Why the QR code is failing

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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.



Mark Baldwin
Mark Baldwin August 1, 2012 at 12:11 AM

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.

Sean X
Sean X May 10, 2012 at 3:46 AM

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


Check it out. Spread the virus!

Sean X
Sean X April 24, 2012 at 6:22 PM

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.

Mark Mattson
Mark Mattson January 28, 2012 at 12:58 PM

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

Ross Gallie
Ross Gallie November 30, 2011 at 12:08 AM

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!.

Morrie Goldman
Morrie Goldman November 14, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Here's another innovative use of a QR code, to entertain you while you wait for your meal.

Morrie Goldman
Morrie Goldman November 10, 2011 at 9:49 PM

Looks like Sears/KMart are copying Tesco and rolling out virtual shopping aisles with QR codes. Another sign that QR codes are hardly failing.

Doug Hitchcock
Doug Hitchcock November 10, 2011 at 9:28 PM


This has got to be, by far, one of the most ingenious applications for a QR code.

JC Penney lets you pre-record an audio message, which is then played-back when the recipient of the present scans the QR code on their holiday (OK, Christmas!) present. Here's a simple video of how it works:

Now, I'll have to say that it's also a marketer's dream, because throughout the whole process, you've captured at least two cellular numbers, which could be used for future SMS advertising! It's also a big differentiator for a big-box retailer to separate themselves with minimal cost to them.

Anyways, I like it. I don't know if I'll shop at JC Penney, but it might just be that one gimmick that nudges me over the edge.

A workaround is to create my own audio MP3 files, upload them to some server (e.g. Google docs), and generate/print a QR code that takes the person there to playback the audio file....

A.H. Levandovsky
A.H. Levandovsky November 9, 2011 at 10:25 PM

Watching this discussion for quite some time. It all depends on how each business is implementing QR Code and the intended use. Considering everything, QR Code is still doing a great job for many. As for how long it will serve the purpose; I guess no one knows for sure. We can just predict and wait for the verdict. We can see many companies releasing more and more services based on QR Code (including us); though we always check out what else is out there.


Matthew Laurence
Matthew Laurence November 9, 2011 at 10:12 PM

Here are a few very creative uses:


Chris Ford
Chris Ford November 6, 2011 at 10:30 PM

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.

Harvey Meister
Harvey Meister November 5, 2011 at 3:33 PM

It's not that they can't work, and your examples demonstrate some of the better, more creative uses of QR codes. I recently got a business card that had a QR code prominently on the front. I scanned it, not knowing what the result would be and it instantly filled in my contacts on my Droid phone. I was using a Droid QR scanner, but don't know if that matters. In any case, this is good, better than other types of v-cards and card scanners, and I will use them on my cards the next time I print.

But Sean and others make some very good points, which should not be ignored, because the ultimate use of QR codes will be dependant on mass behavioural changes for people. These are obviously possible, and happen regularly in today's world, but to plunge ahead as so many have, without clearly thinking out the consequences and longer term considerations, is very possibly the very thing that will kill their widespread adoption. Getting people to go from land lines to cell phones was way too easy and predictable. Getting people to do seriously dumb things like wave their phone and hope for some "magic" result, is well, in the words of Forrest Gump, "like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get".

The fact is very few people really use them in this country. And the research on that use is dismal at best, with most indicating either it didn't work correctly, for all the reasons Sean mentions and more, or that there was no payoff, no significant benefit. Again, behavioral patterns suggest that few will do it more than 2 or 3 times before abandoning the effort and while they may eventually try it again, the other consequence is simply that bad news, and criticisms travel far and fast.

Doug Hitchcock
Doug Hitchcock November 3, 2011 at 7:39 PM

The QR code is NOT failing...here's why:

Some real world examples:

1) Last summer, I was the "official" event photographer for a large public fundraiser event (www.fairportmusicfestival.com) with several thousand people in attendance. I created a shirt emblaizoned with "event media" on the front an a large QR code on the back with the words "scan this to see all of today's photos"...The QR code took the person to the online photo web site (although it wasn't an instant upload).

2) At the Ft. Lauderdale boat show last week, it was not possible to get onboard to view (gawk!) at all the large megayachts without a broker's pre-booked appointment. So, many of the builders had QR codes dockside that allowed you to take a virtual tour of the yacht you were staring at.

3) At a recent military trade show, my company used a QR cood on our printed literature as well as in the trade show booth to take the user to a "virtual tour" video inside a HMMWV gun turret under actual battle conditions. That "on-demand" video was much more powerful than looping a DVD on the trade show booth wall.

4) I saw someone with a QR code jewelry pin.....I was told that by scanning the pin, it would take me to the other person's facebook page for a 'friend request'....Ok, so neat concept but I didn't avail myself of that one!

All in all, QR codes are a HUGE succss and I believe they will outlive Mobitags (ala beta video tape format). Just use them to LEVERAGE one communication too into another, don't just parrot what you can put in print.

