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QR codes are not hot today: CTIA panelist

mobile phone

Mobile ties companies with consumers

SAN FRANCISCO - For brands and marketers to drive revenue growth, they must understand what goes into building a successful mobile strategy, according to panelists at CTIA Wireless 2010.

During the “Aligning Brand Interest with Mobile Opportunity” panel, speakers agreed that brands should focus on consumer interaction and how customers use mobile in their day-to-day lives. The panel was moderated by Steven Spencer, president of Cayuga Services, New York.

“When we look at it, the first thing we look at is the consumer,” said Mark Kaplan, founder of Gem Strategy, New York.

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“What do they do with their mobile device, do they interact with other touch points?” he said. “What we do then is build a brand story – what we are going to be telling the consumer.

“Look at your experience and lifestyle branding, lifestyle services and deliver the brand proposition, so it correlates with the consumer’s lifestyle.”

Tips for brands
Brands should lead with their internal marketing organization and not an IT team, Mr. Kaplan said.  

According to Charlie Echeverry, senior vice president of Univision, Los Angeles, there are a lot of brands that do not understand consumers.

Add that that to the fact that many companies have not yet understood the potential for mobile – and the next step is figuring out what to do as a brand.

“We tend to overcomplicate things in some cases as marketers,” Mr. Echeverry said. “Relevance is as important in a radio campaign as it is in a TV campaign and its equally important from a mobile standpoint – relevance is key.

“You have to utilize relevance to have your brand be part of the message you want to get out,” he said.

Focus on mobile
Scott Michaels, vice president of Atimi Software, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, advises brands not to set the bar too low.

However, brands should not solely focus on producing an application, similar to other competitors, such as a popular eightball shaker application, that when shaken, plays a video.

“It comes down to timing,” Mr. Michaels said. “In the beginning you could have done an eight ball shaker app, but not now.

“You have to realize that you have to market your application,” he said. “You have to spend to get your app out there – and people forget about that.”

Say no to QR codes
When advising their clients, the panelists agreed that they do not generally advise them to use QR codes.

Although fairly popular with consumers, the panelists said that QR codes do not scale very well.

“No human knows the difference between ScanLife and every other [2D bar code reader application],” Mr. Kaplan said. “It’s just a funny little thing – users download the wrong app reader, it doesn’t work.

“Regardless of what the code looks like, if the reader is incompatible, it just won’t work,” he said. “QR codes are not hot today – unless you’re in Japan.”

Web versus apps
Brands going into mobile nowadays are focusing most of their attention on creating applications – and although popular with consumers – applications might not be right for every company.

For companies looking to invest in applications, they must first do some research to ensure that they are hitting the right market for their customers.

“You can hit the iOS platform first – with the iPhone and iPod touch,” Atimi's Mr. Michaels said. “Then go after Android and BlackBerry operating systems.

“The vast majority is on the iOS and that’s where people are spending their money today,” he said.

Paul Reddick, CEO of Handmark, Kansas City, MO, mostly works on applications, but said that the mobile Web has reach.

“But, applications have more intense and passionate use,” Mr. Reddick said.

When working with applications, Mr. Reddick suggests synchronizing campaigns and making sure that they launch on Android, iPhone and BlackBerry devices simultaneously.

“You don’t want to say you have a Burger King app and its only available on Android,” Mr. Reddick said.

Local advertising
There is also a huge opportunity for local advertising.

“There is a massive opportunity,” Mr. Reddick said. “It’s largely untapped – there’s a lot of friction in the system right now for local advertisers to get into mobile.

“But it’s hard for those local advertisers to get into mobile,” he said. 

From left: Mark Kaplan, Charlie Echeverry, Paul Reddick, Scott Michaels

Final Take
At the conclusion of the panel, Mobile Marketer's Rimma Kats interview Mr. Kaplan. Here is what he said.


Associate Editor Rimma Kats covers media, television, research and social networks. Reach her at rimma@mobilemarketer.com.

