The cost of QR Codes

The cost of QR Codes (and Data Matrix, Microsoft Tags…) is close to nothing for advertisers. Close, because you still need to pay someone (be it an intern or even yourself) to generate it.

That’s why we see more and more QR Codes everywhere in France. On billboards, in magazines, on book covers, in bus stops…
It is easy to use for advertisers and makes them feel like they are doing something new, something mobile, something trendy. There’s a “WOW effect” involved there.

But there are 2 problems.
First, the cost of QR Codes for users is too high. When facing a QR Code in a magazine, the user:

  • does not know what this is and needs to read the “how to” next to the QR Code, if there’s one (some advertisers think everybody knows what it is)
  • If he knows or understand how it works, he must know install an app on its phone if he doesn’t have one. Some Android, Nokia and Blackberry phones now come with a built-in reader but I guess the share of those is still small
  • Once he has the app installed, he must launch it, stay in front of the ad (easy if it’s in a magazine but different if you’re in the street facing a billboard), scan it… without knowing what will happen next! Will it download something? Try to make a call? Open a web page? Send private information like my contact details to the advertiser?
  • Last and not least, he needs to have access to the internet when he scans a QR Code, which is most of the time not the case if he’s in the subway, where there’s a lot of QR Codes to scan (yes, this is stupid).

The second problem is that QR Codes exist since the mid-90’s. It made sense then because mobile phones had 12 keys and it was difficult to tap a complete URL on such a thing.
But now, most of the mobile phones come with a complete AZERTY/QWERTY keyboard and URL shorteners make it easy to display short, fast to enter URLs on ads.

In my opinion, QR Codes are obsolete.

About the Author

Gaetan Bertin, Digital Media Strategist evolving in the web industry since 2000. Expert in Media, Search Marketing and Web Analytics