Harvey Meister
Harvey Meister November 3, 2011 at 5:36 PM

I'm glad to see you actually went to the effort to learn what type of response people have to QR codes. I've been following their development over the past year or more, including sitting in a seminar by one of the leading companies to implement and promote their use. I'm of your opinion regarding where they are currently, and where they might go eventually, but if people keep poorly implementing them, like the examples you show, then they will die, if they haven't already. Interesting that many of the people who are promoting their use, when asked, don't even use them theirselves.
QR codes are betting on consumers adopting a new behavior and hopefully one that repeats. If there is no significant payoff, then people will try it once, if that, and never again.

One additional comment: In your suggestions, you indicated including QR codes in an email.. Please don't. I read emails on my Ipad and while it has two cameras neither one can read the screen. I tried using the bathroom mirror and my wife wondered what I was doing... Just kidding.

Italo Gison
Italo Gison October 31, 2011 at 10:09 PM

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


Jeff Dyet
Jeff Dyet October 27, 2011 at 2:27 PM

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.

John Harvey
John Harvey October 27, 2011 at 12:59 PM

The QR code is failing? Really? IMHO, the QR code is not going away, globally; however, there will be pockets of resistance or what some of you marketing guys call 'friction". This technology is the starting point of a whole new way to interact. Have any of you seen the eyes light up over the idea that this technology can help them engage their clients? The QR code has gained real traction and considerable momentum in Japan ... this block of consumers are very tech savvy. Like I mentioned way back in this forum's postings, the publishing side has a root level responsibility to get this right with "screen size, deployment awareness and reward" considerations.

I think if it fails, it will fail in the USA. It may flop like the metric system did, because it required the acceptance of new ideas or doing a bit of intellectual investment by the consumer side. The disparity in America has many well defined, countless platforms ... financial, political, education, EQ, health, IQ, time, etc. Although Americans often have game changing concepts that change the world, the average American consumer has too many personal and professional fires to put out to be concerned with adopting uses for their $500 iPhones beyond "Angry Birds".

Sol Saltiel
Sol Saltiel October 27, 2011 at 8:01 AM

Hello Sean and everybody!

The key to success is content, simplicity and time. We have to be patient for some more years. Time will help technology to deliver easier scanning solutions to users via more sophisticated devices and mobile readers; marketers will know more and understand how to effectively integrate their campaigns, creative agencies will produce the right content that will engage readers and users. My personal opinion, a professional in this field, regarding QR codes is that they are ugly especially if you try to build an image campaign, non relevant with consumers' habits, they are not at all differentiated with one another except few examples of putting logos etc. and they can be hacked in the real world; there are now many cases around the world with malicious softwares, porn content, etc.
This said I also believe that QR codes are only the beginning of a whole world of a new way of engaging users, consumers, readers real and digital lives.
Check some other alternatives here www.youtube.com/clic2c and take a minute to imagine that phtos in newspapers, ads, magazines, clothes and other "print"material could come alive on users' mobile devices exactly the way today photos and all kinds of banners come alive in users' desktops. Smartphones and tablets will replace mouses and desktop screens will be replaced by real paper! :)

John Sweney
John Sweney October 27, 2011 at 3:27 AM

Sean, it has been over 12 days, and I still think I am the only one to actually scan your QC in the article above and follow your directions. However, when I posted a comment on Oct 21 and addressed you using the exact term you suggested, the site moderator understandably would not post my comment!

OK, then I want my hug instead!

In other news... I run a staffing firm. I sent one of my recruiters to a networking event recently with a QR code on the back of her biz card. (The QR linked to her personal landing page on our website, http://brookwoods.com/contact/marilyn-emanuel/ .) She decided to hand out her cards with the QR code facing UP. In almost every instance, the novelty of that act spurred additional comment and conversation, which made for a slightly deeper relationship than usual for networking events. If they actually used the QR to click through to the website, so much the better. But the real benefit was having a novel ice breaker.

Graeme Gibson
Graeme Gibson October 26, 2011 at 11:03 PM

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.


Joe Bencharsky
Joe Bencharsky October 26, 2011 at 7:20 PM

Actually, I disagree.

1) It is not "failing" as it is new to the market and has not expanded yet. That's like saying any new technology is "failed' before it has had a chance to be released and adopted. It's akin to saying in 1987 that "cell phones are failing".

2) Smart phone market penetration in on a huge growth spurt, and people are still on a learning curve as to the functions and tools that can be utilized from them. A less than 50% smart phone adoption by cell users and growing, means it is still a fairly young technological tool.

3) As far as speaking or typing in web addresses...typing in is cumbersome and people have not developed that kind of behavior when it comes to Out of Home (OOH) solutions.
The "trigger" for action is much more obvious with a QR code. This will become more evident as they grow in popularity and implementation. The current market penetration in SE Asia is about 47% and there is growth in western Europe as adoption increases. These are areas that are also a bit ahead of us on the curve of smartphone functions. (Finland has had a smartphone payment application in place for years as an example)

4) Psychologically people see a web address and think: "i'll look that up when i get to my computer". This creates a delayed response and highly decreases the likelihood they will execute. A QR code adds a bit of mystery and prompts and inquiry: "I wonder what additional information I can get about this?" This will lead to more engagement as they become more ubiquitous.

