Is there a way to get QR code popular in Hong Kong?

blog[4 Nov 2011]
QR codes is an effective marketing tool, if used wisely. Here we suggest some ways to make QR code popular in Hong Kong.

Recently we’ve see there is a growing trend of using QR codes in various media – billboards, magazines, packagings, etc. The rise of the iPhone apps ‘Line’ let people post their own QR codes to Facebook (although the QR code can only be read by the app itself), this, in a certain extent, will let people to know at least what a QR code is for.

According to, the QR code scans increased by 4549% between first quarter of 2010 and 2011. Japan remains the country with most QR codes scanned, following with New York. Although we see the trend developing in Hong Kong, it seems that it needs another boost like ‘Line’ to make it even more widespread.

1. Build-in QR code reader
While studying the high penetration rate of QR codes in Japan, one should not miss is the build-in QR code reader in their local mobile phones. Compared with Japan, Hong Kong people are mostly using smart phones, particularly iPhones. Sadly iPhone do not have a build-in QR code reader, and users in Hong Kong are too reluctant to download 1 from the app store. One of the reasons is due to the wrong usage of QR codes in wrong context, which we will discuss later on.

In fact rather than making the reader as a stand-alone app, we think that it would be even more useful if it can be incorporated into the camera itself. While opening the camera in iPhone, users can switch rather to scan for QR codes in the options menu. By incorporating the reader with camera it can minimize the effort of scanning a QR code for the user, also the interaction is as natural as that – take a picture of a QR code by your camera.

2. Consumer awareness
According to the infographic by, most users scan a QR code mostly is to get a coupon or special discount for a product. This is very straight forward – without incentives, it is hard for the user to overcome the odd flow of taking out their mobile phone and scan the QR code on the billboard. Sadly, what we see in Hong Kong, most QR codes, especially those on the billboard, are just an URL link to the product website – even not custom made for mobile devices. Ross Howard’s blog gives us some insights. He thinks that QR code is effective only when it stores complex data that can be decoded by another machine. It is not for sharing – so a QR code that contains only an URL actually hinders people from sharing it.

We think that in order to make QR code part of a successful campaign, one should not forget its nature – fast, mobile, talk directly to machine – so as to fully utilize it. If we can create more successful campaign by using QR code, it can generate noise in the public and let more users aware of this tiny little code.

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