I was recently asked a question at work about QR codes and, admittedly, scoffed at the question. Why waste the winery’s limited marketing resources on that when what we really need to do is sell wine? Imagine my surprise when later that week, the cover story for the August 2011 edition of Wine Business Monthly was on the emerging trend of using QR codes on wine labels and winery print media.
QR (Quick Response) codes are typically black and white puzzle-like designs, unique for every brand (or product, or company). These codes get printed on a wine label, brochure, or other promotional item much in the way that a traditional barcode would. You simply use your smartphone as a mobile reading device, which (via an app) brings up whatever information the marketers feel might be valuable. For example, data that the QR code delivers may include: a website URL, contact information, location maps, online shopping cart, or other text.
I have mixed feelings about the application of QR codes for wine. Granted, I intentionally live as gadget-free as possible and just started using my first smartphone last week (late to the party). As a result, I had no idea until very recently what QR codes even were. Now that I am aware, I have started to see them in a myriad of places including ads in my husband’s Esquire (a jcpenney advertisement for men’s clothing). Why this is easier than listing a website for additional information, I have no idea. Maybe because smartphones are a nightmare to type on?
This leads to a host of other questions regarding the usefulness of QR codes in the wine industry. If there’s something important for us to know about a product, brand, or company, why wouldn’t that information be printed directly on said label, pamphlet, or other hard-copy material? Isn’t it just another way for companies to shove things down our throats, when all we really want is a nice bottle of wine? Don’t people spend enough time on their mobile devices as it is?
I understand that, given my aversion to unnecessary gadgets and the like, I am not the target demographic for this sort of marketing effort. I also remain skeptical of anything that appears to be just that: marketing. However, I can’t help but think that this concept of being hyperactive with mobile devices and information overload is counter to what wine and wine culture is all about (or rather, should be all about). Wine is something to be enjoyed with family and friends. Even when alone, sometimes there’s nothing better than sipping on a glass of wine—lost in your thoughts—watching the sun set, listening to music, or reading a good book. Perhaps this idea of wine in the absence of mobile devices is becoming antiquated. That makes me sad.
Since a QR code is printed on something that you can physically hold (on a bottle of wine, in a magazine advertisement, etc.), it seems redundant to have to go elsewhere for information. I’m all for visiting a company’s website at my discretion (and leisure) to educate myself about their products. But, speaking for myself, if there’s information that will impact my decision to purchase your wine, put it directly on the label (with a website that I can use, IF I want). Lord knows I am way too lazy and there are way too many choices to deal with snapping pictures and running an app just to get a bunch of superfluous information. I’m sure that there are plenty of Millennials and non-Millennials alike who disagree with me on this. I welcome your discussion, have at it.