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.

If the premise is true in this instance, then we would already see a huge number of people already adopting the behavior, and that has simply not been the case. The approach here has already shown to be ineffective in a stand-alone situation. To suddenly compare a functionality that has not yet expanded on it's own, to a tool that has yet to be implemented in ways that are innovative or creative, is simply a fallacious approach.

5) The trends in smartphone usage with tools such as Google Goggles and other "enhanced reality" solutions will also strengthen the "scan for info" behavior.

Thom Westergren
Thom Westergren October 26, 2011 at 7:08 PM

Perhaps QR Codes are failing because their best use is as a product delivery tool, not a marketing tool. Utility versus fluff.

The best uses that I've encountered are these:
1. virtual grocery store in the subway—scan the code by the product(s) you want and your groceries are delivered to your home shortly after you arrive there

2. automatic taxis call system—scan the code at a taxi stand and the dispatcher knows exactly where you are and sends the taxi to you

The axiom that seems to apply here is this: Just because you can do something, it doesn't mean that you should do it.

Italo Gison
Italo Gison October 25, 2011 at 8:02 AM

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

A. Cammozzo
A. Cammozzo October 24, 2011 at 5:20 PM

Sorry, the links below are garbled.
The correct ones are here:
Privacy opt-out qr-code tag for pictures taken in public: http://tagmenot.info
My qr-code based logo: http://cammozzo.com/en/?Creativity:QR_code_design

BTW, anyone interested in developing a qr-code scanner plugin for firefox/chrome that detects qr-codes in pictures?

Alberto Cammozzo

Graeme Gibson
Graeme Gibson October 22, 2011 at 3:00 PM

@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.


A. Cammozzo
A. Cammozzo October 22, 2011 at 9:19 AM

Good analysis.

QR codes could be great to fill the gap between "real space" and cyberspace.
I used them for a privacy opt-out tag for pictures taken in public: see http://tagmenot.info

What is still missing is default decoding by phones, cameras *and browsers*
Digital pictures should be scanned for qr codes by *any* visualization device, so that qrcodes present in the pictures could act as tags.

Creative manipulation of qr-codes coluld help, too. This is my firm's logo:

John Hondroulis
John Hondroulis October 21, 2011 at 9:14 PM

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.

Italo Gison
Italo Gison October 21, 2011 at 7:50 PM

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 :)

Sean X
Sean X October 21, 2011 at 7:25 PM

@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.


Mathias Noschis
Mathias Noschis October 21, 2011 at 6:58 PM

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.

Philip Wheatley
Philip Wheatley October 21, 2011 at 5:45 PM

I used a QR Code on my resume that linked back to a personal video I posted on YouTube introducing myself to my potential employers. I thought it was a pretty cool use of the QR code myself! I hadn't seen anybody else do it and got great responses from those that followed the link...

david kong
david kong October 21, 2011 at 5:23 PM

Interesting, thanks for posting. Food for thought.

I am unsure of the customer take up for this. It remains to be seen. I am using this B2b. I am expecting my professional customers - architects and designers - to get it. My research say so.

It will become big, as and when smart technology gets better at scanning. More phones are being upgraded and with this it works better and is more appealing. As the QR apps become better and more functional consumers will find them more useful.

I can imagine window shopping and scanning the favourite things I see, then bookmark em for later browsing and buying.

It's a Japanese invention. QR codes are ugly. I have a QR expert helping me create more attractive QR images for our promotions. He was a QR code designer in Japan.

I can't find or think of a better alternative for data capture short of scanning or photographing the real thing on my phone and it goes to the relevant web page etc. this is not available at the mo. Know of anything alternative?

We are using it to promote a cutting edge techie message, and doing something innovative that will give us a competitive edge.

Commercially it's quite straightforward and compelling. Using our showroom app, customers scan the product sample tile with one of many showroom IPADs and it goes to the web page that allows them to see more pretty pictures, and more technical information on our website. They can then save or email the links. It also helps us create a re-ordering form and an enquiry form. The IPAD App cost me £1k to build. I wont publish it for customers, available only to staff or showroom use. Customers can download their own QR app from the many on offer from their app store for iphones, blackberrys, android, or simbians etc.

Also when the customer has a sample of our product at their office they can QR scan it and it will go to the relevant web pages, phone optimise website or normal if you can't see the images email me,

Eemail me and i'll send you some examples of more attractive QR codes. We think this will work. And it will give us lead edge, a competive advantage, both rationally and emotionally.

Marketing Director

Katie Devlin
Katie Devlin October 21, 2011 at 3:06 PM

QR codes have the potential to be a great marketing and advertising tool. But I think it will take a long time for people to embrace this technology. There are other effective ways to use QR codes though, for instance, customer/client support.
I work for an audio marketing company where we are often shipping out remote load equipment, MP3 and CD loader equipment, and other devices. We are in the process of getting QR code stickers that stick onto the equipment we send out to customers that when scanned, leads the customer to our company troubleshooting page for that specific equipment.

Robert Bentz
Robert Bentz October 21, 2011 at 2:08 PM

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:


Drake LaDue
Drake LaDue October 21, 2011 at 1:41 PM

Sean X, I have to disagree with you.

The QR code in itself is "dumb". The tool should be used as a gateway to more relevant information. This gateway was designed in 1994 as way to manage the manufacturing process of an automobile. If you can wrap you head around how many parts and processes are involved in making a car then you can grasp what this tool can do.

Imaging this, you go into a pharmacy to purchase some cough medicine for your child. You either scan the QR or touch the NFC tag with your phone and a questionare pops up. It asks you what age is your child, what is their weight, what allergies do they have, what did they eat today and what other meds are they on. You hit submit then you get a response guiding you on how to administer the drug so you avoid an adverse reaction. This is how this tool was intended to be used. Marketers have abused it's functionality.

We, fused180, advise people to stop building your own QR, it gets messy, theres no analytical data behind your tag, what have you done to engage your audience, what value are you providing folks to scan. Plus, unless you have built your model correctly you will have to either build another QR or remove the link behind it.

We, fused180 again, have built an infrastructure which allows you to run multiple campaigns, employee engagement and training, multiple locations, multiple franchises, multiple portals to other information, social networking feeds, video, audio and what ever else you can think of ALL BEHIND ONE MOBILE TAG! This becomes a measurable engagement tool which adds value to the end user and the company or organization using it. If the audience, anyone who has a tablet, IPad, smart or web enabled phone, didn't want to engage then riddle me this Batman? Why were there 14.5 million scans in the month of June and why has the growth of the engagement tool gone from almost nothing to an astounding 4600% increase in just one year. Whether you like them or not, they are here for the time being and looks like they are staying. It's up to the audience to tell the marketers and companies, using them, what is relevant.

roderic mul
roderic mul October 21, 2011 at 8:47 AM

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?

sue-ella mcdowall
sue-ella mcdowall October 21, 2011 at 8:30 AM

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)

Paul Brandon
Paul Brandon October 21, 2011 at 2:53 AM

We need to stop looking at the technology of the QR code and at what people are using it for. Having a real estate sign with photo's and information on it, then providing a QR code which directs the user to a website with the same information and images is pointless and a waste of their time.

The link needs to build or add to the experience or generate action from the user. So to use the real estate example again, the site should contain additional images or even video, further options to contact the agent or even other similar properties in the area. Options like the ability to add the auction time to your phone diary, add the contact details of the agent to your phonebook, or see when the next open house is and book an appointment, are all additional things that cannot be provided on the static sign.

Also the size of the site you're pointing too needs to be considered. QR codes by their very nature are being accessed from mobile phones, so pointing the customer to your 5 Mb, fantastic, expensive webpage which takes a long time to download and is not usable on a small phone screen is again pointless.

They also do not need to be web based. I have a QR code on the bottom of my emails that allow the reader to save my contact details to their phone easily. This can also be used for event dates and times, to again make it easier for the customer to save and use your information.

Joey Sampaga
Joey Sampaga October 20, 2011 at 6:33 PM

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...

Greg Wehmeyer
Greg Wehmeyer October 20, 2011 at 4:59 PM

As a designer, I asked the question, "what if a QR code WAS the focus?" What if a QR code were altered to be so compelling that people could not resist it? My results so far are as follows: http://www.behance.net/gallery/Using-QR-to-Connect-Brands-Consumers/1708109. The response from both advertisers and agencies has been overwhelmingly positive. The clincher is to begin with a code that can be reprogrammed by the advertiser to go anywhere they want at a moment's notice, and these do.

Brian Phillips
Brian Phillips October 20, 2011 at 4:58 PM

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??

Devan Perine
Devan Perine October 20, 2011 at 3:53 PM

Could not agree more with this article! And I love the bar coaster idea.

I do have to say that QR codes have found a place in the real estate industry, but everyone else is misusing them immensely. I actually wrote an article about QR codes not too long about about all of this: http://ow.ly/73zqd

Donnie C
Donnie C October 20, 2011 at 3:44 PM

The QR Code is an amazing marketing tool if used correctly and with creativity. With all effective communications, it has to be creative to engage. There is NO question in my mind the QR Code has the possibility to be one of the most valuable communications tools to date. We are having great success. Ask the people of Japan if QR Codes work. Keep your eyes on Zazzy.com when it releases!

Donnie C
Donnie C October 20, 2011 at 3:41 PM

The QR Code is an amazing marketing tool if used correctly and with creativity. With all effective communications, it has to be creative to engage. There is NO question in my mind the QR Code has the possibility to be one of the most valuable communications tools to date. We are having great success. Ask the people of Japan if QR Codes work. Keep your eyes on Zazzy.com when it releases!

