A Happy New Year to all of our readers. I hope that we provided you with some interesting topics during 2009 and to continue into 2010 I want to touch upon one today that puzzled me a little over the festive season.
The story starts like this; My daughter is just about to turn 6 months old and in the last month she has become very aware of her surroundings – all normal development I guess. So we decided to stimulate her senses by taking her to London Zoo and so, rather crazily, we headed out in the miserable drizzle on the Wednesday between Christmas and New Year, both of us with horrible colds but determined to show our little bundle of joy the animals that she has only seen on the TV so far.
Whilst there, we stopped at the completely over priced Oasis Cafe in the center of the Zoo for a quick snack – two sandwiches and 2 bottles of pop at £18 (and strangely my partner didn’t tell me the price at the time knowing what my reaction would have been!). Anyway the pop she purchased was Pepsi and a very good proportion of the bottle’s label was covered by a QR Code. OK, nothing new since Nick Butcher wrote about the QR Codes hitting the mainstream back in Feb of 2009 on his blog here (oh and I nicked his images since I forgot to snap one myself!).
Now, two things here got me thinking about the use of QR Codes, Microsoft Tags, Datamatrix Codes etc., etc. 1) Considering this is in the mainstream consumer arena the god damn things are ugly and any designer would struggle to add them to packaging or promotional material without them being an eyesore and 2) What exactly does the consumer get out of it anyway?
They are being punted by marketeers as new technology and maybe they perceive them as ‘new’ but they are now trying to push the concept onto consumers as a ‘new’ way to drive mobile content connections. But actually the QR Code has been around since 1994 way before mobile phones had cameras – that wasn’t for another 7 years after QR Codes were introduced and they were actually invented for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing. Also, why haven’t we seen more use of the Microsoft Tag? A High Capacity Colour Barcode that can be reproduced much smaller (i.e. less offensive on the eye) and be incorporated into designs whilst still remaining readable by the camera phone applications.
To go one step further with this, companies like Digimarc offer invisible watermarking for instant web redirection (actually no different from the QR Codes, etc. but completely invisible and undetectable to the human eye). At least using technology like that, the designers would have the ability to make the material look pretty (as they like to do), maintain the Brand’s vision of the product and have the design features the client has asked for!
But being a bit of an intrigued techie I have really struggled to see the value of adding these codes to products to drive people to sites for content. OK, I’m no spring chicken these days and maybe my daughter will grow up only knowing that she uses her phone as a portable media device (well come on, lets face it, mobile phones aren’t really mobile phones any more – my new Samsung H1 only gets used as a phone for about 15% of the time and I see that trend fanning out even further as phone contracts include unlimited internet access). She will undoubtedly use it to connect her to the digital world and more & more parents will find justification to give their younger children these devices – really, what does a 5 year old need a mobile for?
But the fact remains that this is happening; mobile devices are the biggest growing consumer marketing area so if you want to push something new then ‘the mobile’ is the place to do it. But my question really is will QR Codes actually catch on to the whole consumer way of life? Especially as demographic studies dictate that the majority of consumers right now are the conservatives and sceptics on the backend of the bell curve and these are the people you need using the technology for it to rocket into success.
What would be interesting, and I will try and get hold of the marketing team at Pepsi, would be to provide some feedback on how well this campaign did and whether they actually tracked people using mobile devices to get content from their site. As a consumer surely the only driver in this campaign would be if you got free content or you are getting at least ‘something’ for going to the effort of taking a picture of this ugly code – otherwise why would you bother!
Author: Gary George
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