QR Codes: Marketers Like, Public Adoption Rising


Is anyone excited about QR codes besides marketers? According to Nielsen/McKinsey’s NM Incite, online buzz about codes increased from .002% in June 2010 to 0.15% of all online conversation this month. That ‘s more than other alternative mobile technologies like “near field communication” (NFC), “augmented reality” and “image recognition” combined.

From a pop-culture perspective, however, that’s less than half the 0.32% of all online conversation New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin was generating at the height of “Linsanity” last month.

Still, it’s fair to say QR codes have become more part of common parlance in the last two years, at least as measured by Internet chatter. But how do people feel about the pixelated icons popping up in billboards, magazines, retail shelves and business cards?



Based on sentiment analysis of QR-code related tweets last month, the vast majority (78%) of people were neutral on the topic. The balance were evenly split for and against QR codes. That means only 11% were sending out positive tweets.

The research also suggests QR codes are a guy thing, since 70% of the tweets came from men. Data from comScore last year showed men made up 60.5% of those scanning QR codes with a mobile phone. But Roger Matus, EVP, mobile marketing and technology firm Nellymoser, challenges the notion that men are more attuned to codes than women. 

“We know that most of the advertisers using QR are for fashion and beauty products, which are clearly aimed at women. This is the most reliable measure because advertisers are spending real money to reach real people,” he said. 

A Nellymoser study in December found fashion and beauty retailers catering to teens and young adults, along with mobile electronics sellers, were most likely to use QR codes in stores. Codes have also proliferated on the pages of women’s magazines such as Allure, Glamour and Shape. L’Oreal led the way last year among brands using QR codes in magazines, according to Nellymoser.

Estimates of consumer adoption vary. comScore reported that one in five U.S. smartphone owners scanned a QR code with their phone in December. Forrester said adoption of 2D barcodes, including QR codes, increased from 1% to 5% among all U.S. mobile users, and 15% among smartphone owners.

Yankee Group predicts QR code scanning will peak at 8% of mobile users in 2012 before losing ground to NFC technology in the coming years as a superior alternative for mobile marketing and m-commerce.

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