Do QR Codes have a place in transportation advertising?

My main reasoning for covering QR codes in this entry is many of our clients recently have discussed whether adding a QR to their ads would be effective.  With Solutions for Advertising(http://www.solutionsforadvertising.com), we offer transportation-based ads (bus, taxi, and train) and these ads are usually in motion when people see them.  I have read numberous articles that discuss the positives of QR codes in print ads, to the point where some say there is new hope for print because of QR.  I wanted to do some research to see if it would even be feasible for QR in transportation-based ads.  I feel that QR codes certainly fall into the realm of social media, and should be embraced as such.

For those who don’t know what QR codes are (and I’m sure there are a lot of you) here is a great description of what they are, who invented them, and why they may have a place in society (http://qrcodeguide.org/14/qr-codes-%e2%80%93-history-and-technical-background/).  Basically, they are like bar codes that can be scanned by smartphones.  When scanned, they can do many different things to promote your service or product.  I can almost guarantee that everyone has at least seen them, but I don’t know how many people actually scan them.

When beginning my research, one thing that I immediately realized is that many smartphone users don’t even know how to scan QR codes.  I have tried to scan them before and have had little success.  QR codes should be much more simple to access.  As someone who has a lot of experience with the diffusion of innovations theory (a theory in communications that can help determine whether technologies will succeed or fail), the QR code does not seem that it has much of an opportunity to succeed in our landscape.  The most important thing about new technologies revolves around people in society that influence others.  Many of the people higher up on the technological food chain have already passed on QR because of two reasons:  it is difficult to use, and more importantly, companies have not realized how to use QR to its’ potential.

In doing my research, I was able to speak with Adam Myszewski  (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/adam-myszewski/2/220/194), National Sales Manager at Houck Transit Advertising (http://www.houckads.com) about this subject.  I will be referencing our interview throughout this blog and next week’s blog.  One of the first questions I asked Adam was:  Why are people not using their QR code resources effectively?  Adam responded by saying:  “It seems like a majority of companies and their marketing departments aren’t very imaginative about using QR codes. They tend to think that using a QR code to send people straight to their website’s main page is embracing the technology, when in fact, it’s killing the reputation of QR codes.”   In my experiences, I would absolutely agree with Adam.  Because marketing departments fail to be thoughtful in their QR design, it almost is killing the medium entirely.  When people scan QR and are sent to the company website, what advantage does that serve?  People could just as easily go to the website on their phone, probably faster than by scanning.  Basically, Adam and I both agree that a new way of looking at QR from a creation standpoint is a necessity if QR is to have a future in this technological landscape.

I have to a link to a website that quickly describes diffusion of innovations and the s-curve (http://www.stanford.edu/class/symbsys205/Diffusion%20of%20Innovations.htm).  This is a very basic introduction to diffusion.  I think this is important in the discussion of QR because this is a great indicator of potential success or failure.  One thing that should be noted is while seemingly every day you hear more and more people with smartphones, only about 50% of cellphone users have smartphones.  The diffusion of smartphones hasn’t even reach its’ critical mass yet.  So if QR codes can just hang around, maybe they can have a place in advertising over the next decade.

This blog will continue next week and discuss more of my interview with Adam.  I would like to discuss my final findings about QR codes in transportation advertising, as well as discussing some ways to improve the present landscape of QR.

Paul M. Miller

pmiller@solutionsforadvertising.com

@SolutionsforAdv

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/paul-miller/3b/b5/495