Why You Think QR Codes Suck and Why You’re Stupid

QR CodeThe following is a guest post by Derek Johnson, Founder & CEO of SMS provider Tatango.  You can reach him by phone at (206) 334-4012 or via email.

Have you noticed recently the abundance of QR code marketing hate out there? Don’t get me wrong, there has always been QR code haters, but recently it seems like these numbers are starting to multiply at an alarming rate. I can understand the hate towards the design aspects (design is always subjective), but you’ve gotta be stupid to think that marketing through QR codes isn’t here to stay, in a big way.

When I speak to this ever growing mob of QR code marketing haters, all of their arguments can usually be boiled down to three points. While I usually refrain from arguing with people that don’t know what they’re talking about, in this post I’m going to make an exception because someone has to stick up for the QR code. Below are the arguments against marketing with QR codes, and why these people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

Argument #1

“Derek, consumers don’t know what QR codes are, they don’t know how to scan them, and they aren’t interested in scanning them.”

You are right in that only 6.2% of consumers have scanned a QR code, but that’s a vanity metric, a metric that is interesting to look at, but has no weight. You want the real metric, the one that means something to advertisers. Nearly 40% of consumers age 25-34 have scanned a QR code, even better is that 1 out of 3 consumers that have scanned a QR code have a household income of at least $100,000. If the 25-34 year old age demographic is any indication of what is to come for other demographics, QR codes could quickly become the holy grail for mobile marketing.

Those numbers also don’t take into account that only 40% of consumers have a smartphone, meaning that 60% of consumers, even if they wanted to scan a QR code, aren’t able to at this time. As smartphone adoption continues to creep up, the majority of consumers will soon be exposed to QR code engagement.

Argument #2

“Derek, QR codes are going to be crushed by Near Field Communication (NFC).”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as excited about the adoption of near field communication (NFC) as the next person. I can’t wait for that moment when I can replace my bulky wallet with my mobile phone, and I think NFC will get us to that place. You’ve gotta be stupid though to think that NFC will ever replace QR codes in marketing.

While there will be certain situations where marketers will be able to replace QR codes with NFC, the majority of QR code scans come from marketing channels that don’t work well with NFC (either from a technical or cost function), such as printed magazines/newspapers, product packaging, websites, posters/flyers, business cards, storefronts and TV. I just don’t see magazines or newspapers installing individual NFC chips in each advertisement, do you?

Argument #3

“Derek, like bellbottoms in the 1970’s, QR codes will be the marketing fad of this decade.”

A”fad” is defined as something that is short lived, but with a direct correlation between smartphone and QR code adoption, this would mean that smarthphones will be short lived as well. Seriously, smartphones short lived? Have you seen reports on growth of smartphone adoption, or even recently how many new iPhones have been purchased? If you truly believe that QR codes are a fad, then you will also have to believe that smartphones are a fad, which would make you more stupid than I thought.

This whole thing reminds me of the story my father told me where back in the late ’80’s he tried to expense a mobile phone to the company he was working for. His bosses response after seeing the expense, “a mobile phone isn’t a business expense, it’s a toy… you can’t expense toys to the company”. Like his boss back then, and QR code haters now, you will eventually look back at your comments and think to yourself, how could I have been that stupid? Maybe it’s time to stop hating and start embracing, the consumer-engaging and soon to be ubiquitous Quick Response Code.