QR Codes are Worthless

QR Codes

We had such high hopes for QR codes when they first came on the scene. You know, those black and white two dimensional squares embedded with information that nobody seems to know what to do with?

Personally, I like the way they look from a design standpoint and use one on my business cards. It always elicits a response like, “Oh, it’s one of those things.”

Yeah, that’s right. It’s one of those things. And that’s the problem with quick response, or QR codes. The average consumer is still not sure what to do with it.

QR Codes in print.

We see them on lots of print media now. Home Depot lead the way by using QR codes on all their products. When scanned, the code would take you to a website with more information about the product in an effort to help consumers do their own customer service.

You’ll see QR codes in newspaper and magazine ads, advertising posters and even the occasional inside book cover. They are a great idea but only if you use ’em right. Avoid these common mistakes and make sure your QR codes are NOT worthless.

  1. The print size of the QR code is critical. If it’s too small, a smartphone can’t read the image. The ideal size is 1.0″-1.25″ square. The image needs some white space around it as well so the camera has some room to focus.
  2. Another common mistake is not linking the QR code to a mobile friendly destination. A YouTube video, image or mobile website are ideal. But sending the user to an online site that is not optimized for mobile is foolish. After all, they are using a mobile device to scan the code, so wherever you  send them, needs to be mobile friendly.
  3. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many QR codes used on the Internet. Duh, the code typically takes you somewhere on the Internet when you scan it. Why would you expect people to get out their smartphone, use a special app to scan the code to take them to another website? In that case, you should just give them a link to click on. Why make them jump through hoops? That’s annoying.
  4. Tracking ROI or metrics is another key mistake in using QR codes. Make sure your codes can be tracked so you can see if they are doing what you intended and at what rate. Just as with any other marketing method, track the results.
  5. Don’t send your customers to an advertisement. There is nothing worse a brand can do to me than make me work to see their stupid advertisement. We only believe 14% of advertising to begin with. Make me work for it, and I’ll hate you forever. This one is a BIG hell no!
  6. It’s a mistake to think that everyone knows what to do with a QR code. Just because they exist and they’ve been hyped, doesn’t mean they are a fluid and common part of our mobile communication. Remember that to read a QR code you need a smartphone. That smartphone needs a special app to scan the code and a signal to connect to the Internet. The whole process is not really very mobile, in a mobile society using mobile devices to make their lives even more mobile. Phew, you get the picture?
  7. Finally, while the adoption of smartphones is rapid, not everyone uses a smartphone. There are plenty of dumb phones and feature phones out there that won’t be able to make heads or tails of QR codes. Use your words, as I told my sons when they were young. Print the actually URL link where the QR code will take me so I have an option and you can interact with more mobile users.

There are lots of great uses for QR codes but you need to think through your goals.

Are you making the customer’s life easier or complicating it? Is there a better way to draw them to you virtual real estate? Or are you like me and enjoy QR codes for their aesthetic value.

As long as you don’t make the 7 mistakes, your QR codes can enhance your business marketing.