QR code advertising is more than just an amped-up barcode for conveying complex information—its psychological connotations may be just as important as its utility.
The use of QR Codes—matrix barcodes with a large storage capacity compared to normal barcodes—in advertising has taken off because “it provides quick and effortless access to the brand’s website” when scanned with a smart phone. But don’t think the power of this marketing tool revolves only around convenience; deeper psychological factors are at play here too. I’d like to examine them through a college advertising lens.
Now there’s no doubt that a certain premium is placed on convenience and time-saving measures, especially in the youth market. If college students can simply scan a QR Code and reach the client’s Web site, so much the better. That saves them the effort of opening the browser on their phone and typing in a URL, which isn’t insignificant.
But I would argue that on-campus advertising stands to benefit from some psychological factors attendant to the use of QR codes that have nothing to do with its convenience.
We all love excuses to use the possessions we own, especially if they are new and/or expensive, because it justifies their ownership and proves their worth. Since smart phones generally qualify as both new and expensive, we have an especial incentive to use all their bells and whistles. Do you really need to know the weather in Vancouver? Is every app you download put to frequent use? Because tech items are so complex, with a plethora of features and nearly limitless possible uses, we feel compelled to explore them and try different things out, even if those things don’t ultimately prove useful.
This may favorably predispose students to scan QR Codes, even if only as a form of technological exploration. But this still gets the client exposure.
Another potential psychological effect of using QR Codes in collegiate promotions is the creation of an aura of modernity or hipness around the company. By employing a relatively new technology, clients can hope to cultivate an air of being with-it, much as successful corporations like Apple do.
Among college students, with the peer dynamics and popularity contests of high school fresh in their minds, appearing up-to-date is especially important, and QR Code advertising could help assure that clients do.