Aren’t QR codes a fad?

08/03/2013     8:35AM

One of the most frequent questions I get asked when I’m on the road is “Aren’t QR codes a fad”? This is actually a two-part question: one focuses on quick response codes; the other is, what really is a fad?

Recently, I have been spending a lot of time researching the difference between a fad, a trend, and disruptive innovation/technology. I think it is very important, in this day and age of overwhelming technological outpourings, to be able to recognize the difference between what is a fad and what is a trend. Don't get me wrong, I think that there is value in both and, more importantly, when we identify which is which we can in fact benefit from that knowledge, both personally and professionally.

This research has become the basis for many of my current conversations. As an example, Sappi is currently involved in an extensive research project focusing on the ROI of print in relation to the ROI of alternative media. A perfect example of a trend is at the end of 2004 with the emergence of alternative media many Corporations chose to migrate their communications primarily to online thinking there would be great cost savings by doing so (think the paperless office of Marshall McCluhan). It has taken almost a decade to come to the realization that while the cost entry point for online can be very appealing, the cost of maintenance is quite high and the ROI does not surpass the ROI of print as anticipated. This was a trend.

Since this will be a core concept in many of our conversations I hope you don’t mind I wanted to share with you these definitions that I found to be most useful:

(Fad) is any form of behavior that develops among a large population and is collectively followed with enthusiasm for some period, generally as a result of the behavior’s being perceived as novel in some way.[1] A fad is said to “catch on” when the number of people adopting it begins to increase rapidly. The behavior will normally fade quickly once the perception of novelty is gone.[1]

Though the term trend may be used interchangeably with fad, a fad is generally considered a fleeting behavior whereas a trend is considered to be a behavior that evolves into a relatively permanent change.[3]

A (disruptive innovation) is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.

The term (disruptive technology) has been widely used as a synonym of "disruptive innovation", but the latter is now preferred, because market disruption has been found to be a function usually not of technology itself but rather of its changing application. Sustaining innovations are typically innovations in technology, whereas disruptive innovations change entire markets

The meme, analogous to a gene, was conceived as a “unit of culture” (an idea, belief, pattern of behavior, etc.) which is “hosted” in one or more individual minds, and which can reproduce itself, thereby jumping from mind to mind. Thus what would otherwise be regarded as one individual influencing another to adopt a belief is seen—when adopting the intentional stance[1][2]—as an idea-replicator reproducing itself in a new host. As with genetics, particularly under a Dawkinsian (Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976)) interpretation, a meme's success may be due to its contribution to the effectiveness of its host.

Memetics is also notable for sidestepping the traditional concern with the truth of ideas and beliefs. Instead, it is interested in their success.


Better understanding the difference between fads, trends, and disruptive technology can be vital to our effectiveness in our sales and marketing strategies. Knowing when to make the proper investment in each can add to the “fun/entertainment factor”, a way to share a communal laugh, to look at a new technology that could enhance how we do what we do, or in fact acknowledge a new disruptive innovation that should in fact be given its true merit and for us to know we need to be prepared for a big change.

Does it make sense?



Thank you, Daniel. Great article.

Daniel Dejan