expect to see even more of these neat little magic eye-like doodles around and about us.

But, are they here to stay? Are they just another fad that is a case of the techies coming up with a cool idea, that the business and marketing people then have to try and find a relevant use for?



Take this ad I spotted in The Times newspaper yesterday. It’s for Fendi, a luxury Italian fashion house.

Inspired use of emerging technology by a sector traditionally traditional when it comes to the web? Or a case of “me too” syndrome from the media agency?

For me it simply isn’t relevant to its audience. The likelihood of a potential Fendi customer using this code, let alone knowing what the hell it is, is so remote that it probably doesn’t warrant the cost of the print.


What’s wrong with a web address (even if when you go to their site all you can do is whizz around and zoom in on their products – no prices, no e-commerce, no point! arghh!)

But QR codes do have a place and use, if applied for the right reasons (how simple a rule this is for digital marketing, so often missed – “Will my audience “get” this? will it add value to their day? If no to either, don’t do it!)

Coincidentally I printed a postage label for a parcel yesterday using the Royal Mail’s rather excellent “SmartStamp” software; print stamps from home or work to avoid using a Post Office for all those things you send that you can’t use Moonpig.com for.


This software produces a unique code that can be scanned by the sorting houses, no doubt speeding up the sort process and ensuring our post arrives sooner (or is stolen quicker...)

Although this is not quite a QR code, to the average punter (including yours truly who was corrected by the smart chaps at mobile marketing agency Incentivated) it looks similar and serves a similar purpose. A reader will intepret what it scans to help the reader achieve a goal.

Simple then. If this cool technology has the reach – do enough of your audience have a QR-reading mobile phone? And also more importantly know they have one? And it will add value to their day, then use it. If not, simply don’t bother.