QR Codes could be a winner with kids – if only they knew what to do with them

Peter Robinson

Research recently conducted by our research division suggests that a lack of awareness is preventing Quick Response (QR) codes from achieving their full potential as brands look to engage teens through their phones.

The special barcode allows smartphone users to get access to information by photographing the image using free software. As they have gained in popularity QR codes’ use in marketing campaigns has become commonplace, as brands look for new ways to engage their audiences through their mobile phone. However, with 72 per cent of 11-18 year olds either not having or not being aware that they have the software to read QR codes, these brands may be missing out on a significant proportion of their audience.

Our research questioned 1,000 teens aged between 11-18 years-of-age. When shown an image of a QR code only 43 per cent correctly identified that it could be read by a mobile phone while 19 per cent admitted they didn’t know what it was. Eight per cent of girls suspected it might be a magic-eye picture.

Although QR codes have become part of marketing lexicon – the same can’t be said for the playground. Only 33 per cent of those questioned correctly identified the image as a QR code, with 22 per cent believing it was called an RFID tag and 12 per cent labelling it as an infograph.

A positive note for marketers is that despite only 19 per cent of teens having used software to read QR codes, 74 per cent of those who have used say it was worth doing so.

Peter Robinson, head of research Dubit said: “Although this research highlights a lack of awareness with teens, it goes to show that when the technology is being used it is being done affectively. What’s missing is the messaging alerting teens to the opportunities. Marketers can’t just stick a QR code on a poster or in an advert, teens need to be told what to do with them. It might even be advisable to suggest places to download QR code readers. Considering teens are very much attached to their mobile phone this lack of awareness is surprising.”

The benefits and various applications for QR Codes have been widely promoted through the marketing press, with 2011 being seen as the year QR codes go mainstream. However, Dubit’s research shows that the most desired application for teens is to receive vouchers or exclusive content to their phone. Automatically ‘liking’ the brand on Facebook was the least attractive option closely followed by being taken to a brand’s web presence or Facebook page.  Both of these examples appeared below the relatively mundane option of receiving directions to the brand or store.

The opportunity to receive a ringtone or wallpaper, or view an advert or make the current advert interactive all ranked joint third for desired application.

Mr Robinson added: “It might not be rocket science that teens like discounts and exclusive content but what is interesting is that they are prepared to receive such content through the use of QR codes.

“Historically, when compared to Americans, Britons have been adverse to using coupons and vouchers. However, the popularity of Groupon and the promotion of Facebook Deals and Foursquare have made the practice more acceptable. What our research shows is that QR codes may be the way to get these vouchers into the hands of teens.”

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