Fusion Blog

QR Codes: The Good, the Bad and the Pointless

QR codes, and similar scannable barcodes, are everywhere today: in our magazines, on our ketchup bottles and even on the tops of some buildings. (This giant QR code certainly got our attention!) Though adoption by consumers is still relatively limited—according a June 2011 comScore survey, only 6.2% of the mobile audience in the US had scanned a QR code—many technology writers predict that scannable barcodes will continue grow in popularity during 2012.

Like most technology, there are standout and not-so-successful implementations of QR codes. Here are examples of good, and not so good, applications of this up-and-coming technology.

The Good

QR codes are often thought of in terms of marketing, however their benefit can really be exemplified when their uses are extended to include other purposes. At their root, QR codes are a two-dimensional barcode. For that reason, it makes sense that QR codes are well suited to be used as a tracking solution.

IBM recently introduced a technology designed to assign unique barcodes to every step of the food distribution chain. These QR codes could help stop food borne illness scares and outbreaks by instantaneously linking the product being sold in stores back to the farm where it was produced.

Tracking food isn’t the only way that QR codes can be used effectively. One local Indianapolis restaurant, Scotty’s Brewhouse, uses QR codes to share a frequently updated beer list. This makes it possible for the restaurant to update the list while still conserving paper. As blogger, Jay Baer points out, this strategy is an effective use of QR codes because it allows consumers to unlock information that is important and provides value at the time the code is scanned.

Whether it’s tracking food or providing information, the common theme of good QR codes are that they serve a purpose and provide a solution.

The Bad

Unfortunately, for every well-executed QR code campaign, there are just as many, if not more, unsuccessful QR code campaigns. What sets these “bad” campaigns apart from the rest? Here are three reasons QR codes fail: 

(1)  It doesn’t direct to a mobile site

By scanning QR codes, consumers expect to be provided with valuable information, however if they are taken to a site that is difficult to read or navigate you miss an opportunity to share information with interested consumers.

(2) It doesn’t include a call to action

Studies show that two-thirds of US consumers don’t even know what to do with a QR code. Expecting consumers to know what to do with your QR code and then to blindly scan it is unreasonable.

(3) It’s used in impractical places, like an email signature

Putting aside the fact that viewing a QR code in an email on your mobile phone makes it nearly impossible to scan that code, including a QR code somewhere a link could be used is next to pointless. Links are a more practical choice because they are widely recognized by consumers and can be easily customized to fit your branding.

The Pointless

In 2011, Red Bull put a QR code on a campaign in subway stations where there was no phone signal to access the online content. Continental/United Airlines also missed the mark when they put QR codes on the in-flight magazines. This meant that the information could only be accessed before takeoff and after landing.

QR codes, when used in marketing, are designed to provide a way for consumers to scan your material and receive some sort of benefit, such as additional information. So if your QR code can’t be scanned, or the customer can’t access information after the code is scanned, what’s the point?

Sure, technology is fun and interesting, but it’s best used if it provides a practical business solution. If you’re looking for a creative way to use technology to solve business problems, contact us! Our business solutions utilize technology to help your organization capitalize on opportunity, address business needs, and deliver value.

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