Are QR codes really the future of marketing?

Author: Brice Le Blévennec

This question was raised by DM Institute’s journalist, Eric Van Vooren, who met with Brice Le Blévennec for an interview. The following are excerpts, translated from Dutch to English, of the original article, published in the March 9th edition:



QR Codes: you can’t avoid them. You see them popping up everywhere; sometimes very prominent as the roof tiles in the Axa ads, but also on bus stations, product packaging, posters, and even on the backs of city buses.

Are these Quick Response Codes really the modern replacement for the reply coupon or the toll-free 0800 numbers? Are they the missing link between offline and online marketing? We put the question to Brice Le Blévennec, the passionate founder of Emakina, voted by Marketing Media as the leading Digital Marketing Agency in Belgium.
I had barely asked Brice my first question when I was flooded with an avalanche of words. “For me, QR Codes symbolise the stupidity of the agencies! It’s a useless, customer-unfriendly gimmick. First, you already have to own a smartphone. But that’s not all. Smartphones do not come with a standard app to scan QR Codes so the consumer has to also choose to install such an application. Afterwards, she or he has to try to scan a code on the back of a moving bus, or on a billboard three meters high above. You need to capture the code very precisely in the frame with your camera, or the scan will fail. Damn hard.”
“I have conducted a survey with the Emakina staff. We are certainly not representative of the average consumer, because all our employees have a smartphone, but less than 10 per cent have an app installed to scan QR Codes. Using QR Codes for commercial messages shows little respect for the audience. Besides, one is usually limited to printing a code, without any call to action. If you give no clear motivation with the QR Code, why would people go ahead and scan the code? And if you go into the trouble to do so, you often find a generic web page, which adds nothing to the initial message. ”

Sometimes useful
“A QR Code can be useful, for example, in a museum to allow the visitor access to more information, via voice and video, on a specific work of art. That is the proper context. Another example for appropriate use of the QR Codes is the Tesco application for the Metro in Japan. There, the commuter can buy everyday products directly online, by scanning the QR of a specific product from a photo with shopping items on a shop shelf. Then, the QR Code offers a tangible benefit. A QR Code may fit well with certain games or contests. Because you never know what you will get to see, such a code can offer something mysterious. This perfectly fits the atmosphere of certain games.”

A better alternative
“For more traditional marketing applications, there is a much better alternative: the shortened URL. It is now possible to link readers directly via a simple web address in your offline message to a custom landing page. And a shortened URL is easy to remember and can be typed in on any PC or smartphone without the user having to install a separate application. An additional advantage is that the offer can be integrated in the name of the URL so the customer already has an indication of what they will get to see.”

100% connectivity
“The QR Code, however, is in line with a broader, general trend in marketing, that all communication should be interactive. The boundary between direct mailing and other marketing applications is becoming blurred. As a good communication manager, here you particularly have to take into account the uniqueness of each medium. A mobile phone (or smartphone) is a device that people almost always have on them. It stands for 100% connectivity: everybody, everywhere. Not so with a tablet PC. In that sense, the two are complementary devices. Moreover, I expect that the tablet PC, just by its ease of use, will catch on especially with seniors. This is a trend the younger diginatives sometimes overlook. So yes, our profession has a bright future!”.


gallery image