QR CodesA complicated maze? A crossword puzzle? A Rorschach test, or a migraine waiting to happen? These were just a few of the dozens of answers we received when we showed a QR code to 500 members of our AskingCanadians research panel earlier this summer.

What are Quick Response codes

Quick Response codes, sometimes referred to as matrix barcodes or two-dimensional codes were first introduced by Denso-Wave in Japan. They have become widely adopted in Japan and Europe, and appear on everything from product packaging, magazine ads to billboards. Mobile phone owners containing a camera and a QR code reader scan the QR code image, and receive a text response or are redirected to a web content in the phone’s browser.

QR Code use in North America

Delvinia first used QR codes in 2008 on posters to promote RBC’s Next Great Innovator Challenge. Mobile phone owners who scanned the QR code were directed to a mobile friendly version of the website. The challenge at that time, as it is now, was that only a tiny number of mobile users even knew QR codes existed. And only a fraction of that group had QR code readers downloaded and installed on their phone.

Since then, we’ve seen QR codes being used in dozens of marketing campaigns (posters, billboards, newspaper ads, direct mail), packaging and newspapers (Metro and National Post). However, they still not been widely adopted by marketers and consumers in Canada and the rest of North America compared to Japan and Europe.

Consumer Education & Awareness

We feel that achieving your communication goals with a QR code comes down to two very simple things; consumer education and awareness. Simply placing a QR code on a poster, billboard or packaging without instructions explaining the process and benefits renders the QR code useless and the campaign a failure. We showed our respondents sample campaign posters containing QR codes with and without instructions. Once respondents understood what a QR code was, how to use it and what the benefits were , they were very interested in using it.

Have you seen a great example of QR code usage in North America or anywhere else? Do you feel that QR codes will eventually be widely adopted by marketers and consumers  in North America?

Photo from Clever Cupcakes used under CC license.