This falls’ tech/social media coverage has been a-flutter with news on the potential QR code #fail. Accusations have been flying that most people don’t know what they are and don’t care. But, is this so?
First, the research. According to a 2011 survey from marketing firm Russell Herder, 72% of consumers say they have seen a QR code, but 30% don’t know what they are. Their research also turned up this fact – one in 5 mobile phone users are not clear on what QR codes are.
QRurious still? Here is the most interesting part (IMO) of the survey results: QR code scanners skew young, male and wealthy. Why do I find this so fascinating?
Let’s take a walk down memory lane and consider the early adopters of Twitter (a form of shortened communication) who were young, had neutral incomes and skewed female.
Research today also shows females being the unsung heroes behind the growth of social networking sites (ie Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc) – all of which are communication platforms.
“Comscore, Nielsen, MediaMetrix and Quantcast studies all show women are the driving force of the most important net trend of the decade, the social web. Comscore says women are the majority of users of social networking sites and spend 30% more time on these sites than men; mobile social network usage is 55% female according to Nielson.” sourced: Aileen Lee, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers.
The key difference for me between social networking sites and QR codes is this – high communication effort with a range in feedback vs. low communication effort with high feedback/instant results. This is an important differentiator when it comes to knowing your audience and knowing how they will use your offering.
If it’s a platform for sharing and communicating, your adopters will tend to skew female.
As psychologist Susan, Sherwood, PhD in Columbus Ohio notes, “Women communicate through dialogue, discussing emotions, choices and problems. Males remain action-oriented — the goal of communication is to achieve something.”
Let’s come full circle on the issue at hand – QR codes. QR codes are designed specifically to be acted upon and respond with a result (marketing of a new product, providing a discount, watching a movie preview.) There is no need to post anything in order to benefit from a QR code.
This could be why the early adopters of QR code technology are skewing male. They are wired to interact because it’s action oriented and not primarily communication oriented. Just a theory, but could be worth further investigation.
One could also argue, that in order for QR codes to succeed, they will need to appeal to females – who are showing to be strong ambassadors of most things tech and social media. Women are growing in mass numbers in the gaming industry as well. Perhaps there is a new angle QR codes can take that provide an element of 2-way communication that we can market as a benefit to the general public more clearly.
As we continue to understand what makes certain audiences tick in the world of communications, we will continue to improve our methods. Of course, there is also a bit of luck involved in any marketing effort and so I think the pundits need to give the QR code more time before they make the final Qall (call) on its success or failure.