Related content: Advertising, CTIA, mobile marketing, mobile

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Comments on "QR codes are not hot today: CTIA panelist"

  1. Dave Lawson says:

    October 14, 2010 at 6:11pm

    These are some vanilla perspectives and there is a pretty big contradiction here by the panel. It reads that one of the big ideas with mobile is to think about the consumer first- and I completely agree with this perspective around anything, especially mobile.

    First, instead of deciding what you want to tell the consumer, how about what role you can play for the consumer in the mobile channel. Might seem semantic or subtle but it’s a big difference.

    Second, the article goes on to relate viewpoints that both extol the virtues of certain tactics and decry the value of other tactics- without regard to what the customer's best end-use experience.

    The suggestion to stay away from QR codes due to “scale issues” with a reference to confusion, even though they are popular with consumers, both contradicts and is short sighted. A pretty blanket statement for something that when, in the right environment and done correctly, actually solves a lot of scale issues for a brand where it matters most. Their recommendation relies on traditional attempts at implementing codes in fairly passive, unsupported environs of traditional and outdoor media. The statement is even stronger in the video that follows the article- “just won’t work”. I think that adds up to opportunities lost for that strategy firm’s customers and a disservice to the marketing community as a whole. Its such an isolated view and doesn’t consider how mobile can fit into existing real-world interactions based on conditions that already exist for businesses.

    Consider each initiative on a case by case basis and don’t just lean on one or two tactics as a comprehensive mobile strategy. It’s important for brands to stay away from only “whats hot today” as the best available solution and their logic for eliminating potential solutions. If, given the customer behavior and the business goals of the brand, they make sense and you can leverage the context of the “in-the-moment” opportunity- that should be the direction the execution goes in, regardless of the tactic. Upon further investigation, if this guy "lives" his brand, he also believes in static landing pages on the web.
  2. Kevin Markets says:

    October 13, 2010 at 7:19pm

    "QR codes are not hot today" I'm laughing all the way to the bank!
  3. Obii Chuku says:

    October 12, 2010 at 4:45pm

    I'm shocked, sad and amazed. With all the inspiring examples of QRC usage from all over the world? Does Calvin Klein ring a bell? HBO and Boardwalk Empire? Anything?

    Here's something to chew on (which incidentally was also reported by Mobile Marketer.)
  4. Jennifer Iannuzzi says:

    October 8, 2010 at 6:10am

    I seriously laughed out loud when I read the title of this article and the unbelievable quote. Did that actually come out of his mouth? I trust Mobile Marketer's reporting and as ludicrous as THAT sounded, I believe he actually said it. GASP. You mean despite all the evidence of HUGE brands adopting QR Code campaigns, the fact that they are the first tangible and measurable link from print advertising to mobile? The stats on effectiveness? MEASURABILITY. Yes, I said it again. Tell it to Best Buy, Calvin Klein, some random advertiser that had a QR Code featured on a billboard in the Dubrovnik airport. Perhaps the comment should have been that yes, wouldn't it be great if there was a universal reader. Up to the manufacturers to adopt a universal. If you want to argue about that, I'm behind you 100% But just like, wouldn't it be great if there was a universal INSERT HERE. But consumers are finding readers somehow, aren't they? Well they must be or these big brands and marketing gurus are just plain idiots. "QR Codes are not hot today." Yup, and Lindsay Lohan is as sober as they come.
  5. Cameron Green says:

    October 7, 2010 at 3:38pm

    The existing barcodes on products (EAN/UPC) can and are scanned by consumers using mobile apps. One applications on Android logged 100K scans during the Superbowl last year. The consumer gets it and likes to do it. The question now becomes how does the brand get a voice when the application is providing the info not them directly?
  6. Jeroen Steeman says:

    October 7, 2010 at 1:40pm

    It's clear this panel has no clue.
  7. Roger Marquis says:

    October 6, 2010 at 7:59pm

    This panel has no clue...please see my blog post at: http://bit.ly/cFTbIf.
  8. Beth Silverstein says:

    October 6, 2010 at 7:27pm

    Philip Warbasse of Warbasse Design writes~

    ....perhaps Mr. Kaplan's comments should not be disregarded as completely ridiculous.

