Ashok Lalla, leader, digital, Mindshare South Asia (L) and Sidharth Rao, chief executive officer, Webchutney (R)
Do you think brands in India are using QR codes well? What are the benefits of using QR codes for brands?
AL: Over the past year or so, the use of QR codes has certainly increased among brands in India. So much so, that QR codes have become quite the digital novelty, with some clients even asking, “Let’s do a QR code.” Most brands are still not exploiting QR codes to their maximum, and simply link to a brand website through a QR code. Used well, a QR code can bring alive a brand’s story and experience in an interactive and engaging manner. It can also be used at retail, to turn an otherwise passive buying experience into an immersive one, by linking from a product via a QR code to user reviews and product details presented in a interesting manner online.
SR: I don’t think marketers have understood how to leverage QR codes optimally. They love these ubiquitous 2D codes and we are among the top 10 countries in QR adoption across the world, but I don’t see the need to put a brand’s website on a QR code when users can actually Google it or type the URL faster than scanning it on their phone. Intuitive and well-planned QR activities can benefit both consumers and brands substantially. They bridge the offline, real world and the digital world with a rich, immersive experience through branded content, offers, promotions and brand associations which must be meaningful and relevant for consumers at the end.
How integral is the QR code to a digital marketing plan?
AL: More and more clients and agencies look to include QR codes in digital marketing plans these days. But it’s important to align the essence of a QR code with campaign objectives, rather than do a QR code just for the sake of doing one.
SR: It is reported that from early 2010 to early 2011, QR code uptake increased by a whopping 4,589%. While that figure sounds phenomenal, it’s a ‘trick stat’ since the base was very small to begin with, as another study indicates that two-thirds of consumers don’t know about QR codes with only 11% actually using them. The way I see it, QR code usage is a function of how integral is the actual brand messaging in the digital marketing plan and if they are the best tool for communicating it. As I read somewhere recently, for most advertisers, their affair with QR has been ‘love at first scan’ but whether they are a marketing innovation or just a fad is debatable. Anybody can generate a QR code for free, but it’s important to consider if there is any unique value being added above existing marketing channels to increase outreach.
What are challenges faced in executing QR codes in India?
AL: While QR codes themselves are not very challenging to execute, the challenge lies more in creating quality content that the QR code leads to. This content is often best served via video, and the quality of mobile web access may hamper the consumption of the content, and thereby lessen the impact of the QR code itself on the consumer for the brand.
SR: The real issue with QR codes is not how ugly or nerdy they look in their current form or whether phones have QR code readers. It is the effort that the user has to make versus what they get in return, and for most part, marketers and agencies everywhere have been unimaginative about what they can do beyond showing the user their mobile website, a trailer or something obvious related to the brand. Personally, I find QR codes a tad too presumptuous (for the lack of a better word) to think that one will take the effort to scan it, without having any idea of what it could unlock. That being said, an out-of the-box experience, like the one we created for Turquoise Cottage or Tesco’s innovative approach in embedding QR in a larger on-ground and digital experience, is all it takes to motivate users and generate buzz through this unique tool or technology.