Do the French love their...QR Codes?

in Brand
by Matt Neal

Oh how we laughed when Susan Ma from this years’ Apprentice asked “do the French love their children?” Silly girl, of course they do, it’s ignorant English people they find hard to love.

My wife and I hoped that this public faux pas hadn’t made big news just across the Channel as we left for a week’s holiday in France – our French is limited to ordering a drink and directions for the tourist office, it doesn’t cover “she didn’t mean to be rude or ignorant, she’s young…and a bit dim, and I can assure you we don’t share her views”.

As far as we are aware, we got through the holiday without receiving any Apprentice based abuse, but what I did notice is that the French people really, really seem to like QR Codes. They were everywhere: in shop windows, on billboards, stencilled on the pavement, in flyers and magazines, even on adverts on the Metro (on which you can use your mobile phone…I think… I’m too tight to have data roaming turned on, but I did have a signal when I was on a platform once).

What makes this interesting (to me anyway) is that, according to various stats, France is lagging behind the UK in both mobile barcode usage and smartphone adoption:

According to 3GVision, France was number seven in the top 10 users of mobile barcodes during Q1 of 2011, three places behind the UK. More interestingly, last quarter, the UK was seventh and France was fifth, so they are going in opposite directions.

In addition, according to comScore, by the end of 2010 the UK’s adoption of Smartphone’s was just over 34%, with France somewhere around the 25% mark.

So does this mean that French marketers seem to be spending more money targeting a smaller audience with less success?

Or, as 3GVision pointed out, did the UK benefit from a specific push of QR Codes by some big brands like Heineken, Sky and Pizza Express, and France is now doing the same? Does this mean they will move up the usage charts for the next quarter?

Does it add weight to my theory entitled ‘Unless my Mum understands it, it’s not worth doing’ (the general premise being that unless it is quick and intuitive, it won’t work – we could tattoo a QR Code to my Mum’s arm and she still wouldn’t scan it until I sit her down, explain the concept and load a QR Code scanner on her phone for her)?

Does this mean that a lot of French people really do drive in France? Sorry, that’s Susan Ma again.

It raises too many questions to effectively answer them here, so I’ll leave it to you to form your own opinion. In the meantime, more people in our office like them than don’t, so we’ll continue to try and make effective use of them until we’re told otherwise.

And on that final, slightly defiant note, did you know you can change up to 30% of a QR Code and it will still work? It creates a nice brand opportunity.