A recent study revealed 79 percent of college students have no idea how to scan a QR code.
Let that sink in for a second. Four out of five 18- to 22-year-olds don’t know what to do when they see an ugly barcode slapped on a print ad targeted to them.
If college kids can’t grasp a new technology at the crossroad of social and mobile, it must be a bust. Right?
Yes, the data is disappointing to any company that jumped on the QR code bandwagon, but I think it’s premature to write off the technology as a failure.
Here are five popular complaints about QR codes and why they aren’t as bad as you might think:
1. “Only 5 percent of adults scan QR codes.”
Five percent doesn’t sound like much, but it’s still 14 million people! And don’t forget, only 35 percent of U.S. adults actually own smartphones, which means 65 percent of the population can’t even scan the codes. As smartphones continue to proliferate, QR code adoption should continue to rise.
2. “QR codes clutter printed materials.”
How come nobody says Facebook and Twitter logos clutter print ads and TV commercials? Which would you rather have on your printed materials: another company logo, or an interactive and trackable call-to-action?
3. “QR codes are ugly.”
4. “QR code apps are unreliable.”
I used to say this when I owned a Blackberry, but I don’t think I’ve had an unsuccessful code scan since I moved to Android. iOS apps are equally reliable, but early version iPhones don’t have the ability to autofocus on a QR code. It won’t be long until new phones come bundled with QR code software.
5. “It’s a lot of work to take out your phone and scan a barcode just to get to a website.”
I agree with this complaint, however, the core of this problem is that no one has been very creative with the technology—yet. As a video producer, I’m fascinated that I can link printed materials to videos and other online content, which adds a digital layer to an established distribution system.
But QR codes can do much more than link to a website or a video. I recently produced a series of videos for the Columbia University Catholic Ministry with a QR code that launches a text message when scanned. When the user sends the message, he or she signs up for free news announcements from the ministry delivered via text message.
Beyond that, overseas markets have some very creative uses of QR codes, including the Tesco Supermarkets example from Korea.
Also, remember 2005 when text messages failed because the U.S. hadn’t adopted the technology like Europe and Asia? The current state of QR codes is very similar. As more people use smartphones and agencies get more creative with their QR code integration, QR codes will reach a tipping point.
Time will tell. What do you think?
John Fitzgerald is a documentary filmmaker and founder of BooDroo. He currently serves as a video producer and social media consultant to several pro baseball teams and non-profit organizations. Find him on Twitter @fitzternet. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks. (Image via)