8 Ways NOT To Use QR Codes

Photo by scott_bl8ke
08.29.2012By

Photo by scott_bl8ke

As we’ve talked this month about how to move your offline community or marketing to the online world, QR codes have been brought up (at least by me) quite often. “But Margie,” you may well have said, “I thought everyone hated QR codes now. I don’t want to look dumb!”

Truthfully, there is some bad feeling about QR codes, but the main reason for those bad feelings is that many marketers have not used QR codes in the most effective way possible. In fact, a lot of people have used QR codes in a way that creates annoyance and frustration versus happiness and joy.

We certainly don’t want you to run into problems when you use QR codes, so here are eight things you should strive to avoid at any cost. Not only will committing these 10 errors put you at risk for being “called out,” they also will not help you move the offline to the online world.

1. Using QR Codes on a Website

You see this surprisingly often. A website, a Facebook page, or a blog will have a QR code. Here’s the problem. The purpose of a QR code is to let a person who’s on a smart phone seamlessly move from something offline, like a sign, to the online world (a video perhaps). If you are using a smart phone and aren’t at a computer, how are you going to look at the website and scan a code at the same time? It creates a darn complex logistical problem.

2. Using a QR Code to Take a Person to a Long, Complex Form

Let’s say you want to drive traffic to your donation form. Sounds like a great idea, right? Only your donation form, in order to qualify contributors, is kind of long. Maybe 2 pages long. If someone uses a smart phone to scan to that form, that means they’re also going to have to use their smart phone to fill out your form. While it’s possible to do this, it can be a pain in the tush to do that much typing. People are apt to lose patience with the form and with you.

3. Using a QR Code to Drive Traffic to Your Homepage

This tactic won’t necessarily frustrate the person scanning the code, but it doesn’t do a whole lot to help you measure your efforts. The homepage of your site is always going to be the most visited page unless something very strange is going on. Inviting people to scan a special code merely to go to a page they could have found anyway is not particularly useful for them and definitely not useful for you. Drive traffic to a page where you can track how often your code is being scanned. That will tell you if this is something you should try again in the future.

4. Using a QR Code to Drive Traffic to a Page Built in Flash

What is one major adjustment website developers need to make in the new mobile world? Flash is out. Flash is evil. If your page, whatever it is, is built in flash and you are using a QR code to try to drive traffic there, you are inviting people to visit a page they will not be able to see on their smart phones. This will not make you or your audience happy.

5. Placing QR Codes in Areas Without Good Reception or Where Mobile Use is Restricted

A while back I saw a story about a company that placed a beautiful big ad at a subway stop. The ad pretty much revolved around the use of a giant QR code. The problem? There wasn’t really good reception down there, so people probably didn’t have their phones out and wouldn’t have been able to successfully scan the code even if they had wanted to. Planning is essential.

6. Using QR Codes That Are Too Small

Are you sending out a fundraising postcard that is pretty copy heavy? You really wanted to put a QR code on there but there wasn’t a lot of room, so you had to really stuff that code into the corner and make it really small. Well, few things are more irritating than trying to get your smart phone to scan a code that it just can’t focus on (believe me, I have had experience with this). If the code isn’t going to be easy to scan, you are probably better off not including it at all.

7. Using a QR Code to Drive Traffic to an Unrelated Page

You’ve sent out a beautiful direct mail piece tying into the holiday season. It has snowflakes, your fundraising message, great photos, and it’s altogether a really compelling piece. Your QR code, however, inexplicably drives traffic to a page about your new facility. People will not take the time to try to figure out what one has to do with the other. Make sure that your audience is traveling from the offline world into the online world in a way that will make sense.

8. Using a QR Code With No Explanation as to Why it Should be Scanned

Perhaps the biggest problem with QR codes is that a lot of companies simply slap a QR code on to everything they do. The assumption is that people will know what to do and just go ahead and scan the code out of curiosity. That’s a lot of assuming, and you know what the old saying is about people who assume. Tell people why they should scan the code. Compel them, even! Don’t assume that a person will be so desperate to learn more about you that they will scan any QR code you offer.

Those are 8 big faux pas I’ve seen when it comes to QR codes. The sad thing is that these kinds of poor uses have tarnished the reputation of QR codes as a marketing tool, and that’s a shame. They can be extremely versatile and useful–if done right.

What silly mistakes have you seen when it comes to QR codes? What else should people avoid? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • To add to the mix if you print the word QR Code next to the code you should also add the copyright information. nnnSomething similar to #5 I once was doing a QR code contest and they placed a QR Code in a place where you could not get your phone camera at a certain spot to read it. nnn

    • Yeah, people forget how finnicky those scanners can be!nnnThanks Raul 🙂

  • Great post, Margie! Iu2019d add using QR codes in televisionncommercials and billboards along the highway. In both cases, there isnu2019t enoughntime for people to scan them. (QR codes on billboards in the city are fine, ifnthey can be scanned by pedestrians walking on the sidewalk.)nnnnnFurthermore, Iu2019d also like to add with emphasis, donu2019t put anQR code in the menu2019s room near the urinals. I saw one in a gas station thenother day and wondered if anyone ever scanned it. If other customers see you pullnout a Smartphone and appear to take a picture in the menu2019s room, it could createna problem. If the QR code is placed in one of the bathroom stalls where peoplenwould scan behind a closed door, then that is acceptable. If there is a separatenarea for washing your hands in another room, that might be an okay place also.nHowever, if it is placed right by the urinals, it could cause problems for bothnthe business and its customers.

    • The billboard ones are particularly difficult to understand. I always laugh when I see those.nnnAs for urinals…I’m happy I’m a woman. That’s all I have to say about that one 🙂

    • The billboard ones are particularly difficult to understand. I always laugh when I see those.nnnAs for urinals…I’m happy I’m a woman. That’s all I have to say about that one 🙂

  • I’ve long pondered the idea of using QR codes on a website, to which I’ve only found one somewhat valid reason. To add contact information to a phone. Sure you could probably have this type of stuff linked on your PC to your phone address book, but for the sake of saying, screen to address book makes sense.

    • That’s a fair point, but if that is what you’re using it for, it is very important to say, “Scan here to add our phone number to your contacts.” If a QR code is just chilling on your website, people are apt to think the worst about you 🙂