The Pandemic has Returned the Popularity of QR Codes
April 4, 2022
How QR-code technology came to marketing
For the first time, Used QR Codes in production – in 1994, a subsidiary of Toyota in Japan introduced them at an assembly plant to control produced cars and parts for them. Unlike a barcode, a QR code contains more information, which prompted the manufacturer to innovate.
The technology began to spread mainly in Asian countries, and in 2003 the Chinese company Inspire developed a unique mechanism for reading QR codes, which made it possible to do this quickly, which fueled its popularity. However, it became widespread during the mass use of tablets and smartphones, when reading became available through the camera of a wearable device.
In the early 2010s, Russian marketers also became interested in QR codes. Even then, interactive packaging was called one of the current trends. They organized promotions with prizes, the main element of the mechanics of which was a QR code – MTS was the first to launch such an interactive quest in Russia (and there, there was also a secret society). And MegaFon placed a QR code on a billboard to promote 4G internet.
Russian marketers already predicted a bright future for QR codes, but they did not yet know how far it would be. Museums, banks, and retailers used the technology, but it reached the general consumer with varying degrees of success.
Rebirth during a pandemic
The real flowering of QR codes came, sadly, with the advent of COVID-19 in the lives of Russians in 2020. Even before introducing QR codes, experts predicted that the pandemic would make our lives more technologically advanced.
And after a couple of weeks, introduced a self-isolation regime in Moscow, and the QR code became one of the primary identification tools. Soon, banks and retailers began to notice an increase in the number and volume of payments using codes – the Russians tried the technology and began to transfer it to other areas of life.
The authorities have also seen the convenience of QR codes. As circumstances changed, they were easy to adapt to different scenarios: first with nightclubs and restaurants during quarantine, and with the advent of a vaccine, and in the case of checking a certificate when visiting public places.
Of course, representatives of HoReCa and the event industry were not happy because this led to a decrease in attendance and sales. But it was better than shutting down, and that was the alternative they were offered. Citizens also began to express dissatisfaction, and the number of anti-vaccinators grew, confident that they would be microchipped. Even famous people criticized QR codes, sometimes comparing them with segregation tools.
In the social environment, technology has acquired a negative connotation. The authorities even discussed dropping the term “QR code” from the name of the vaccination certificate.
Integration into media and creative
The popularity of QR codes in marketing has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Among the advantages, experts called the ability to trace the user’s path in the digital environment and set up remarketing when visiting an offline store.
In the second half of 2020, the National Advertising Alliance (NRA), a single Russian TV advertising seller, offered the market a new product – QRTV, that is, the ability to integrate codes into TV advertising. With their help, TV viewers could make online purchases or find out more detailed information about a product online without leaving the screen. Shops on the couch have moved to a qualitatively new level.
One of the first to test the new tool was the Volkswagen brand on the RBC TV channel. We integrated the QR code into the announcement of the TV program for entrepreneurs. And in 2021, one of the largest advertisers in the Russian market, Sberbank and VTB, used the product.
As NRA Innovation Director Viktoriya Prostyakova explained, the more the time and quality of audience interaction with smartphones, the more opportunities appear for synchronizing mobile and TV.
The technology also interested the creators. The Birchpunk group shot a series of videos inspired by the rapid introduction of innovations into Russian realities. And Rossotrudnichestvo, together with TWIGA TOUCH, developed a corporate identity for the Russian House non-profit organization based on the concept of QR codes as an allegory of a “window” to Russia.
Some have gone even further and combined QR codes with AR technologies. This is what MTS did by placing banners with codes on the streets of Moscow. By clicking on them, users could “walk” along the street of the future with huge holograms, drones, and futuristic cars.
True, against the backdrop of growing negativity, some of the ideas of the creators were accepted without enthusiasm. The goal of the creators was “to draw attention to catering establishments, as well as to remind about the importance and necessity of vaccination”, but they were misunderstood. As a result, everything turned into a sea of complaints on social networks and references to marks in concentration camps.
Expert forecasts for 2022
Marketers are divided on the future of QR codes. Dmitry Zheleznov, head of the Fistashki Creative Digirati development department, believes that the technology “will remain one of the options for stimulating users to click on links, open any information, but will not become the main [tool] for the influx of online or offline traffic,” because, despite to the widespread introduction of QR codes for vaccination, there has not yet been a boom in marketing.
Nevertheless, experts identify several significant advantages of using technology in modern realities:
The pandemic and new behavioral habits have made QR codes very relevant to the needs of users: it is fast, it is safe, and, most importantly, it is hygienic, notes Elena Trutnova. And hygiene now rules the show everywhere, she emphasizes.
Trutnova also points to the high scanning speed and availability of most modern wearable devices.
In addition, QR codes are an effective and convenient means of communication between offline and digital environments, which has become a standard “gate” between them, recalls Vasily Nechaev.