They are useful and still novel, but does anyone actively like them?
Two criticisms are the way in which people are interacting with them (or not interacting as the case may be), and the complaint that they’re just damn ugly.
QR codes are everywhere around the city, and yet I have never seen anyone get out their smartphone and scan one. Whilst I’m sure people do, I would expect to have seen this happen at least once by now.
At the moment it feels like some brands are adding QR codes to almost any promotional material as if they want to show that they have indeed heard of QR codes, and yes, they are implementing them.
QR codes often lack an incentive or reward. I’ve fallen prey to such a QR code myself, assuming that scanning one on a L’Oreal ad would lead me to a money off voucher or equivalent, only to be greeted with only product information on their site. Now I’m reluctant to scan a QR code unless there’s a clear benefit.
Scanning a QR codes isn’t a great effort… but it feels like it, particularly if it’s for something you’re only lukewarm about in the first place. You would hope brands would offer consumers some reward for getting out their phones, loading the scanner and waiting for 3G to finally stop spinning the irritating parasol. But at the moment many brands are just adding QR codes as a(n ugly) gimmick.
For the time being, the novelty factor of the QR codes alone may be enough to drive consumers to interact, but ithe novelty won’t last long. Brands need to communicate an incentive for why a consumer should scan in the first place, and then provide a reward… and preferably an instant one.
2. The (lack of an) aesthetic:
Does a QR code need to look like a QR code?
Yes and no. They look the way they do for optimum readability and speed in loading a URL. They can certainly be made slightly more attractive through thoughtful design (such as the picture to the right – see QR code design tips).
You can also side step the true QR code itself and use augmented reality in a similar way to scan images using a smartphone’s camera. A recent example is for Cadbury’s new Spots v Stripes campaign. The ‘Quaksmack’ smartphone game works through an augmented reality app called Blippar which uses your smartphone camera to ‘scan’ pictures/logos in the real world. In this case, it starts a game when you scan the Spots & Stripes packaging.
One of my favourite examples is Fiat Street Evo. To publicise the new Fiat Punto in Spain, Leo Burnett used normal road signs like QR codes. When consumers scanned a road sign it took them to a relevant section of the digital catalogue for the Punto, e.g. a ‘stop’ sign leading to information on the braking system. Cash prizes were ‘hidden’ inside many road signs, won by the first people to scan them. Apparently the campaign was so successful that Fiat plan to roll the campaign out across Europe.
Whilst augmented reality scanners undeniably side-step aesthetic issues, the downside is that reading everyday objects naturally lacks the visual cue of the QR code. The average Brit is only starting to become familiar with how to interact with the basic QR code, let alone how to interact with normal images in this way.
Without the pixelated visual prompt of the humble QR code, consumers need further educating on which objects to scan. This will probably need to rely on copy, potentially weakening the message as it requires more attention. However, as part of an ongoing campaign such as Spots v Stripes, it would have more of a chance of success.
In my opinion, scanning real objects seems more intuitive. Scanning a brand’s logo or packaging makes more sense than a generic ‘bar code’ design. Perhaps a new, subtler visual cue could be applied to existing objects to show that they can be scanned.
Well, these are a couple of thoughts anyway. Finally, here’s an aesthetically pleasing, creative use of QR codes by artist Yiying Lu: