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Why the QR code is failing

Sean X Cummings
Why the QR code is failing Sean X Cummings

They have become the standard violator appearing on advertising; in the corner of print ads, across billboards, on buses, or in pieces of direct mail -- even peppered throughout this article. You've seen them; that little block of even littler squares. Unfortunately the technology behind QR codes was not invented for advertising and marketing; we are just co-opting its usage, and it shows.

From the relative lack of public understanding of what they even are, to the dearth of creativity in their usage, the QR code is destined to become just the little box that geek built. But if it does go the way of CueCat, only we are to blame. Here's why.

The current use of QR codes in advertising is...
I could finish that statement with "stupid," "useless," "uncreative," or "uninspiring." Surprisingly, that is not news to anyone at advertising agencies or brands. QR codes seem to be a last ditch effort; an ignored piece of "Hey, throw a QR code on there that leads to our website." But why bother? The general public seems largely oblivious to what they are used for, and why they are on all those ads. In my informal "on the street" survey of 300 people last month, I held up a sign with a QR code on it and the phrase: "Free gift if you can tell me what this is."

I was not asking them to decipher it, just tell me what it actually was. Here are the results:

  • 11 percent correctly answered QR code or quick response code

  • 29 percent responded with "Some barcode thingy"

  • Seven percent guessed some variant of "Those things you stare at that get 3D when you cross your eyes. What picture is it? I can't seem to get it"

  • The remaining 53 percent tried everything from a secret military code, Korean (uh really?), to an aerial street map of San Francisco

My survey was conducted in San Francisco, the veritable Mecca of the planet for tech, so it only goes downhill from here. When I asked those who knew it was some type of "barcode" how they could decipher it, 35 percent answered "with their phone." When I asked them to actually "read" it with their phone? Only 45 percent of those were able to do it, and it took an average of 47 seconds for them to take out their phone and find the application to read the QR code -- not exactly a "quick response." Remember that agencies are putting these on moving buses and highway billboards.

Melanie Schultz van Haegen, the minister of infrastructure and the environment in the Netherlands has actually proposed banning their use on highways, and in Maryland, it is just as illegal to scan a QR code while driving as it is to text. If you are going to use a QR code in an advertisement, make sure the consumer doesn't only have five seconds to get at it, and that it's not a potential disaster for them to do so.

Interestingly, the vast majority of surveyed users who were unable to scan the code were on iPhones. The iPhone, unlike Google's Android, does not come with a native QR code application.

The success of a technical solution is dependent on the ease with which that technology can be used by the general public. A good example of this law is Flash implementation in web browsers. It's just there. It works. If it's not there, it installs itself in a couple clicks. Having a standard application and process for consumption is necessary for mass understanding and adoption.

Knowing all of this, are QR codes effective or useful in advertising?

QR code usage now
Most of the QR codes found in current advertising are an absolute waste of time. I personally tested over 200 random QR codes I saw in advertising for this article, and it was a wake-up call to how absolutely uncreative agencies and brands have become. And I say "agencies and brands" because it's really not the QR codes fault: A QR code is a tool, nothing more, and it is a poor marketer who blames the tool. The vast majority of those I scanned landed me on a webpage that was the same URL as in the ad itself. That is about as useful as telling someone your name while wearing a name tag.

There was a time when QR codes for marketers had more promise; when phones were not all decked out with keyboards. Everyone hated predictive text input on the standard dumb-phones, especially if you had to type in a URL. It was just too difficult to type anything substantial. But then there was another issue: Why bother shooting a QR code with those dumb-phones when their browsers sucked?

The industry shifted right past the need for most of the current uses of QR codes in marketing -- URLs, vCards (contact information), email, and SMS messages. The QR code for marketing was a quick, simple way to get and transfer that information, and yet the keyboard proliferation of smartphones made those uses unnecessary. It is why most "business card" scanners fail. Most people I know in the industry have purchased one at some point, and most are gathering dust in a drawer. Why? It's faster, unless you have an ungodly amount of them, to enter them manually. QR codes can now be found on the back of many business cards, but how many of you have ever scanned one?

People will not adopt a technical solution that serves to replace a manual task, if that solution is less efficient than the manual task it replaces. How could we think that QR codes for marketing would work any better than CueCat? Did we not learn the first time?

What benefit could they provide?
QR codes for marketing are an interesting concept in search of a more efficient solution. They have been adopted by the advertising industry, but were not created for it. Developed by a division of Toyota, they were initially used to track parts in vehicle manufacturing. It is not the QR codes fault that the vast number of agencies are as creative as dryer lint; it is no wonder, in an advertising age of increasing focus on direct response metrics, that creativity has been sucked out of agencies.

Creative usage of a technical solution increases its viral potential and positive brand association. If you are going to use a QR code, then be creative with it. I get paid to come up with digitally strategic sound ideas for agencies and clients, so I am going to provide you with five ideas for better uses of QR codes. I believe that if you tell someone their ideas suck it really does not help them "unsuck," and that is sadly too often the feedback many Creatives get. However, if you show them the types of ideas that are possible, then you can help catalyze their own ideation to be more successful. These are but a few.

Idea one: Scavenger hunt
My first idea is a scavenger hunt using QR codes placed around a city. Each clue leads to the next clue but requires the clue before it to make sense, and each clue is placed in an ad for your brand. You initially blast a single QR Code to people via a print ad or email. The program can be scaled to cities across the U.S. and the world, enabling you to have a global scavenger hunt. It is not important what the "prize" is at the end: That could be handled a variety of ways. It is important to use technology in ways that engage people and help foster interest and buzz outside of the program itself.

Idea two: Bar coasters dares
QR codes on bar drink coasters with dares for the person to do, such as "Go up to a woman and tell her this... [a phrase in a different language]" The trick is that most of the time neither party knows what is being said. That spurs an inquiry which usually results in some type of social interaction. Engaging with consumers and encouraging the social aspect helps solidify your brand in a positive reinforcing way. The phrases, pickup lines, dares, whatever you want to use are just ways to encourage social interaction associated with your brand. And social interaction associated with your brand is what causes positive reinforcing moments of memory that greatly facilitate positive brand recall.

Idea three: Print or online banner adjunct promotion
If you include a QR code in a print ad, instead of having it just go to your website, create a promotion where some of the thousands of QR codes printed on those ads win something. What you are really trying to do is have people engage with the ad you are already paying for. You do not actually believe that when you have an ad printed on a newspaper or a magazine that most people actually notice it, do you? Use creative ways to encourage engagement with the mediums you are already spending money on. You could do the exact same promotion online with banner ads. If you really want people to notice your online banner ads, then give them a reason to not only look for them but engage with them. Do not have the print ad or the banner be about the promotion: Have it communicate what it normally would. The QR code on it is a technique to help facilitate the message you want communicated in the first place. It's a way to get people to pay attention to you!

Idea four: Triggering curiosity sells
The "unknown" sells, as does the creative use of our own "imagination of possibilities." One of the greatest advantages of QR codes is that you cannot read them without technology. Use that. Develop a strategy for implementing QR codes on your ads that go to a webpage with something provocative on it. Or just have it say something that the ad could not, like a tagline that is way over the top, or some hidden message for those willing to engage with it. People like to feel as if they are part of an "in" group. They will go to great lengths to try and differentiate themselves. Your ad can provide the ego with a nice little hit of juice.

Whatever you do, try not to do not do what Calvin Klein did. The below billboard was to go to some "steamy too hot for the billboard ad." If you want to break through the clutter, PG-13 at best isn't going to cut it. What I ended up thinking was "lame attempt;" and I am not that different from you. Although CK has gotten some press for the stunt, it's not about press that speaks to the ad industry, it is about press that speaks to the consumer that is important. If you are really advertising something "uncensored" then take a risk. Really Calvin? That's as much as you are willing to push the edge? Lame!

If you want to take the risk, take the risk. Warn people, but take the risk. Don't send people to something that has them feel ripped off when going there. That's negative brand reinforcement. The internet is NOT where "uncensored" means PG-13.

Idea five: Transparency
Use QR codes to provide transparency in a way that has not been done before. Use an SMS QR code to send direct feedback to your brand straight to a real person in the company, and create a human face for your brand by doing so. Imagine getting an SMS back and having a real contact at a brand you enjoy working with? There are bound to be systems to handle and integrate SMS outreach with your social media efforts. The key is to provide people with a direct simple way to have a voice.

Whatever you do in your digital efforts, stop adhering to the status quo. Your message is getting lost there.

The current uses of QR codes are just not cutting it. What we're missing is a killer campaign that will train people to use their phones to scan.

Further, until Apple includes a native QR code application and automatically integrates it with their camera application, QR codes will remain a curious oddity for the technically proficient geeks and bleeding adopters. Such is the power of the iPhone to influence.

Does it hurt to use them in your ads? Not really, unless the payoff to the consumer is so incredibly lame that it causes a negative appraisal of the company among influencers. So please do not use them to just send people to your homepage URL. Most of us can read, and type faster.

Sean X Cummings is founder and difference maker at SXC Marketing.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


to leave comments.

Commenter: Mark Baldwin

2012, August 01

The Big QR code is really fine ; )
Mainly I do not agree with this article. QR codes are becoming very popular, especially in young people (they will scan almost every QR code).
Also QR Codes are very convenient in web. You can easily add QR code to your website by using http://www.pageqrcode.com service.

Commenter: Sean X

2012, May 10

"20 ways to use QR codes correctly" My newest article on QR Codes is live on iMedia.


Check it out. Spread the virus!

Commenter: Sean X

2012, April 24

I just presented 20 great marketing examples of QR Codes, followed by 20 ways to NEVER use a QR Code at the iMedia iMoms Summit.

You can download the presentation for FREE (normally $10) Just follow me on Twitter @seanx https://twitter.com/seanx and I will send you a Direct Message with a link and a code for the free download.

Commenter: Mark Mattson

2012, January 28

What you say is true entirely true and entirely false. I wrote a blog piece called "My daughter can type a URL with her thumbs faster than you can scan a QR". She can. Even at that I have several very handsome and profitable initiatives that depend on QR codes. Granted, the codes are small parts of the technology stack, but I could not get along without them anymore than someone could use trillion dollar public water infrastructure without a $2.00 handle on her faucet. The problem with QR codes is that they have been hyped as being valuable beyond being simple hyperlinks. The other problem is that people like you want to toss them out with the bath water, based on utility, but based on your disappointment that they aren't the miracle that others would have you believe. More advice to both sides, "Get over it." At a POP, nothing provides more utility. As such, QR codes may indeed be one small bolt in the intergalactic space ship. On another, without this little bolt the wing falls off and the ship won't fly no matter how big the engine. http://bit.ly/kybWsa

Commenter: Ross Gallie

2011, November 30

An interesting article and discussion. It seems that QR codes popularity and usage is rising fast here in the UK, although it seems a common consensus in alot of cases they are not being used effectively.

In our research we found this was the same with any references to web addresses on advertising, or in many companies attempts to drive consumers from offline forms of advertising to their online web or social sites.

Adding a QR code on offline advertising is a bit like adding the Twitter and Facebook icon, or a corporate home web address without directing the audience to a co-ordinated marketing message or strategy. It seems that a lot of companies have not quite worked out what they want a consumer to do once they get to their online presence.

QR Codes seem to work for those companies that have worked out how to engage their consumers once they have reach them online, and where the QR Code is used to present more than a single link to a home page.

As companies work out how to use social media sites, and how to engage customers, (and smart phones have the software automatically integrated) we do see QR codes becoming integral to a companies marketing strategy...although the other big question is will they be made obsolete by NFC devices... a discussion for another article!.

Commenter: Matthew Laurence

2011, November 09

Here are a few very creative uses:


Commenter: Chris Ford

2011, November 06

In the last few days, I've spotted QR codes utilized in TV ads at least seven times. And to put it in perspective, I don't watch a lot of TV. I haven't really made the effort to actually snap a picture of one of them yet - my old BlackBerry isn't what it used to be, and it's time for a new cell. But, I'm wondering if 2012 will be the year people will really embrace the QR code concept and put it to good practice. We work in fashion/entertainment, food, and medical industries, and I've seen some interesting things done with QR codes. You'll find them on clothing tags now - they'll take you to videos modeling the outfit. I've seen them on food truck signage - redeem immediate coupon, specials, etc., and on signs at trade shows that get attendees to Tweet that they were at a booth. A QR code at a food truck took me to a mobile site that gave me an instant coupon for a dollar off, but offered in addition, a free small drink if I shared with my friends on Facebook. They all have in common the ability to share the information, and that should be the ultimate goal of a QR code. There is a right way and a wrong way to use any tool, and I think that if applied correctly, the QR code can provide a huge benefit in social media marketing.

Commenter: Italo Gison

2011, October 31

What about promoting QR Codes with an entertainment way like this flash game?


Commenter: Jeff Dyet

2011, October 27

If you put the wrong address in your GPS and it took you to the wrong destination, would you throw it out the window? If you met a person in a bar and got them to sit down to engage in converstion and you had nothing to say, would you blame the bar?
Content people, use your imagination and provide the simple information they are looking for! Mobile websites are the answer.
The consumer is looking for ease of use, speed and that you are meeting their immediate needs. Never send them to the root of a site, never send them to a non mobi site, and make sure the site is up to date, no one wants to see last weeks special.
This is such an exciting time to be in marketing, you finally have the opportunity to engage your consumers directly and make your case on why they should give you their money! All you have to do is use your imagination and give them what they want.

Commenter: Graeme Gibson

2011, October 26

Joe, agree that they are not failing but the agencies and publishers are failing in what they do when they deliver a consumer/reader from the link. Too many QR Code links take the user to irrelevant URL's, forget the need for a call to action or worse, take the user to non mobile optimised web pages. Unfortunately the QR Code is seen to be at fault when in fact it is the marketeer. We do believe that there are places where image discovery technology is more fitting than QR Codes but the question is still the same... it's not how you get there but what you are given when you arrive.


Commenter: Italo Gison

2011, October 25

I'm sorry, but my last comment had a wrong URL of the artistic QR Code examples.

Here you can find the right page http://www.qreativeshirt.com/news/artistic-custom-qr-code.html

Commenter: Graeme Gibson

2011, October 22

@John, agree completely, too much focus is put on the tagging mechanism and not what is being said once you have the consumer/readers attention. Solutions like illumiEye support a number of tagging capabilities; QRCode, image recognition, location services etc. allowing the publisher to use the most appropriate tag mechanism for that case.

If the publisher spends a significant percentage of their budget on producing great artwork then why degrade the image with a QRCode? In those instances image recognition is most appropriate. If the purpose is a link with limited imaging then QRCodes work. Add to these location and time filtering and you can produce powerful links between the consumer/reader and retailer/publisher.

Taking the argument full circle, the tagging is just part of the answer - what you do once you take someone beyond the tag is what is important.


Commenter: John Hondroulis

2011, October 21

Hi Sean. Love the piece! Completely agree it's pilot error not the vehicle. I firmly believe that "Mobile tagging" is the future, weather or not QR codes are the standard will remain to be seen. Microsoft Tags have very compelling reasons to consider using (geo-targeting for example). In the beauty/retail industry, I would evaluate Microsoft Tags as an alternative since they are fairly prevalent among those publishers . I also think that Google Goggles and NFC both have potential for different IRL to URL experiences.

Commenter: Italo Gison

2011, October 21

I think we need to make QR Codes more pleasing to spread them through the people.

What about this artistic QR Codes?


If you want leave a comment too. Thanks :)

Commenter: Sean X

2011, October 21

@Mathias Now that is creative usage, and what agencies should be thinking of when they want to incorporate technology. Maybe I could do a follow up article or eBook on all of the creative usage from people that have read the article and contacted me to serve as a guide for agencies to help spur ideation.


Commenter: Mathias Noschis

2011, October 21

Thanks for the very interesting article. I wanted to share with you a great example of how a QR code can be used in a clever way. Have a look at the poster for a film called Martha Marcy May Marlene. The QR code is essential in the design of the poster. There's an article on that on Movie Marketing Madness that I highly recommend: http://bit.ly/p6ZFN6. Has anyone heard of any other creative uses of QR codes in film marketing? I'm always interested in hearing about it.

Commenter: Bob Bentz

2011, October 21

If the QR Code is failing, it's because marketers are doing dumb things with it like simply linking to a company web site. Who cares? When I see a company have a 64% response rate to a Custom QR Code, I'm intrigued.

If you think all uses of QR Codes are nonsense, check out this story about a hip hop radio station in Philadelphia who used one to drive significant participation during a concert:


Commenter: roderic mul

2011, October 21

QR is a nice technique but we should all look at it from consumers view to make it succesfull. All new technoligy is initially for geeks.
QR does ad something usefull in communication. First people need to start learn how to use it. They will use it as long as the content is relevant. If not, it's obvious they will never scan QR codes again...

In today's world the QR code is used as hidden content. Who cares for hidden content? Why hide something that can be shown right away? From ad agencies point of view it's getting harder and harder to get a commercial message across, due to the advertising overload. We are all growing numb for all sorts of advertising. Now tell me how likely it is consumers will voluntary look for extra's on something they rather not see?

Commenter: sue-ella mcdowall

2011, October 21

QR codes remain a very viable marketing tool in property sector where a 'barcode' device is very quick way linking the user to engage with more information. It's the quality of the content to which the QR is linking that is failing the the technological idea. Perhaps its the CONTENT that needs to be more creative & more inspiring, afterall the actual QR code itself is just a bunch of B&W squares (nothing creative there)

Commenter: Joey Sampaga

2011, October 20

Here is my opinion. I am a very lazy person by nature. I've always said that my laziness would bring me success. What I mean by that is I am always trying to find the most efficient way possible... here is my point, scanning a QR Code on your smartphone is a whole lot faster than trying to type it in on that itty-bitty phone keyboard. It would take a fraction of the time to scan than to type. Yes, I agree, it is stupid to put QR Code on your website, however, putting it on print media is more logical (i.e. business cards, brochures, flyers, etc.). My point is, it makes the process quicker. Hence the name Quick Response...

Commenter: Brian Phillips

2011, October 20

The worst application of a QR code: Using it on a website! Why make someone pull out their smartphone and scan a QR code ON THEIR COMPUTER when you could simply give them a link to click on??

Commenter: David Gonynor

2011, October 20

Sorry for the double post - got a general exception error on the first.

Commenter: David Gonynor

2011, October 20

Thanks for the compliment. As I mentioned QR codes may be much more valuable to the marketer by virtue of the information that can pass in the url. In an online world you can know alot about the person looking at your information. Using the QR code to imbed that information in a coupon redemption can be quite valuable. Admittedly there are many people using qr codes to direct customers to webpages that are unreadable on smartphones.

Commenter: David Gonynor

2011, October 20

Mike at Biztag - Thanks for the compliment. As I mentioned QR codes may be much more valuable to the marketer by virtue of the information that can pass in the url. In an online world you can know alot about the person looking at your information. Using the QR code to imbed that information in a coupon redemption can be quite valuable. Admittedly there are many people using qr codes to direct customers to webpages that are unreadable on smartphones.

Commenter: Biztag QrTag

2011, October 20

In regards to Dave Robinette's comments- "Can anyone scan a QR code off a TV ad? a radio ad? an out of reach billboard? no, no and no." We feel the same way at Biztag Dave, and that is why we created the MobileURL, which is a keyword that is assigned to the interactive 2D Barcode also know as a qr code. The keyword will enable consumers to reach the business and the mobile enabled url link using the keyword; IN THE EVENT THEY DONT HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SCAN OR TAP THE TAG! Advanced mobile keyword search is coming... Biztag!
Thanks for reading.

Commenter: Biztag QrTag

2011, October 20

Dave Gonynor with "Thatsbiz.com" Great Great Post, I will use this information for our Qpon section of Biztag. Thank you for sharing your insight and experience for restaurant (redemption embedded coupons), etc.. . Hopefully we can get together and do some business on our emenu/remote waiter app for restaurants.
Kind Regards,

Michael / Biztag / Adeptpros / Geniusport

Commenter: Sean X

2011, October 20


You are correct sir. When I referred to Flash implementation in Web Browsers I was specifically referring to Desktops, and Laptops. However, I stand by my statement. The ease with which Flash is implemented still holds. Apple decided, and I must add CORRECTLY decided, to not have Flash on iPhones & iPads. Therefore it was their choice to include based on their assessment of the value that Flash brought to those platforms. So I could really add another Sean's Law in there.

Sean X Law 4: The ubiquity of a technology implementation across platforms of distribution (Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, Mobile) is related to the processing requirements and bugginess of the software being distributed.

Sean X Law 4a: Note that Law 4 also related to how much you pissed off and ignore a particular operating system before they expand into different platforms because it's market share wasn't relevant enough to fix the software.


Commenter: Sean X

2011, October 20

You didn't scan the code did you Adam? tsk tsk ;)

Commenter: Adam Kleinberg

2011, October 20


What was the free gift?


Commenter: Eugene Suei

2011, October 19

I agree with Dave. If you want to provide additional functionality / information for your customers, the technology needs to be as frictionless as possible

Commenter: Dave Brody

2011, October 19

Folks, we don't seem to realize the asteroid has already crashed. Unless your AI can see, read and filter the QR's around you and bring them to your attention according to your prefs, you won't want to deal with them. QR codes are WAY too much friction, once the 1st time novelty wears off. It's dead, Jim.

Commenter: Jeff Dyet

2011, October 19

The Growth of the use of QR codes is growing and the acceptance by both consumers and advertisers is a message that there absolutely is a need for a bridge from conventional media to digital.
The problem is that there is a huge almost monumental lack of creativity in the paces the codes are taking consumers to. Really, a billboard on the side of a highway?
For some reason advertisors are putting zero effort in to this are and I am sure that they are focusing on the free and not thinking beyond the to do list.
Stop QR code abuse!
Send them to a mobi optimized site that gives them a continuing story on the product, advertisement, start the dialogue immediately and most of all make sure the site is current.
Check out this site to see an example of a great site http://blnk.ca/pture/it or go to www.blinkcapture.com

Commenter: Dave Robinett

2011, October 19

Why make response dependent on a technology that no more than 15% of mobile users have ever tried (once)?

SMS and Voice are the only ubiquitous, cross-carrier media that virtually any mobile consumer can use to respond and engage with the brand.

Scanning a QR code to launch a website or video is only one step better than delivering a link via SMS (but has the major up front barrier that very few consumers use it on a regular basis, unlike Voice and SMS).

Sure it has appropriate uses like biz card info. But its limitations are greater, from a marketing POV.

Can anyone scan a QR code off a TV ad? a radio ad? an out of reach billboard? no, no and no.

Remember, it was invented in Asia because their language characters cannot fit on a qwerty style keyboard. So it was intended to convey pictures with embedded info. I'm all for innovating new uses for existing functionality, but I'm not for force-feeding the latest shiny new toy to consumers. Ultimately its survival will depend on results (or lack thereof).

In the meantime, why not think of sexy ways to use the perfectly useful and fully penetrated media at our disposal - Voice & SMS?

p.s. Voice gets even better when random 800#s are reduced to a cross-carrier dialing code like #250 that allows callers to simply say a brand name (keyword) to be connected.

Commenter: Italo Gison

2011, October 19

I think QR Code should be suggested in the common uses for the people.

Here a few examples. What about it?

A) Show videos of your favorite team with QR Code

Find the link to the video that you think of the most beautiful goals scored by your team:

1. Find the video on YouTube or other video sharing websites and copy the link of the page

2. Insert in the QR Code the copied link

3. Put QR code on your t-shirt or other gadget

B) Conquer a person with a poem included in the QR Code

Here are some ideas of how you can make a nice surprise to the person you wish to conquer.

1. Look for a poem on the Internet, a video of a song or a romantic image that you like

3. Copy the link to the page with the content that you are getting romantic

4. Insert the link in the QR Code

5. Now you can make a surprise, or you can wear a t-shirts at a date and ask this person to read what is included in the QR code. The surprise is guaranteed!

C) Advertise an event t-shirt using QR Code

How about using QR Code to publicize your event?

Are you organizing an event such as concerts, party, sporting events or other?

Here's how you can do:

1. Create a logo or an image representative of your event

2. Choose a message, a website or a link to a video or image related to your event

3. Insert QR Code in several gadgets (t-shirts, caps, flyer, etc.)

4. You can use t-shirts or other objects as a gift or sell them as a gadget event

Here you can find some pactical example of how to realize these gadgets:


Commenter: Biztag QrTag

2011, October 18

Amy, in regards to your comment, Yes Please- "QR Codes on your business cards!" What a great idea, and let me explain. I recently attended the CTIA Mobile Convention in San Diego, CA and at the end of my visit I easily had accumulated 50 different business cards. The problem for me is, to look at all the diferent business cards and try to remember each conversation and interaction I had with the representative of that business, a few days later is challenging, especially as I'm getting older. Sure there are apps that enable you to upload the persons biz cards and save to your contact list...OR... you can promote your Unique QrTag on your business card(s) which lead consumers back to an interactive mobile micro website about your business. These tags by Biztag are easily edit able and can be updated in a moment if you need to change your contact information. Biztag's also enable users to bookmark your URL that has your Unique MobileURL- (which is a keyword that represents your business brand) , save the contact to your V-Card or mobile phone contact list, immediately start to interact with the business on your preferred social network, etc..;

For example- I receive a business contact from Motorola and they are interested in featuring our NEW NFL App called SmashUp Games on their new OS hardware, as a featured app. Naturally I'm excited and immediately want to tweet about it, reach out to motorola on facebook or through an email thus establishing contact and confirming our conversation, interaction and future business relationships.

QrTags should help make your business relationships easier and faster, while enabling you to be more flexible, relevant and interactive. If you have any great ideas on how we can improve Biztag please send me an email to [email protected] and let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading!

Commenter: Biztag QrTag

2011, October 18

Sean, in regards to your post, Most people will agree that QR Codes are somewhat unattractive, however it is recognizable and stands out in a crowd (which is a good thing) and will soon symbolize the way consumers communicate with businesses and each other via the mobile channel. Biztag will enable businesses to easily promote and advertise all their important information to consumers utilizing the power of the web and the convenience of mobile phone interaction. Look for facetag coming soon for social qrtag interaction. Thanks for reading!

Commenter: Biztag QrTag

2011, October 18

Kaye Hutchins, You are so correct, to send someone to your website URL which is not properly formatted for mobile is not considered best practices. Biztag has created a simple way for anyone, businesses large and small to create a dynamic mobile website and web 2.0 web page AUTOMATICALLY within just a few short minutes. Your Dynamic QrTag will enable you to promote your products and services easily and efficiently integrating mobile-web and delivering an engaging and exciting atmosphere for your customers and affiliates. Biztag will launch its turnkey mobile web services the end of October 2011.
Thanks for sharing, thanks for reading. Michael with Biztag or [email protected]
ps. I just realized I left out a letter in the word internet in my previous post.. need to proof read my own posts before I submit...

Commenter: Biztag QrTag

2011, October 18

Here is the thing with QrTags, they are a cost effective and a simple way to promote products and services from remote point of contact. Biztag provides each QrTag(a qr code tagged with a keyword) with a dynamic and interactive mobile micro website and a web 2.0 page presence on biztag.com. You can promote, track, edit, update, blog all from inside your QrTag, delivering you business a turnkey mobile-web solution in minutes after signing up. Biztag global application available end of October 2011.
Thanks for reading and give qr codes a chance, with over 1million Android phones being registered each day, consumers need dependable ways to connect to the iternet with their Smartphones and businesses need a simple to use and affordable interactive platform to promote via the mobile space! Biztag!

Commenter: Justin Galloway

2011, October 18

I totally disagree, plus your blog sounds so bitter.. I think this is a generational thing, people over 40 typically don't get it, the Gen X thru Z'ers do and use it.

Commenter: William Phipps

2011, October 18

@Matthew - lots of things are being touted as replacing the QR code!

My opinion is it is still early days with mobile, so worth looking into as many options as possible. Some companies are offering Augmented Reality, which is interesting - but you need to download an app. to interact with the advert - check http://www.aurasma.com/ and www.blippar.com

Commenter: Matthew Kovacevich

2011, October 18

Sean, this is a great article. But did it really need to be 4 pages long. I live in the sticks of Marketing Venus (Maine) yet I was entranced by the Q code. Engaged even. For about a full Q. But that engagement wore off when bad creative failed to deliver on the promise of what this piece of tron-like code could do for us. The more time I spend in my industry the more I realize that ideas like this will only succeed if they are engaging and easy.

So what is the replacement for a Q code? Perhaps SMS marketing? Maybe. Dialing is a natural behavior. It also is an immediate Opt In with all the details gathered later, after the first engagement. It is a natural for the idea you posit about people having a voice. We'll see.

Commenter: William Phipps

2011, October 18

Thank you, Paul.

Yes, I am not sure why my shortened URL seems broken - here is the link covering the Hennessy campaign, that resulted in over a million QR code scans:


Commenter: William Phipps

2011, October 18

I think they are a good idea in the right places and there is evidence to support this, such as the recent campaign by Hennesey that generated 1.3million scans of its custom (or designer) QR code: http://bit.ly/qBsiP2

If you aren't sure about QR codes and want to try them out, head on over to www.tagsquared.com where you can set up a QR code campaign for free, we can also design you a custom code (for free) - our analytics tool will let you track the level of interaction.

Commenter: Kaleb Francis

2011, October 17

I agree that if content is not rich, engaging or optimised; coupled with the fact that users have to download an app to scan the things then they will die a pretty quick death. However they can be hugely beneficial if done correctly. Why aren't they in many cases? Laziness and lacking a well thought out marketing and digital strategy is my guess.

However I disagree that QR codes are a marketing tactic as mentioned below. QR codes are a device to deliver on the marketing strategy.

I've written a post here that talks about QR codes in NZ and why is the responsibility of the marketer to ensure they are used correctly:


Commenter: Kelly Kleinman

2011, October 17

It may or may never catch on with B2C from an ROI standpoint but C2C is another game altogether.

Commenter: Sean X

2011, October 17

@james Glad you got the joke of me directing the first QRCode to a non-mobile page of my bio while saying their usage is stupid. A lot of people didn't get it, which kind of illustrated my point to begin with. ;)

I figured it was best to use me for the butt of the joke :)

Commenter: Kelly Kleinman

2011, October 17

Paul, we don't care about whose webpages are badly optimized, we only care about getting a huge volume of followers on board with our client. I'll let other people waste their time educating businesses and marketing companies. Once we have the bodies, we'll have the mechanism. We already command the technology to make it a target rich marketing environment and only time will tell. The QR code isn't failing, it's just being under-utilized.

