Common Mistakes – QR Codes

By stephanie on March 16, 2012 in Articles
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The following is an excerpt from a blog post over at, by one of our staff members.

People that are super into marketing are usually pretty quick to adopt new ways to increase click through ratios, drive traffic to unique landing pages, and just actively use every other buzzword you can think of. However, those same people are also usually slow to abandon technology, or to try to use the same hot new method across multiple platforms, including print, web, banner, etc. QR Codes are the most misused piece of marketing technology in contemporary circulation, and it’s starting to upset me.

There are two things that people do wrong when marketing with QR codes.

1.) QR Codes make marketers lazy.

Creating a flyer can be a really easy thing, or a really hard thing depending on how good you want it to be. But if you have QR codes, you can make a flyer, put in no work, and just assume that everybody would love to do nothing else but look at your flyer and follow through on inputting the QR code into their phone. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If there’s no an incentive to follow through on an offer, not a lot of people will be interested in pursuing what you have to offer. Buzzfeed recently made a post from the recent South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX, titled “The 20 Most Worthless Ads at SXSW.”

As you can see, that article is mainly just an excuse to bash QR codes. Which I’m a fan of. People put these flyers up, try to create a general interest buzz for their tech startup, and leave it at that. This is a tremendously lazy way to promote your business, and scanning a QR code for a tech service at SXSW you just happen to randomly see on a poorly designed flyer is not a great media strategy.

2.) People keep putting QR codes in places where QR codes don’t belong

When people adopt these new technologies, they tend to try to over-implement, and use the same system over multiple media platforms. QR codes are the perfect example of a media system that just doesn’t work on certain platforms.

For example, I was on Youtube the other day and I happened to see the perfect example of overreaching via the use of QR codes. Apparently, it’s for the VEVO mobile app, and users can scan the QR code to get a download link for the app on their phone. The problem I can’t seem to understand is the strategy behind something like this. QR codes exist to access data via the web from a physical form (i.e. a magazine page, or a newspaper) to an electronic form. When you’re trying to send users to a site via an electronic medium, there’s no reason why a hyperlink an unacceptable means of transferring users to a site. You’re already on a computer, after all.

Alright, I get it. This QR code isn’t the worst I’ve seen, and it does make some sense. After all, scanning a QR code to get a direct download link eliminates the number of possible workflow and process problems that could occur between wanting to download the app and obtaining the app, such as going to the app store, creating a search for an app, selecting the correct app, and finally downloading the app. But still, it’s a QR code on a website. There’s no reason for me to like it.

I’ve known people to send QR codes out via email, which makes even less sense then putting it on a website. If someone’s on a computer reading the email you just sent them with a QR code, an email hyperlink will suffice. And if they’re on a mobile phone, they would need to scan the code on their phone with another phone, and I don’t know anyone willing to do that.

There’s a time and a place for QR codes, but QR codes via an electronic medium constitutes neither.


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