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Print Ads in Kenya go QR code crazy!

It was just over a year ago when I wrote in this blog about what was probably one of the first mainstream print ads I had encountered in a Kenyan newspaper that had a QR code. Indeed, QR codes have become more or less a permanent fixture in lots of international print ads to the extent that its no longer unique or special to see them. To some extent, you could say, it feels as if QR Codes have become de rigueur but as is normally the case lots of Kenyan or African print ads lag behind, in this respect.

Nivia Print Ad with QR Code. Good Call to Action as Incentives to Win a Prize

When it comes to QR codes in all sorts of traditional advertising including print ads, the jury is still out as to whether or not they actually add value to marketing objectives. Downloading, installing and using a QR code reader on your mobile device can be a cumbersome process and frankly even a die-hard technophile like me only rarely uses a QR code reader (unless its absolutely essential with the right kind of incentives to do so). I dare to imagine how many average mobile users in Kenya or otherwise find it easy to do so.

Riara University Print Ad with QR code that takes you to their web site.

To get to the heart of this blog post, it comes as something of a surprise that over the last couple of days I picked up at least three print ads in mainstream Kenyan Newspapers that had QR codes. This really made me scratch my head since I wondered how many Kenyans would actually bother to use them? Perhaps I am a little naive in this respect but clearly Brands and/or Businesses as well as their Ad Agencies seem to think this is the way to go? Or perhaps they see it as a way of validating how “with it” they are with the times? Ultimately, experimenting is a good thing if nothing else to see what the results are.

Going forward, whatever the case, one thing is certain, QR codes are certainly taking off in Kenya as well as the rest of Africa and this can only mean that the growth of Smartphones is starting to make an impact on traditional forms of advertising across the board. In addition, for QR codes to really work, there need to be compelling incentives for consumers to actually use them? I would love to see more ad copy that tells me “scan this code to win Kes. 1 Million Kenyan Shillings” or “scan this code to get free products from us” (The Nivea example in this blog post does a decent job in this respect).

Print Ad with QR Code for Smirnoff Kenya

I think that in their current form the QR codes captured in most of the print ads illustrated in this blog post are a little passive and could be much more powerful if the call(s) to action made you really sit-up, take notice, and scan them. In addition, something that really gets to me is that QR codes are accessed via mobile devices and therefore its a glaring mistake that most of the time the destination link or web site is NOT mobile optimized. This quite frankly does not make sense but I see it happen almost everyday. Anyway, that’s my 2 cents on QR codes in print ads in Kenya and Africa. Whats your take? I’d love to hear what you thoughts are on the use of QR codes for advertising.

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4 Comments

  1. September 10, 2012 at 10:25 am — Reply

    Yep, you are right, it looks like the media ads have adopted the QR code and pushing for it; and it is slowly taking off in Kenya, as you said.

    I don’t have a smartphone so I never scanned a QR in my life but if I had I would definitely scan QR, faster, better, stronger 🙂 but then I agree with you regarding website not optimize for smartphone, it sucks indeed !

    Last but not least, it is wrong to think that QR are exclusively for ads… it’s a just a great way to pass a message or promote art, see below two links that I found years ago

    http://fffff.at/qr-stenciler-and-qr-hobo-codes/ – a program that makes QR easy-to-cut QR code for stencil (see free download at bottom of page”)

    Scott Blake, an artist specialised in barcode and QR code – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htrKYyJNiL8

  2. Mohamed Gharib
    September 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm — Reply

    I saw a billboard with a QR Code, that was advertising Riara University. How on earth do they expect us to scan the code on a billboard that big?

    • September 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm — Reply

      @mohamed a very valid observation 🙂

  3. […] Kemibaro looks at how QR codes, small square bar codes that can be read by many mobile phones, are appearing everywhere in…. Gimmick or goldmine? Kemibaro knows which side of the fence he is on – read the post to find […]

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