PhenomeNOT!! Why QR Codes Aren’t Experiencing the Same Success in the US as they did in Japan

By: Michael Whittington

If you’re at all familiar with the history of QR codes you would know the connection between them and mobile phones originated in Japan. When designers first made it so their phones could scan the codes, companies raced to get together a mobile marketing campaign using the little boxes. By the end of 2005, if you bumped into a wall in Tokyo you’d end up with half a dozen QR codes stuck to your outfit. Mobile marketing statistics show that QR codes were nothing shy of a phenomenon. However, here in America using the term “phenomenon” is really up to the point of view.

A lot of people are scanning QR codes. Less than a year ago that number was at 14 million and it’s only grown since. While that’s undeniably a big fan base, it’s still only a small percentage of the more than 310 million people living in this country. In Japan the percentage that supported the mobile marketing platform was overwhelming. Here we could double the number of users and still not match the number of times the album Thriller has been sold. Michael Jackson was a phenomenon. His music unified people of all ages, races and backgrounds. Why aren’t QR codes doing the same? They aren’t just “Black or White,” they’re black AND white! I like throwing blame around. I’ll start by pointing a finger at…

The Consumer

QR codes are designed for everyone to use, but mobile marketing statistics can show us who is expected to adapt early on. Mobile marketing statistics show that the most likely demographic to explore the mobile marketing platform and to use mobile marketing software is college students. Polls show more than 80% of them own smartphones. They have the major resource they need so they must be scanning quick response codes every chance they get, right? Wrong. Only 20% of college students with smartphones scan QR codes. Excuses from the rest included the following:

-Didn’t know how

-Unwillingness to download application

-Waste of time

The first two bullets can be attributed to laziness. We live in the digital age. The answer to nearly any question we can fathom is right at our fingertips. We can play Tetris, look at raunchy pictures of celebrities, psychoanalyze ourselves, buy Christmas gifts and order Domino’s before the film over our eyes in the morning dissipates. And you’re telling me you can’t figure out how to use a QR code? GOOGLE IT!

So say you do know how to use QR codes. You’re a student after all: quick to learn and not old enough to forget it all ten minutes later. You’re still not going to scan the code because you don’t want to download the app? Maybe you don’t trust the app – there is a lot of trashware out there on the marketplace. Again, GOOGLE IT! Find out what has a good reputation. Read a mobile marketing blog. Best yet, ask your buddy who does scan the codes.

The third bullet is a different story. People feel like mobile media marketing is a waste of time. While some may disagree, I believe this is not their fault. This brings me to the other party that should be blamed…

The Marketing Companies

While some companies have extremely successful mobile marketing strategies, others are not only failing but they are hindering QR codes as a mobile marketing solution. A QR code needs to offer something of value to the consumer. Generate a QR code that will give them a coupon, useful information, a free song download; not, well, nothing. QR codes are still in their early stages, meaning new users will scan whatever codes they can find. However if they discover more useless QR codes than ones they have actually benefitted from, they will stop scanning altogether. This is where the misconception that QR codes are a waste of time comes from. Too many companies are wasting all of our time and in turn they are contributing very greatly to the negative opinion of QR codes and mobile media marketing. Tenthwave outlines some of the more notable failures. If you’re thinking you might generate a QR code or two and start a mobile marketing campaign, learn from their mistakes – if not for the benefit of the consumer, then for the future of QR Codes!

Think I’m angry and negative? Read an even more angry and negative blog right here.

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