Commenter: Kelly Kleinman

2011, October 17

Educating the public is essential. In fact, one of our clients (Codee.com) is doing just this. Without giving away the overall strategy, we are in the early stages of a big campaign to socialize the QR code. The target is the tween -teen-young adult demographic and we've already seen very positive results. It has to be cool and there are a million ways to make it so.

Commenter: Nick Skislak

2011, October 17

Right on it! Nice article. This is another case where digital media is under valued. Once again, technology, the 'geeks' as you so elegantly put it, are getting the bad wrap. It's no one's fault but our own as advertisers. Working with many companies, I've found the larger they are, the harder they fall. There needs to be more focus on engagement. Engagement! I find myself asking the PR question a lot lately, especially on those QR Codes, 'who cares?, that wasn't worth me opening the application to take the picture.'

Commenter: Leslie Mueller

2011, October 17

I agree that, for the most part, QR codes are not effectively used. I personally love scanning them - they are the "shining thing" when I am reading magazines. I agree that to use a QR code to just drive someone to a company's website is very ineffective. Most websites are still not mobile friendly so what is the point of driving someone to your website when they can't really even read it on their smartphone? I have worked with a company that actually creates mobile landing pages for the QR codes. This way a company doesn't have to invest the time/money in creating a mobile site if they don't have the resources. The QR code is tracked, which allows the advertiser to measure their results. A QR code should not be an after thought in the ad, it should be apart of the pre-planning of what the main marketing message should be.

Commenter: Marion Guthrie

2011, October 17

Prediction? - Eventually our mobile phones will enable more fluent use of QR codes so ease and accessibility won't be issues. Then QR codes will serve as doorways to legal disclaimers, and pharma and financial services marketers will do the "happy" dance.

Commenter: Italo Gison

2011, October 17

Sean, this is an interesting article that highlights several reasons why QR Codes are not taking off.

In my opinion the most important reason is that people are not informed correctly about the uses and
advantages given by QR Codes.

I think creativity could be a way to prompt people to use QR Codes.

I want to give some examples of creative uses:

1) On www.qreativeshirt.com you can see a mix of QR Code and fashion. This could be a reason to push people to use QR codes.

2) Integrating QR Codes in games could be another way to get people used to QR Codes.
Here a simple example of QR Pacman flash game:


I think we should introduce QR Codes in the everyday life and explain as better as possible the real advantages in using them.

Commenter: Zach Rossiter

2011, October 17

"People will not adopt a technical solution that serves to replace a manual task, if that solution is less efficient than the manual task it replaces."

This sums up the article for me. QR codes make sense to use for a variety of reasons: They can be read anyone with a smartphone. The page in which they direct to can be changed/updated even after the code has been made. A single, relatively small, code can hold a huge amount of information. QR codes are like physical hyperlinks.

That all said, if marketers dont understand how to correctly use them, and consumers see no point in paying attention to them, they are completely useless. Using QR codes just to use QR codes, similar to a brand having a facebook or twitter account simply to say they do, is making everyone look bad.

Commenter: Chris Ford

2011, October 16

I've seen QR codes pop up in the strangest places, and like others point out, it seems they're not really very effectively used. Couple that with the fact that most people really don't know what they are, so they become somewhat of a novelty. I've seen them used on business cards, which is interesting, but not very attractive. I guess it could be useful if it were easy for the user to actually use the code. I don't think that QR codes will become widely known and used unless the apps become standard in smartphones. Personally, I find them difficult to use - I can't seem to get them aligned correctly when I take a picture with my phone, so I find myself taking multiple photos. All that said, we're still using them with our clients - not widely, mind you. The only real benefit I see in using them is their novelty. When used in a campaign, they can entice curiosity, leading to that click you've been waiting for. We wrote an article about five techniques mobile food trucks can use QR codes in their businesses. The industry is mobile, and it utilizes social media heavily in its advertising and marketing. Customers are savvy to mobile media trends and seem to be more familiarized with concepts like QR codes. Still, we don't see them utilized often. Here's a link to the article we wrote about using QR codes for food trucks: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stitches-n-Dishes/116309891801520 I would love to hear your comments.

Commenter: Jim Peake

2011, October 15

Sean many years ago I took a course in Information Mapping from www.infomap.com. Their premise is this: take the burden of analysis off the reader and put on to the publisher, whether it be a publisher of documents, manuals, information of any kind and maybe in this case including advertising. Consumers (myself included) are morons. We get the value of a bar code in a grocery store....speeds the check out process....but the store gets our data. I have never used a QR code and probably never will. If it can't be explained in 5 words or less it loses.

Commenter: Steve Briggs

2011, October 14

Sean - I absolutely agree with you that QR Codes are being very poorly used and are not being used creatively, and that certainly isn't helping their case. However, my point was that it's still the early days of QR Codes, just as in the early days of the web when most company sites were hideous and pointless, but they evolved over time.

I would disagree that we can type faster on our phones. At least for me, it's so much easier and faster to scan a QR code than to type in a URL, and I'm much more likely to do it.