Peter Tarlan
Peter Tarlan October 20, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Yes I agree Nancy - I think it may still be a little early to write the QR code off, but Biztag QrTag has a very valid point in 'Can anyone scan a QR code off a TV ad? a radio ad? an out of reach billboard?' so they are restricted. We will have to see if it gathers more interest in the coming months, I myself have been a little lazy with them. If they repeat this survey every 6 months as has been requested, it would be great to compare the results.

Thanks for the article

Twitter @Datalovers

David Gonynor
David Gonynor October 20, 2011 at 1:41 PM

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

David Gonynor
David Gonynor October 20, 2011 at 1:39 PM

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.

David Gonynor
David Gonynor October 20, 2011 at 1:30 PM

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.

nancy lucchesi
nancy lucchesi October 20, 2011 at 1:23 PM

QR Codes in my opinion are still new. I am finding I am educating people on the use of them in their business and how they can make it more interactive for the end user. There is so much research out there from other companies stating how QR codes has impacted their business. We are still in the early stages and know it is just a matter of time before everyone gets it. smstxtmessaging.com/qr-codes-sms-messaging/

Robert Joseph
Robert Joseph October 20, 2011 at 9:25 AM

Yes, of course QR Codes are being abused, partly because they are so cheap and easy to use. But some people are using them to great effect - and proving that they can be part of the best, most cost-effective marketing on offer. We're currently running a campaign in the UK for a big wine producer. So far, we've just included the Code in a single magazine advertisement - and had 1,100 people (and counting) scan the code, complete a brief form about their wine and food preferences and receive an email advising them about wines they are likely to enjoy. that's over 1,000 people who have actually interacted with the brand and can be turned into Facebook friends and Club members. As the ad goes into more ads (which were going to appear anyway) and on the bottles, the potential is huge. However, there's no question a) that QR Codes have to be used in appropriate places and b) there has to be an incentive to scan them. However, as someone who lives in London, I'm not so against their use on buses: our traffic gridlocks mean that there's often plenty of time to scan them!

Biztag QrTag
Biztag QrTag October 20, 2011 at 2:29 AM

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.

Biztag QrTag
Biztag QrTag October 20, 2011 at 2:06 AM

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

Sean X
Sean X October 20, 2011 at 1:36 AM


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.


Sean X
Sean X October 20, 2011 at 1:34 AM

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

Adam Kleinberg
Adam Kleinberg October 20, 2011 at 12:05 AM


What was the free gift?


Eugene Suei
Eugene Suei October 19, 2011 at 6:20 PM

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

Dave Brody
Dave Brody October 19, 2011 at 4:38 PM

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.

Jeff Dyet
Jeff Dyet October 19, 2011 at 3:34 PM

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

A.H. Levandovsky
A.H. Levandovsky October 19, 2011 at 3:15 PM

A recent survey published at Econsultancy shows use of QR Code is growing pretty fast regardless of everything else going on. Interestingly, QR Code users in the UK surpasses US.

Even BBC started to use QR Code in some of their news services. So, it looks like the battle is still in full force for dominance in code scan. We think it still early days to write off anyone. We for one are still supporting it and expanding its use in our services. Our users finding it useful so far simply because it does fit well with our services. Obviously, not every technology is perfect for all purposes; each has its strengths and weaknesses in certain areas.

http://www.responsesource.com/releases/rel_display.php?relid=67793">Voucher Discount Code Site Uses QR Code as Consumer Tool

John Harvey
John Harvey October 19, 2011 at 2:58 PM

The absolute "3 pronged hook" with a QR code must be in enabling a two way communication with the consumer. This is done with 1: technological smarts (ie: a small screen "optimized" site), 2: common sense (ie: dont deploy in subways w/ out wi-fi) and 3: a reward for interaction (I offer a hard copy intro package to all "QR connected" prospects).

I am enhancing many production projects with QR codes; however, I have also been forced to drive the front end of the client's campaign development too. It has been a learning process!

Dave Robinett
Dave Robinett October 19, 2011 at 2:18 PM

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.

JJ Quest
JJ Quest October 19, 2011 at 1:03 PM

A little premature isn't it? This is kind of like saying the IPad would go the way of the CueCat (whatever that is) a couple weeks after its release. I realize that QR codes have been around longer than a couple weeks but because there is no formal marketing that explains what they are it will probably take a little time for the general public to figure them out. Hopefully you will repeat your survey every 6 months to track their impact.

Gordon Smith
Gordon Smith October 19, 2011 at 11:24 AM

Agreed on all points. One other downfall for QRs (and my apologies if someone has already stated this), I read this article and posted this comment on my phone...I have no idea what the QR codes in the article did as I couldn't scan them! As more content is delivered and viewed thru mobile devices, using QRs electronically may be futile. Unless there's an app for reading them within the device.

Tom H
Tom H October 19, 2011 at 8:21 AM

The problem with the QR code is that it's often looking for user participation in places where potential customers wouldn't participate. The value proposition is lacking.

The best use I've seen of a QR code was at the Texas State Fair. There were signs by each type of tree/flower that labeled the plant, with info about the plant. Each QR code pointed to a website that explained the plant further.

