Stop Using QR Codes, Now!

For the past several years, I have been an advocate of QR Codes, as well as other print-to-digital technology, for marketing, advertising and promotion purposes but, when I see a company use a QR Code in the way described below, the first thought that comes to mind is to say to the company's marketing team, "Stop using QR Codes, now!" Why? Because the "interactive experience" triggered by the QR Code is a gross inconvenience to the person reading the ad and wanting to interact with the code, let alone a poor reflection on the company's brand image.

The company behind the trade magazine print ad, which featured the QR Code shown below, provides web-based sales, marketing and e-commerce solutions and services to retailers, manufacturers and suppliers in the furniture industry.

When the QR Code is scanned, the reader of the ad is linked to a page that offers simple corporate contact information (phone number, website address and email address) and nothing else. So, the reader of the ad took the time to 1) read the ad, 2) decide to scan the code, 3) take out their mobile phone, 4) activate their mobile phone, 5) launch their code reader app and 6) scan the code, only to receive company phone, email and website information, and nothing more. This doesn't make sense, does it? Why not provide the reader of the ad with content about product solutions, testimonials or case studies, the business process, the company's history and leadership, etc.? It's not as if this content doesn't already exist, it does, but on the desktop version of the company's website. Why not reformat the content for a mobile optimized site, and have the QR Code scan to a site which features content that is of more use and value to the reader of the ad than just plain contact information? For a company that touts its expertise in technology, as well as marketing and sales, it seems as though the marketing team used a QR Code for the sake of doing so, without understanding and making use of its full potential. As a result, the company offers an interactive QR Code experience that falls flat and delivers nothing. Not a great way to support the brand or to put the brand in a favorable light.

And, if that's not enough, there's more. By more, I'm referring to the fact that this advertisement, which again was spotted in an industry trade magazine, is a B2B ad. Remembering back to Marketing 101, isn't a primary objective of B2B advertising the generation of sales leads? Or, am I wrong on this? If that's the case, there is absolutely no indication from the scan resolve content, and interactive experience as a whole, that the company is using this ad to generate sales leads and/or help move the prospect further along the purchase decision path. There are no lead generation tools, tactics, mechanisms, etc., being used in this ad, so I'll ask another question, why not? Does the company need new clients? Maybe not. Does the company just like to spend ad dollars and get very little in return? Perhaps.  

With so much talk and concern among marketers for proving and delivering a positive return on investment, how did this campaign slip through the cracks? My thought is that the campaign and, more importantly, the use of a QR Code was never fully thought out. Also, if objectives were set for an ad like this, I believe, it would have become rather apparent that the scan resolve content was not going to be able to deliver on those objectives. How could it? There was absolutely no incentive or motivation given to the reader of the ad to move any further (i.e., transact a purchase) or to qualify themselves as a prospect. Why not offer the reader the opportunity to join a webinar, download a whitepaper, set up a sales appointment, download a case study, share the experience with others, etc.?

Maybe this ad speaks to clients and/or prospects who have never scanned a QR Code, and the delivery of simple contact information was enough to "wow" them. But, as more and more people become familiar with QR Codes, the more and more they will expect from QR Codes (i.e., information, content and an experience that's of value, benefit, use, relevance and meaning). 

The last thing I'll say about a campaign like this is that it probably could have been avoided if the marketing team simply put themselves in the reader's shoes and asked themselves two simple questions: "Do I benefit from the interactive experience offered by the QR Code?" and "Is the interactive experience offered by the ad of such use, value and interest that I would want to share it with others?". If the answer is 'yes' to either of these questions then the company would have been well on its way of generating sales leads, driving sales, growing product demand and giving a much more favorable impression of the company's brand image.

2D Bar Code Strategy Litmus Test: FAIL

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  1. I do not understand why brands and agencies still use QR Code. The consumer must open an app. (everyone knows that the consumer is lazy), QR code must be placed at fixed locations (adios bus, taxi, or TV and ad screen),Qr code is neither memorable nor describable from one person to another (greatly limits virality), and it can not be connected to a single action.
    Ok, it's free ...

  2. Completely agree. If a QR code doesn't lead the potential customer to an exciting, interactive and entertaining experience they feel they've wasted their time - and this is what gives QR codes a bad name that they don't deserve.

  3. I agree - good article and good points. On a related note, I am working on a study at Ohio University that investigates the ease at which cell phones can scan various types of designer QR Codes. As you read this, I would like to encourge you to particiapte. The survey can be found at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QRCode_Research and will only take a few minutes to complete. The general results will be posted and updated weekly at http://www.ohio.edu/industrialtech/aidc/activities/research.cfm.


    Kevin Berisso
    Director, AIDC Lab
    Ohio University

  4. You have some good points, QR code's use could be maximize but I disagree with you when you said "It doesn't make sense at all to use a QR code that contains just simple contact information" Some people who are interested to use that certain company's services might want to save the company's contact information on their phones and it's still more convenient for people to just scan and click "add to address book" rather than opening your contact app, typing the complete name, address , email, number etc.