There is a story on Mobile Marketer that irks me.
A Mobile Marketer reporter writes that at the CTIA Wireless Conference yesterday, a panel of experts discussed the topic "Aligning Brand Interest with Mobile Opportunity" and, during the session, panelists Mark Kaplan (GEM Strategy), Charlie Echeverry (Univision Interactive Media), Paul Reddick (Handmark) and Scott Michaels (Atimi Software) were all in agreement that when advising their clients they do not recommend the use of QR codes. Why? Because they all do not believe that QR codes scale very well.
To quote the article, "No human knows the difference between ScanLife and every other [2D bar code reader application]," Mr. Kaplan said. "It’s just a funny little thing – users download the wrong app reader, it doesn’t work. "Regardless of what the code looks like, if the reader is incompatible, it just won’t work," he said. "QR codes are not hot today – unless you’re in Japan."
So, where do I begin?
First, Mr. Kaplan states that no human knows the difference between ScanLife and every other 2D barcode reader application. While reader apps are different, and some proprietary, isn't it up to the advertiser to advise their audience on which reader app best scans the 2D code that is being used? Also, some reader apps are actually branded and named, so for "humans" not to know the difference between say, the Microsoft Tag reader app and the ScanLife reader app, I find difficult to believe.
Second, Mr. Kaplan mentions that if the wrong reader app is downloaded and used then the code won't work. For most open source codes (i.e., QR codes) any number of "wrong reader" apps can be used and the code can still be scanned and resolved. That's the whole point of using an open source 2D code. If he was talking about proprietary 2D codes like ScanLife ezCode or Microsoft Tag, etc. then there will most likely be a problem if the wrong reader app were to be used, hence the idea of creating a proprietary reader app to go along with the proprietary code.
Third, Mr. Kaplan tries to make a comparison between Japan and the U.S. market, as it relates to the popularity of QR codes and, here too, he gets it wrong. If Mr. Kaplan and the other panel members did their homework they would know that, for a variety of reasons, to try and compare the Japanese QR code market with the U.S. QR code market it's like comparing apples and oranges. There are a number of reasons why these two markets have developed the way they have and at much different paces.
Fourth, is Mr. Kaplan not aware of the number of major brands that have delved into this space as of late. Reading this blog one can see that there are a number of key brands from a variety of industries that are testing the 2D waters and working on strategies. "Hot" the market may not be, but the water is certainly simmering.
By this point, you can probably get a sense of how foolish I believe Mr. Kaplan's and the panel's comments were. Besides the points made above, my biggest take away from the article is that it appears as though the panelists are trying to remove all responsibility from the brands and their agencies for taking the time and investing the resources in 1) learning about the technology and how it works, 2) thoroughly thinking through a concise 2D strategy and execution and 3) educating the public on how the technology works. Also, to shy away and advise against 2D technology makes me wonder how savvy the companies are that these panelists represent. Instead of trying to properly understand the space and use 2D as a means to help clients create a competitive advantage, it seems as though they are more comfortable sitting on the sideline waiting for momentum to build in the space and then jump in. So, after a few months of watching and waiting, how do they then explain to their clients that they now need to play catch up.
As stated many times on this blog, there is certainly a time and place for 2D technology to be used as a tactical element of a company's overall marketing and mobile marketing strategy. To enter the space without full knowledge, buy in and commitment will only result in poorly planned and executed 2D campaigns, ones that will most likely not achieve the desired results/objectives.