QR Codes: The Dumbest Idea Marketers Love

September 24, 2011 - Posted by to marketing,web design,print design

As a marketing company fused with technology, we love keeping up on the latest high-tech ideas for use in marketing.  The trendiest idea now is to add a QR code in the bottom corner of an advertisement. If you want to waste a little space at the bottom of an expensive ad—why not? But don't even think about centering your ad around that box of pixels.

QR codes used in marketing

Quick Response codes, abbreviated as QR codes, have been around since a subsidiary of Toyota, Denso Wave, created the technology in 1994 to track vehicles being manufactured.  Even though the technology isn't new, it has taken on new life since marketers realized they could make their ad more "relevant" to a younger generation with a QR code.  

For simplicity, we'll go ahead and call that younger group Generation Y.  According to a Ypulse study, a whopping 17% of students have scanned QR codes.  When looking at broader research, completed by Lab42 and reported by The Huffington Post, only 13% of people were able to able to scan a QR code when they were forced to do it.  If these are the kind of numbers which impress marketers—we're embarrassed.

Lack of adoption isn't our only problem with QR codes.  It also boils down to ease-of-use and the flexibility to adapt a sales message, if necessary.  Updating a discount offer or message on a website is easy to do.  Updating information fixed within a printed QR code is not. 

Don't ever force a customer to use a QR code when you can give them a memorable web address.  Have a long domain? Buy a shortened web address for advertising and simply redirect it to your special message instead.

We're betting almost all of US consumers have typed in a web address at least once—and that rate is probably 100% for Generation Y.  Call us old school, but a simple web domain like "domain.com/code" is much easier and more effective than wasting time scanning QR codes.