QR codes are rubbish

QR codes are those funny looking squares of black and white that have started to crop up on printed adverts. They’re a way to send someone straight from a printed advert to a website. Sounds great right? No way someone will forget or mistype your url, and a quick action a consumer can take to continue their journey with you.

Personally I think they’re pants. I’m somewhat contradicting the general view of others (Third Sector 2009, e-consultancy 2011) so here’s why:

  • Most people don’t have a clue what QR codes are.
  • You need to download and install QR software for it to work – already an effort.
  • Using a QR code is almost an act of blind faith – you have no idea where it’s sending you. It takes a huge amount of trust in a brand that many people won’t have.
  • It won’t be long before optical character recognition and image recognition technology is engineered to replace QR codes – Google already have a search which works on image recognition.
  • Did I mention… they’re ugly and are a distraction to the other messages in an advert.

Of course you can always disagree with me – that’s what blog comments are for. And the Know How Non-Profit QR How To Guide might be useful for you too.

6 thoughts on “QR codes are rubbish

  1. I saw them used a lot in Japan; I was there a couple of years ago. They were on all band posters allowing a, perhaps, younger audience to access the bands website, buy music and tickets. It seemed easier than remembering to visit (or “log on to”!) http://www.MyBandNameOfficial.com
    In a few years (3-5), I’d like experiment them on our printed material (on events posters to receive a fundraising pack, booking a support event on a poster in hospital, making a donation in our publications)…

  2. I totally agree. Another point to make is the cost. Printers and designers are currently charging a small fortune to use these on adverts and trying to sell you benefits that I simply don’t believe exist at the moment!

  3. Any piece of consumer facing communication, whether from a FMCG brand or charity organisation, that requires the consumer to actively ‘do something’ to access the content is far from ideal in my eyes. I can see the value in the idea of QR codes, but as you suggest Laila assuming that the consumer a) has a smartphone b) has QR code software c) even has the motivation to activate these is asking alot – I dont see the value in QR codes matching up to the inherent risks at this stage, especially when you consider the additional costs.
    Interactivity on bus shelters for example is about getting instant access to branded content i.e the Cadburys Egg ‘smashing eggs’ interactive game posters of a couple years ago.
    If you want to drive traffic to online content why not include a simple URL on the execution – job done!

  4. I can certainly see both sides of the argument but I think there are cases where a QR code might be useful and can go as far as enhancing the offline experience using online. I give the example in my blog of a shoe shop – imagine the shoes you want to buy are out of stock in your size, so you scan a QR code on them which take you to the online shop to see if and when they are available, as well as a list of other recommendations based on your taste and user recommendations. Now I’ve had my offline experience enhanced using online (try to create simple URLs on product pages Marcus – not as easy task when these pages can often be accessed via multiple routes).

    Or perhaps the code takes you to information that is relevant to you where you are at that point, but not once you’ve left. I’ve heard a case where a museum included QR codes which took you to extra content (video, text, images) related to the piece you are viewing – here, if you’re interested you can easily access the information and, if not, it doesn’t impact on your offline experience at all. And that information is only really relevant to you at the time you’re looking at that piece.

    You can read more about this on my blog at http://www.zabisco.com/blog/?p=1294

    That said, there are certainly cases where QRs have been used needlessly – but that’s the key point with them. If they can add value to the user in the location they are placed, they’re great. If you’re using them simply because they’re “cool”, they’re really not going to have much impact.

    Interesting blog though and great to see the other side of the eConsultancy blog.

  5. Thanks for all the comments. It seems I’m not the only one challenging the value of QR codes.

    Laura I like the shoe example and can see value but if I think about cost Vs benefit I’m still not sure the pay off is there. I’d be keen to see some real world data from organisations who have used them. Does anyone have any stats they can share?

  6. Pingback: augmented reality summit – summary | laila takeh thoughts on my everyday

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