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Why QR Codes Will Be Big Business in the U.S.
Earlier this week we took a look at Google’s Real World Hyperlinks. Yesterday Japanese blogger Satoko Hibi who took a look at the QR barcode scene in Japan. Today, in the third piece in the series, I’d like to take a look at why these barcodes will take off in the U.S.
Years ago during Web 1.0, Digital Convergence Corporation produced a device named CueCat. The privacy police were all over this device from the beginning. I though the idea was brilliant but clearly others disagreed. The idea was strong, the execution was poor. The CueCat would scan barcodes in magazines and then send you to a Web site for more information. Joel Spolsky has a review of the device from 2000 which is worth reading. In the end, the device (and the company) failed.
Today we have a new barcode technology, called QR Code, coming to newspapers, magazines and outdoor advertisements. The big difference between the CueCat in 2000 and today’s QR code is mobile. In Joel’s review, he displays a barcode on an advertisement for Altoids and suggests that typing in that URL is easy. But what if you are out and about? The power of the QR codes comes because it works with your mobile device not some mouse-shaped ugly-as-ass scanner. It’s easy. Joel also goes on to say that the CueCat is a chicken-egg syndrome – advertisers won’t want to put the doofy looking codes in their ads unless enough people have CueCats installed (which was a complete pain in the rump). Today, the software is built into mobile so none of Joel’s arguments work today.
The next reason QR codes will be a game changer is because they work for information too. For example, Wikipedia displays their QR code on the Wikipedia site. I could also see QR codes as a potential business card replacement. You are at a business meeting, you whip out your mobile and the other party does as well. You "scan" her barcode displayed on the mobile and now you have all of her contact information and not only is it stored in your mobile, but it’s now on your desktop in your contact manager. Imagine the possibilities for dating!
Finally, the QR codes will work from a marketing perspective because it allows people to pull ads that they are interested in rather than push advertising that is used today. See that ad for Coke? Scan the code and it downloads the Coke ringtone. Even something as simple as replacing the store shopper cards could be handled with QR codes. Teenagers will eat this technology up.
I am very much looking forward to seeing the codes invade the U.S. as they are overseas. As a marketer, I see endless possibilities for connecting brands with consumers. On the business side, there are clear ways that the codes could become time savers. Mobile technology is changing the way we interact, QR codes will take interactions to another level. Of course the U.S. is years behind the rest of the world with regards to mobile technology so by the time the codes become mainstream here, the rest of the world will be on to something else. Let’s get moving!
How do you see QR codes being used effectively or do you see them as just another cuecat, destined for failure?