    As with all new technology, there are stages of acceptance that consumers go though before they make it a part of their everyday lives. The reasons Mr. Kaplan sited for not using QR Codes represent issues we have had to address from the start and can be easily mitigated with a clear strategy in place to deliver the appropriate reader to a user's handset.

    Printers, agencies, large brands and a lot of tech-savvy people are already leveraging the benefits of Integrated Media - here and now. Most of us accept that 2D barcode advertising is on the way and there is nothing to stop it. Perhaps we all need to be reminded that the real channel is "mobile" and 2D barcodes are a specialized channel within the mobile channel (after the information contained in a 2D barcode is decoded, the barcode has little if anything to do with the rest of the experience).

    But, let's look at the bigger question. How do consumers come to accept and use a technology? The Technology Acceptance Model suggests that when users encounter new technology, the most notable factors that influence their decision about how and when they will use it are:

    -Perceived usefulness (PU) - The degree to which a person believes that using a particular system will enhance his or her ability to experience a desired result or outcome.*
    -Perceived ease-of-use (PEOU) - Defined as "the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free from effort".**

    So, when we consider this model and "perceived ease-of-use", perhaps Mr. Kaplan's comments should not be disregarded as completely ridiculous. I feel strongly if one reads Mr. Kaplan's comments with an open mind they will serve to make your campaigns better.

    When my firm embarks on a new Integrated Media campaign, one of the first questions my developers ask is "who's the audience?" I jokingly reply, "the audience is our Grand Parents, make them feel as comfortable as possible."

    -Make the user feel comfortable and totally in control,
    -Always include simple instructions to download the appropriate reader,
    -Make sure whatever is behind that code makes the user feel good about the process!
    -Remember the challenge is not the barcode, it's the mobile experience behind it.

    *TAM PU modified Warbasse
    **Bagozzi et al., 1992; Davis et al., 1989
  9. Strider X says:

    October 6, 2010 at 6:44pm

    Mr. Kaplan needs to get a clue!

    Check out Scanbuy's latest Mobile Barcode Trend Report:

    blog . scanlife . com
  10. Melanie S. says:

    October 6, 2010 at 6:30pm

    If you look to more mature mobile markets, you'll see that mobile web use is preferred over apps.

    Getting to a mobile web page is often a slog -- QR, 2D and other image detection tools make it easier (conceptually). So, it will become more consumer accepted and viable as time marches on. It will be in demand. Plus, QR (or other tech) offers Location Based engagement without going through apps.

    There is a tiny bit of confusion with competing platforms in the market. That will end and one or two will become predominant. Whoever has the largest campaign numbers wins.

    The problem with the Panelist is with the approach of "not recommending" vs. recommending under certain conditions. Aiming for a big mobile campaign success is better than letting someone else do it first. But, if you don't have the self confidence to make a campaign work, then, yes, don't do it. It's not the technology, it's the campaigns themselves that will make or break this model.
  11. Bob Smith says:

    October 6, 2010 at 11:01am

    Glad I didn't pay to see that panel. Honestly, these guys sound like it's 2005. Or, maybe they used to consult for Blockbuster?

    They clearly aren't clued in on developments in mobile web and where HTML5 will take us within 12 months. Even enhancements to SMS conversational marketing.

    They discount QR despite it's rapid increase in user adoption over the past 6 months and it's increase in awareness due to Best Buy and mainstream campaigns.

    It sounds like they use the same vendors to deliver the same-old, same-old to everyone.

    Sorry, really unimpressed.
  12. Jamie Thompson says:

    October 6, 2010 at 7:08am

    The title is absolutely right. Despite some of the coverage of QR codes, they're not scalable in the United States or Europe. Carrier hegemony allows a standard to be forced in South Korean and Japan, but other markets are very different.

    On a somewhat related note, QR codes are an unnatural way to engage. Obviously I'm writing from the standpoint of an alternative technology (computer vision - Pongr), but I truly believe that people would rather engage with advertising creative vs. codes. A recent, albeit dramatized, post on how "QR Codes Kill Art" http://bit.ly/9cUpks
    Jamie T.
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