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The QR code debate…. It’s about the content, not the technology

August 5, 2016

By: Jim Flannery, Senior Executive Vice President, Operations and Industry Collaboration

Over the past few weeks I have seen and heard a lot of opinions and complaints about the use of QR codes to provide consumers with the information they seek about the food, beverage, personal care, household and pet care products they use and consume.

I think the complaints focus on the wrong thing.

A QR code is just a vehicle that brings the consumer to an internet destination. That destination is either of interest to the consumer, or not. The value of a QR code and subsequent consumer use is all based on the content available to the consumer when he or she scans the carrier.

QR code usage is all about the content, not the technology.  The technology is easy and ubiquitous. SmartLabel™ provides the content of value to consumers.

Here are the facts:

This is not a technology issue. There are hundreds of apps that have readers usable on QR codes. QR readers like Shazam, have over 220 million downloads in the US, Shopsavvy with 100 million downloads or Scanlife with nearly 80 million downloads, just to name a few. If your phone has a camera, you can read a QR code.

When consumers are asked “do you or will you use QR codes?” or  “do QR codes work?” these are really questions of value, not of technology. Scanning QR codes only work for consumers when the device or app takes them someplace that provides value.

Let me draw a parallel: Consumers often download apps and then use them just one time because the place the app took them fails to provide value or meet their expectations. However, apps that do deliver value are used a LOT. Because some apps are used once and then discarded, should we conclude that apps don’t work? No!! It is all about the value the consumer gets at the destination. It is not about the technology.

Smartphone use is increasing every day. According to the PEW Research Center, US Smartphone penetration will cross 80% of the US population by 2018. That is up from 66% in 2015. Penetration is higher than average among minorities (70% for black, 71% for Hispanics) and especially higher among those with the highest thirst for knowledge, millennials (85% 18-29, 79% 30-49).

Consumers have a greater thirst for information than ever before. They have turned “Google” into a verb. An internet based solution and digital disclosure capability like SmartLabel™ is a good solution for consumers.  It can provide more information than could ever fit on a label. Consumers don’t just want to know if a product contains an ingredient… they want to know what that ingredient is, why it is in the food, what it does and where it came from. They want to know a company’s social responsibility practices and environmental practices. SmartLabel™ has over 380 attributes across food, beverage, personal care, household and pet care products – all organized in a consistent way so information is easily accessible and easy to find.

A QR code is just one of several ways to get to this information, which also is accessible via, a web search or even by calling the -800 on a package.

When research was conducted to test the idea of the ingredient information being made available to consumers digitally via SmartLabel™, 48% said they were likely to use it and 27% said they were extremely likely to use it- for a combined intent to use of 75%!

The driver of this consumer interest is the CONTENT, not the technology.

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Filed under: Labeling

1 Comment »

  1. Great article and right on the DOT. I am also aware of the SMARTLABEL initiative. Am actually waiting for a communication from the relevant people there. We provide QR code based smart labels for some years now. Not you standard QR, but our patented QR code – holoQR. All connected to a free consumer information and product details app. Tens of millions of products have been marked over the years.
    The holoQR label (or IoT) serves many purposes – Brand protection, consumer information, loyalty program, further marketing and licensing control.The same holoQR product is also utilized in the anti-counterfeiting program to protect high security documents.
    For more info contact me at

    Comment by George Perkous — August 10, 2016 @ 4:21 pm

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