If there's no good reward, you're not going to get people involved. I'm male, 25, I have a smart phone, I work in marketing, and I don't have a QR app. I've not felt the need to get one.

Italo Gison
Italo Gison October 19, 2011 at 7:41 AM

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:


Amy Phillips
Amy Phillips October 18, 2011 at 11:23 PM

@M Johns, I definitely see your point, especially in sales and when it does more than simply directing someone to a non-mobile optimized website. I like the idea of automatically upload the contact data onto your mobile device. Sounds like Biztag has thought out how to utilize QR code constructively, good for you guys!

Biztag QrTag
Biztag QrTag October 18, 2011 at 10:30 PM

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 m@biztag.com and let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading!

Biztag QrTag
Biztag QrTag October 18, 2011 at 10:09 PM

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!

Kaye Hutchins
Kaye Hutchins October 18, 2011 at 10:06 PM

@Amy Phillips, thanks for telling us about the usage in Japan. Certainly sounds like a smart idea. In the US, it's a case of people jumping on the QR bandwagon just for the sake of jumping. They haven't actually put any thought into it. Let's don't automatically think discounts, either. Your idea of exclusive content is good and I especially liked Doug Hitchcock's instructional videos. Isn't there always more information you'd like to provide your customers about your products/services? Videos are the way to go!

Amy Phillips
Amy Phillips October 18, 2011 at 9:55 PM

I see QR codes being used in Japan a lot, for example in beauty magazine ads where a reader sees a product she likes in the ad, she scans the QR code then the product is shipped to her and the reader is billed via her phone bill. I thought that is a convenience service - like super fast track mail order. But of course that is made possible because the product makers and phone companies have some kind of partnership, and all the billing is lumped into the phone bill.

Since we (U.S.) don't have that kind of partnerships between product makers and phone companies yet, the only way I see QR being useful is to access exclusive content or discounts... I just don't see the point the way QR codes are being used right now (QR code on your business card to take people to your website? C'mon...)

Biztag QrTag
Biztag QrTag October 18, 2011 at 7:37 PM

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 m@biztag.com
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...

Biztag QrTag
Biztag QrTag October 18, 2011 at 7:26 PM

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!

Doug Hitchcock
Doug Hitchcock October 18, 2011 at 5:02 PM

QR codes are not "failing" any more than a postal address, telephone number, or e-mail, or even "scratch & sniff" tools in print media.

The QR code is nothing more than a way to leverage one medium into another. The printed media can only contain just so much content. If a consumer wants more info they can a) mail the company, pick up the phone, or scan the QR code. The consumer has the ultimate CHOICE as to which tool to use. But, using a QR code is a simple, easy way to leverage print into some other medium.

I agree with the comments that a QR code simply redirecting to the company's web site is stupid. The QR code needs to take the consumer to a new experience (link to a video, link to a special offer, etc.

My company manufactures complex military motion control products that just don't convey well in print. Using a QR code is agreat way to see the products in action.

Greg Smalley
Greg Smalley October 18, 2011 at 4:19 PM

Very cogent analysis. I actually remember when CueCat was being pitched for pharmaceutical advertising, to enable docs to reach the sponsor's product or disease-related website. But let me add to those who have noted that the QR Code is unattractive. It is far beyond that-- it is humming-bird-with-Gatling-Gun-diarrhea ugly. Even if reduced in size by enhanced resolution, it will still be unforgivably ugly. It is therefore doomed to fail, until and unless a visionary entrepreneur steps in to create a workable system with an attractive or at least innocuous appearance.

Kaye Hutchins
Kaye Hutchins October 18, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Sean, loved your Suggestion #2. The final sentence in the whole article said it all. "Please don't send me to your website." I've been scanning these "barcode thingys" for months hoping to find something fun or different. Wrong....just keep finding the same old boring redirect to companies' websites. There's nothing wrong with the technology just the implementation.

CM Tackney
CM Tackney October 18, 2011 at 2:35 PM

Sean I agree with your points on some usages of the QR Code (ie billboards and on the outside of buses, etc) I also agree that many companies have "gotten and are publishing their QR Code" but with no real purpose in mind. They have done it because someone told them it was "cool". However, I largely disagree with the general tone of the article. I believe that as with anything "new" it takes educating the public in order for them to see the benefits. It isn't so much the QR Code that is the magic.... it is the ability to track the QR Code and provide customers with some ROI statistics that were never available to them until recently. In the promotional products industry we are now able to print QR codes on a tradeshow "giveaway item" that can be tracked. Providing the vendor with the ability to receive some feedback on their products. That QR Code can do many things.... it can be used to link the scanner to a video that demonstrates the product, send my business card / contact information to the scanners phone, or takes the scanner to the page in the online catalog so you have all of the information you need on the product of interest, on a real estate sign that takes you to the flyer for the house or the virtual tour again providing the information that the customer seeks. My favorite use of these so far is Vendors at a trade show should have each of their products labeled with a QR Code that takes you to the online catalog. When walking around at a trade show with an overwhelming number of vendors it is much easier to get the information that I want by scanning a QR code then by carrying around a notepad and hoping I write down all the information I want/need for every item I am interested in. By the vendor using the QR code there is no question I captured what I need when all of the information is on that page and it is saved in my phone Everyone has been somewhere and seen something that they wanted to know more about or to remember to look up. Many times they have found themselves searching for pen and paper to write it down or to rely on their memory until they can get to a computer. Now however a QR code can be scanned and again give the interested party the information they wanted.

