In today's issue of AdAge CMO Strategy, an article was published by Dave Wieneke entitled, "Why Marketers Shouldn't Waste Their Time With QR Codes." Here's my reply.
In the article, Mr. Wieneke states, "QR codes can actually impede the conversation. First, you [marketers] have to assume not everyone knows what they are, so you have to explain how they work. Then, you just hope people are willing to download the app and go through the hassle of getting it to work. Then and only then will they be exposed to whatever brilliant website you have put together. And the majority of the time, this process neglects the critical issue of why someone would want to do any of this in the first place. Right now the answer to that seems to be, 'Because marketers thinks it's cool.'" When the Internet was starting to become mainstream, didn't marketers have to make certain assumptions when they thought to display a corporate URL for the first time? When email became a viable marketing channel, didn't marketers have to make certain assumptions as to how consumers would react to an electronic direct mail piece? When a company develops and launches a new app, don't marketers have to make certain assumptions as to why "someone would want to do any of this in the first place" (i.e, download an app)?
My answer to all of this is that if a marketer is able to develop and implement a 2D-based campaign in accordance with best practices (yes, they have been established) then, I believe, much of this argument goes away and use of the technology becomes very worthwhile for the marketer, as well as the consumer.
Mr. Wieneke states, "We've seen them everywhere -- bathroom walls, billboards and rub-on tattoos -- tossed like digital spaghetti against a wall in hopes that some of it will stick, or click, to an ad. Overuse of a new technique is nothing new." To that, I would say look at most any out-of-home signage, in-store signage, event signage, print magazine, etc., and the vast majority of advertisements found in these channels/mediums do not feature a 2D barcode. That said, I would be hard pressed to believe that there is an "overuse" of the technology. Yes, there might be a great deal of hope on the part of a marketer that "some of it will stick" but, here too, if best practices were adhered to there would be a lot less need for hope and wishful thinking.
"Much is promised. Little is delivered." says Mr. Wieneke, as he goes on to mention last year's Calvin Klein QR Code campaign, and I would agree, in part. Yes, many companies let consumers down with poorly constructed and executed 2D campaigns, but (I'm afraid I'm starting to sound like a broken record) if best practices were paid attention to and made use of then just as much would be delivered as would be promised.
By now, I believe you can get a sense that I do not agree with Mr. Wieneke's assessment of 2D barcode technology and its lack of usefulness as a strategic and/or tactical marketing element. Instead of simply stating marketers shouldn't waste their time with QR Codes, what should be said is that, as with most any other form of marketing (i.e., direct mail, telemarketing, email, event, banner ads, landing pages, web, mobile, etc.), best practices have been established and, for those marketers who do not wish to waste marketing/creative time, money and energy, they should be paid attention to.
Lastly, why does Mr. Wieneke, and others, try to make it seem as though 2D technology has to be a zero-sum game? 2D technology exists and it works. If marketers want to use 2D let them. If marketers want to use NFC, RFID, visual search, watermarking, or any other technology, let them. As I and others have said before, 2D is merely one tool in the marketer's kit to drive consumer interaction, engagement and sales. It's not an end all and be all, and was never intended to be.