In the future, I see some changes that will eliminate some of the current negatives:

- QR Code scanners will be built into the phone OS and will only require one "click", if that

- QR Codes, or their successors, will get smaller as the scanner apps can read at higher resolutions, thereby reducing the "ugly" factor

- Mobile sites will me more abundant and pervasive and people will realize that it's inappropriate to link to a regular website. The content on the other end of QR Codes will improve in quality and usefulness.

- Sooner or later everyone will know what QR Codes are and what to do with them, and will have the means to easily do so. It only takes one scan for someone to learn.

Commenter: Kelly McIvor

2011, October 14

I guess there are just too many pieces to put together for the simpletons who are using them. Few offer any value, many are pointed to non-mobile web sites, such as the first code in your post (I'm not implying you're a simpleton - I realize you needed an example), and far too many don't consider the user's environment - like on the hood of a racecar (http://wp.me/p197gV-1).
Marketers seem to have tossed out the basics just so they can 'do mobile'.

On a side note: See the complexity of your second code? It took my reader 5-6 seconds to scan it. The first code scanned almost instantly. You encoded a ton of text in that code, though I certainly appreciate the creative use!

Commenter: Sean X

2011, October 14

Steve, thanks for the comment but the analogy doesn't hold water for me. The Web I see as a medium, and the QR Code as a marketing tactic. The QR Code is failing for the reason I mentioned, a lack of creativity in their implementation. When all a QR Code does in most implementations is direct people to thd homepage of the website that is printed next to it, it is moronic.

It would be the same as a Print ad with a web address that just duplicated exactly what the print ad said.

So why do that if we can type faster on our phones, and why do it all that way? Just because I made a comparison of level of penetration of knowledge in the medium was to partially illustrate that the audience who does know what they are, and are likely to use them, would be insulted by such a banal usage.

Commenter: Scott Burks

2011, October 14

Well ... I can't even believe you wrote this article. Seriously?


Commenter: Steve Briggs

2011, October 14

Lets say I held up a sign in 1995 that said "http://www.somewebsite.com". What would the response be? Here's a guess:

- 11 percent correctly answered web site

- 29 percent responded with "Some computer thingy"

- The remaining 60 percent had no idea

When those who knew it was something related to computers were asked how they could view it, 35 percent answered "with that Netscape thing I think". Only 45 percent
owned a computer. Only 7 percent had Internet access.

Therefore, I should conclude that web sites are failing and a waste of time.

Commenter: TJ Claridge

2011, October 14

@Andy Cheng -- Thanks for responding... At least I think it was targeted to me ;)

I'd start with your Point#3. If your audience is targeted correctly then your 1st point goes away. They know what it is and they can find the app or know how to find it. I agree that integration would help increase awareness for sure. But probably perpetuate your second point.

Point 2 addresses the author's point of view. They are being used incorrectly and offering no benefit.

Commenter: Eugene Suei

2011, October 14

QR code scanning integration could mean the difference between "an average of 47 seconds" to 10 seconds, and it'll definitely help QR codes be more successful.

I like Qriket's idea of playing real-world game with the QR codes, as competition and rewards are excellent ways to promote QR code's usage.

Commenter: Andy Cheng

2011, October 14

1st, if you don't even know what QR code is, how do you search an app for that?

2nd, currently there's no reward in using QR code. Maybe a more dedicate landing page with mobile design in mind. Or some discount and treat it like a true campaign than just throw a code their for no specific purpose.

3rd, I agree that by using QR code, it's a great way to target the specific audience.

Commenter: TJ Claridge

2011, October 14

I don't understand the point of having it incorporated into an mobile OS. We live in an app centric world so why would it make it more usable? Having to wait 5-12 seconds for your Angry Birds app makes it less desirable to use? No, because the pay off in the end (entertainment) is greater than the time wasted as it loads.

Additionally... Consumers not understanding it as a deterrent? What about the tried and true method of segmentation? Do marketers not do this any more? Know the audience and choose the tools that best communicate the message. Marketing 101. Ok, so 40%, of those surveyed, knew it was a QR code or at least a bar code of some kind. If that 40% represents your target market... BINGO! Winner winner. If they don't then there is no reason to use the codes.

I think the article hits it on the head. The codes are just used incorrectly. They are free to create so it is more easily abused since there is no real investment required.

BTW... I really enjoyed the ideas expressed here. Well done.

Commenter: Sean X

2011, October 14

I just had Ilya Spekhov from www.qriket.com contact me. Check out their site. They're based out of Toronto and designed a "real-world mobile game" around QR codes

Commenter: Andy Cheng

2011, October 14

The only way QR will be popular is when the function is build into mobile OS and not a separate mobile app.

Commenter: Spencer Broome

2011, October 14

There are still a large percentage of people who don't have a smartphone and/or the capability to scan a QR code as well. You can't push something to an audience that a lot of people simply can't use.

Commenter: Jay Feitlinger

2011, October 14

Sean, very interesting but do find it quite funny Neustar is sponsoring this post who is a QR code company. I think with any marketing it's only good if the consumer understands it. Marketeres need to give instructions but companies like Best Buy who use QR codes are helping educate the non techie average person. I thought Eric's article the other day was good on this QR code topic http://www.imediaconnection.com/article_full.aspx?id=30047.

Will be interesting to see if QR codes go away once NFC becomes standard on mobile phones.