Instead of "bashing" the QR Code or the Marketers we need to be educating the public on the tracking abilities of the QR Code that is what is the most important part of the package. It is the magic that is being lost in the hype of QR Codes. My customers love the fact that I can now create a QR Code for them, print it on a product and at the end of that campaign I can provide them with statistics of the outcome.

Justin Galloway
Justin Galloway October 18, 2011 at 1:21 PM

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.

William Phipps
William Phipps October 18, 2011 at 11:54 AM

@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

Matthew Kovacevich
Matthew Kovacevich October 18, 2011 at 11:40 AM

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.

A.H. Levandovsky
A.H. Levandovsky October 18, 2011 at 10:43 AM

There has been lot of discussions about QR Code its future. Obviously we are seeing an argument growing on both sides. Blipper, for obvious reason, is trying to say that QR has no great future.

But we should not forget that there were other parties trying to introduce similar services but has not seen much success. Microsoft Tag as for example. At the moment, everyone, mostly marketeers, seems to busy how to make these technologies work for an organization or business. But, QR code has strong upside; it is not as controlled by a third party and it is easy to implement and even the smallest of businesses can implement it. It is cheap to use QR code. In my opinion, this is a very strong argument. Another issue that should not be forgotten is the people who are expected to scan these QR codes and it will only help if businesses and marketeers start thinking how to make the technology useful from a consumer prospective. QR Code has much better chance of succeeding in this direction.

William Phipps
William Phipps October 18, 2011 at 9:01 AM

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:


Paul Lakeman
Paul Lakeman October 18, 2011 at 8:23 AM

Hi William,
Your shortened URL seems broken?

William Phipps
William Phipps October 18, 2011 at 8:08 AM

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.

seth mcmillan
seth mcmillan October 18, 2011 at 1:03 AM

QR Codes – More than Just a Trend

Strategic use of QR Codes can be successful if implemented successful. To date, there's not been any other effective method that physically tied offline to online and with measurable ROI.

Yes, many people continue to learn what QR codes are and yes smart phones such as the iPhone and Droid should consider a native QR code scanner to minimize end-user challenges and increase awareness and usage. With these issues aside, QR code usage continues to rise according to queaar.com:

- QR Codes increased by 4539% between 2010 and 2011.
- 64% of women vs 36% of men scan QR codes
- Most QR codes are done via iPhone
- 22% of Fortune 50 companies are leveraging

Businesses are implementation QR codes using an array of interesting tactics. Here are a few:

- Mobile payments,
- Coupon offerings,
- Product Packaging,
- Contests
- Social Media
- Recipes

When the Toyota introduced this revolutionary technology over 15 years ago, they had no idea that mainstream marketers would embrace-and-place QR Codes to bridge the widening gap between the worlds of online and offline.

Kaleb Francis
Kaleb Francis October 17, 2011 at 10:47 PM

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:


Kelly Kleinman
Kelly Kleinman October 17, 2011 at 10:44 PM

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

Sean X
Sean X October 17, 2011 at 10:24 PM

@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 :)

Rob Steven Williams
Rob Steven Williams October 17, 2011 at 10:16 PM

I give BIG props to the firms selling QR code services into magazine and interactive TV commercials and programming. Agencies are doing a great job selling, but if your agency has true integrity it would look closer at how to deliver compelling QR campaign ROI driven results or the thing is dead for sure. It does also seem that most ad buyers are buying QR services because "it's the hot new tech thing to have in your overall digital ad strategy". What? You mean you don't have QR code and campaign attached to your advertising? Your competitors do. So the brands want to be in the game.

I do see a few very creative and cleaver ways that brands are executing QR campaigns, however, I feel that 99% are falling short on integration with the overall campaign objective.

The technology is simply an ad-on to a larger overall budget and ad strategy. I get how interactive and cool a QR campaign can be, there are many "Problems & Barriers of Entry", 1) most consumers don't even know what it is, 2) they are extremely ugly, placed in a $250,000+ photo shoot or digital ad piece, 3) it requires a download of a 3rd party QR reader before the consumer can even start the experience---if the brands saw the overall consumer usage numbers -vers- ROI (non-value in case studies), the above points are all correct in failure of the QR and long-term failure for marketing/ad agencies.

My belief is that Image Recognition and/or Augmented Reality technology will be the killer of the QR.

