As QR codes continue to pop up on everything from billboards, to posters, and even the college campus, I’ve been spending the past few weeks going toe-to-toe with anyone who actually thinks they’re a good idea. After studying their implementation in the market, I’ve simply not been sold on their use. Never the less, the popularity of QR codes continues to rise, and my opinion of them continues to prove an unpopular one. Case in point: eduGuru‘s Michael Fienen did a great job of spotlighting a recent disagreement we had on the topic.
Yet despite my impassioned opposition to the technology, a single conversation at EduComm with Katie Miller-Smith, director of Catchfire Media, managed to change my entire perception of QR codes, all in a matter of minutes.
See, I’ve been judging QR codes based on their current market implementation – which generally involves a QR code that simply directs you to a website, which isn’t even always mobile friendly. I’ve argued – and still believe – that simply providing a user a shortened URL could achieve the same call to action.
But while chatting with Katie on the subject, she pulled out her business card and flipped it over. On the back of the card was a QR code that – when scanned – would instantly load her contact information into your phone’s contacts. Check it out below.
This is where the light bulb went off for me. The power of QR codes isn’t in directing a user to a website, it’s in going a step further. Whether it’s providing a user with contact info, instantly placing an online order, or providing them with a 1-step sign up, the power of QR codes is in making a users life easier. To hammer this point home further, check out how Tesco utilized QR codes to create virtual grocery stores in South Korean subway stations.
So was I really wrong for hating on QR codes? Well, I’d like to save a little bit of face and say my angst was simply misdirected. QR codes aren’t the problem – they can actually be really exciting and useful. The problem is a combination of current hardware restrictions and – more importantly – the limited creativity behind much of their current use in the market.
Still, I owe a tip of the hat and thank you to Katie for expanding my perception of the technology, as well as a thanks to Michael Fienen for never being one to back down from a heated dialogue.
As part of my role as host of Higher Ed Live, I constantly find myself on the front lines defending and promoting my opinion of the latest trends in marketing and technology. It’s a role I absolutely love. But if I’m going to go live every Sunday and share my thoughts, it’s just as important that I hold my head high and acknowledge when I’ve been a bit short sighted, or even downright wrong – though I’d like to think that doesn’t happen too often.
So was I wrong to doubt QR codes? Or am I wrong now for finally buying in? Let me know what you think!
– Seth Odell