By Sam Anderson

We ask a bumper crop of marketers from The Drum Network why the humble QR code it still enjoying its long renaissance, and where the tech will head next.

Packaging, payment, a gateway to augmented reality worlds, and a star of the organized response to the Covid-19 pandemic: the QR code has emerged as the little technology that could. But, deep down, is it all just a gimmick? Is it living on borrowed time? Or is there more growth on the horizon?

Here, leaders from The Drum Network tell us why that relatively low-fi tech has become quietly indispensable to advertisers despite being almost 30 years old, and what tricks it’s still got up its blocky sleeve.

Alessandro Camaioni, UK strategy director, Momentum Worldwide: “February 2022. The humble QR code, mocked for a decade as a useless gimmick, was rescued by turning into an unlikely metaphor for social distancing, eventually surging as the most popular and talked about ad of Superbowl LVI.

“Was that the peak of QR fever? No. As one of the most democratic forms of smartphone technology, it will only become more ubiquitous in line with universal smartphone adoption.

“QR code payments alone are projected to grow from $8bn (2020) to $35bn (2030).

“Behavioral science can explain why QRs are the perfect marketing tool. Visual, immediate, able to offer a kick of instant gratification and reward our curiosity: QRs cut through the noise in a way no other medium can (until AR contact lenses enter our lives).”

Jim Hare, digital creative director, Bulletproof: “Over-communicating the ‘reason to scan’ remains the key challenge – otherwise all content stays hidden. People are happy to scan if the execution is novel enough. Cygames’ drone show, forming a QR in the Shanghai night sky, is a spectacular example.

“But, like anything that takes effort to engage with, QR codes are only as effective as the payoff they provide. Ritual driving is where we’re headed now. Codes that recognize how many times they’ve been scanned and serve up new, sequenced content, provide people with a fresh reason to retain and revisit QRs. Repeated scans form habits and therefore give the tech a longer, more meaningful lifespan – brilliant for brands seeking to drive ritual building or instructive learning.”

Yahye Siyad, diversity & accessibility lead, Cyber-Duck: “As someone with a serious visual impairment, if QR codes (as typically used today) died out tomorrow, almost nothing would be lost in terms of my engagement with brands. Blind people simply don’t know they’re there unless we’re told, and they mostly link off to sites incompatible with screenreaders. For people with motor control impairments, it’s hard to hold a phone (and the object the QR code is on), and scan it. And taking people who’re deaf to audio descriptions or videos without captions is a dead end.

“It wouldn’t take much to rethink this to deliver brilliant, inclusive brand experiences. QR alternatives like NaviLens can be used at long distances, scanning the environment. Near-field communication (NFC) integration could directly ‘ping’ a disabled user’s device via assistive technology rather than having to scan.

“QRs should lead to a choice of accessible content. Without this type of inclusive design thinking, any brilliant potential QR use cases are simply beside the point.”

Del Credle, head of strategy & media, Laundry Service: “Having lived in China, where QR codes are part of daily life, I’ve seen their potential. I used them multiple times a day: buying groceries, exchanging personal details, renting bicycles, opening doors, and paying bills.

“They are not yet being fully realized here in the US. And, while there are endless implications for marketers, the meaningful opportunities lie in their potential for e-commerce and to ease our use of technology in everyday living. We should push to integrate them natively first in our social ads and organic posts.”

Feature Image Credit: Toa Heftiba via Unsplash

By Sam Anderson

Sourced from The Drum