After FarmVille, I think QR codes win the prize for my most ranted about topic when I'm speaking. They are the perfect example of a bright and shiny marketing object. They are so cool of an idea that they are almost impossible to resist, even when they are clearly the wrong choice for some businesses and situations. I mean look at them. The cool shapes. The way we scan them with our phones and something happens automatically. How can we possibly resist them?!
The problem is when a company decides to use them in places without a signal; they end up spending money on nothing. When we put them on billboards along the highway, where no one could ever possibly scan them, all we say about our business is, "Look, we don't understand technology. Wanna buy our stuff anyway?" Please don't try to be fancy and include a QR code in your emails that I open on my phone. The camera that would scan the QR code is on the back of the same phone. Unless I am some sort of Jedi, I can't scan it. QR codes are just links. If you're sending an e-mail, just put the actual link in the message.
Please do not choose to do something in business just because you can. Businesses that use QR codes in their newspaper ads or on their for sale signs in front of houses (I'm talking to you, real estate agents) need to make sure that whatever site that code takes me to is mobile-friendly. Remember, I'm scanning the code with my phone, and if the site it takes me to is unreadable, all you are doing is showing me that you don't really care whether it works for me or not. You just wanted to use the newest thing in your ads. With our current technology, it is still often much easier to simply type a Web address into my phone than scan your code, so there had better be something awesome on the other end of that link.
Every time you use a QR code for something and don't think it through, a kitten dies-a sweet, innocent kitten. Think before you do. There are a lot of statistics out there about how successful QR codes are. According to a recent report from comScore, some 14 million people scanned QR codes in June 2011,1 mostly from magazines. Although it is true that we are seeing QR codes everywhere, especially in marketing, we need to make sure that there is true value behind using them. Getting your QR code scanned does not necessarily equal success.
Was the scan just a hoop you made someone jump through when it would have been easier simply to type in your site address?
Did the scan take the person to a mobile-friendly site with great content?
How did the person feel about using the code?
Did he or she come back to
your site, or did you lose the person afterward?
Measuring the number of scans is not enough to call QR codes a success.
I was in the grocery store last week and I saw a QR code on a banana. That's right, a ripe banana and the only thing on the banana was this QR code from the company. So I scanned it and it took me to a page for fruit smoothie recipes. I think. I couldn't tell because the site wasn't customized for a mobile phone and the video wouldn't play. Tadaa!
I don't hate QR codes at all. I think they can be a brilliant tool when used properly, but if not, they shouldn't be used at all.