James Leatherwood
James Leatherwood October 17, 2011 at 6:30 PM

Ironic. You said: " But if it does go the way of CueCat, only we are to blame. Here's why." and then provided a QR code to an "I love Me" page that had not one but TWO copies of your bio. And it wasn't even optimized for my mobile device.
Granted the content got better... oh, I get it. That's EXACTLY what you tried to do: demonstrate the incredibly poor use of QR, then show how it could be improved.

Nicely Done!

Paul Lakeman
Paul Lakeman October 17, 2011 at 6:01 PM

"Paul, we don't care about whose webpages are badly optimized"
What I'm saying is that is the user has a bad experience using QR Codes then that's likely to put them off using them again. That's why it's being under-utilized because companies don't know how to use QR Codes effectively.

Kelly Kleinman
Kelly Kleinman October 17, 2011 at 5:53 PM

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.

Paul Lakeman
Paul Lakeman October 17, 2011 at 5:41 PM

It's not just about education the public, businesses and marketing companies need to be educated on how QR Codes can be used to add value, To many people see a QR Code and think it's cool to have one and lead them to badly optimed webpages.

Kelly Kleinman
Kelly Kleinman October 17, 2011 at 5:28 PM

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.

Morrie Goldman
Morrie Goldman October 17, 2011 at 5:27 PM

This picture was painted with too broad of a brush.
Most of my b2b clients are in technology fields and there has been good acceptance of QR codes in ads, product literature, etc. In an era that has all but eliminated costly, large printed catalogs, QR codes become an ideal solution for virtual expansion of short-form catalogs. A short table of product data is presented in sell sheet or short form catalog and easily linked to the company's website with the full details. This works best with sites that have been optimized for mobile viewing, but with the rapid expansion of larger-screen smart phones and tablets, even the old-style sites are pretty readable. And more trade magazines are using QR codes to link from an intro paragraph to a longer version of an article or product blurb. For them, it's also a great way to show that their readers are still interacting with print.
Some other countries are way ahead of North America in making good use of QR codes. One notable story of a major success (that has received a lot of publicity) is the supermarket chain Tesco. They have created virtual shopping aisles in Korean train stations for customers to shop while waiting to commute. Prompt home delivery follows.
There are a lot of technology trends that may seem slow to catch on at first. Texting in Asia caught on way before it did in the US, as an example. QR codes may end up being somewhat of a niche, but there is certainly a lot of growth ahead.
Rather than writing them off, a better topic for discussion might be, what can we do as marketers to make the public more aware of QR codes and how helpful they can be.

Nick Skislak
Nick Skislak October 17, 2011 at 2:55 PM

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.'

Leslie Mueller
Leslie Mueller October 17, 2011 at 1:30 PM

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.

Marion Guthrie
Marion Guthrie October 17, 2011 at 12:54 PM

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.

Italo Gison
Italo Gison October 17, 2011 at 12:36 PM

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.

Zach Rossiter
Zach Rossiter October 17, 2011 at 6:48 AM

"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.

Chris Ford
Chris Ford October 16, 2011 at 4:50 PM

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.

Rob Jager
Rob Jager October 15, 2011 at 5:59 PM

Couple of thoughts. Too many people are using QR codes incorrectly (unlike your second QR code above). I say incorrectly because they usually lead to a website that isn't viewable on mobile phones. The wave of the future for QR codes, I believe, is dependent on the ability of the person creating it to send the viewer to the right place -- a mobile website. Further, there must be a reason once you get there. Like any marketing, without a call to action, it's useless. So, yes. many QR codes are useless.

Paul Lakeman
Paul Lakeman October 15, 2011 at 5:42 PM

Another major pitfall in QR Code Marketing is that businesses fails to track and trace the QR Code usage so they have very little idea of what is working and what is not. The are some great QR Code generating platforms out there now that will allow you to generate unique QR Codes and track and trace their usage. If marketing companies and businesses have no idea when and where the QR Codes are being scanned how can they improve their marketing?

Jim Peake
Jim Peake October 15, 2011 at 1:48 PM

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.

Steve Briggs
Steve Briggs October 14, 2011 at 9:58 PM

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.

Kelly McIvor
Kelly McIvor October 14, 2011 at 9:54 PM

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!

Sean X
Sean X October 14, 2011 at 9:43 PM

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.

Scott Burks
Scott Burks October 14, 2011 at 9:42 PM

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


Steve Briggs
Steve Briggs October 14, 2011 at 7:46 PM

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.

TJ Claridge
TJ Claridge October 14, 2011 at 6:37 PM

@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.

Eugene Suei
Eugene Suei October 14, 2011 at 6:28 PM

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.

Andy Cheng
Andy Cheng October 14, 2011 at 6:25 PM

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.

TJ Claridge
TJ Claridge October 14, 2011 at 6:01 PM

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.

Sean X
Sean X October 14, 2011 at 5:29 PM

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

Andy Cheng
Andy Cheng October 14, 2011 at 3:43 PM

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

Spencer Broome
Spencer Broome October 14, 2011 at 2:40 PM

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.

Jay Feitlinger
Jay Feitlinger October 14, 2011 at 11:54 AM

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.