No, QR Codes Aren’t Dead. They’re Just Used Badly

It’s a lot of fun to call things “dead,” and plenty of people are saying that about QR codes.

But QR codes are very much alive as the stats below demonstrate. What really should die aren’t QR codes but the dumb ways agencies and brands try to use them.

Here are some recent campaigns that worked because of clever execution and an understanding of what actually motivates consumers to scan a product, brochure, or ad’s QR Code:

A QR Code postage stamp was issued for the 20th anniversary of the issuance of postal stamps by Croatian Post Hrvatske pošte, the national postal service of Croatia.

The Croatian QR Stamp

Each of the 3.10 Kuna (0.56 U.S. dollars) stamps has a unique code printed below the QR Code. When you scan the QR Code you’re taken to a mobile site where the unique code can be entered and you can view confirmation on the receipt of your mail as well as additional data about its route. Users can find out when the mail was sent, how many kilometers it had traveled, when it reached its destination and more.

Cognac brand Hennessy recently produced a limited edition run of bottles featuring art from famed New York designer and artist Kaws. Each bottle has a custom designed QR code with an image of a Hennessy bottle in the center. The code leads to a mobile site, which has so far been accessed 1.3 million times, 600,000 of those via QR code scans.

Starbucks teamed up with Lady GaGa for an online and offline six-round scavenger hunt with prizes of GaGa’s music, Starbuck’s gift certificates and more, played by thousands of enthusiastic fans of both brands.

Google’s new WebGL Bookcase lets you browse a 3D version of any of thousands of books. Once you decide what book you want to buy, you scan a QR Code to view the selected books on your mobile phone.

Why QR campaigns fail

  • Unreadable codes on billboards, too high up for people to get a clear scan; on ads in subways, where there is no cellphone reception for scans.
  • QR codes in TV ads By time you run and get your phone, find the scanner, and try to take a shot, the ad’s over. Doh!
  • No instructions. Not everyone knows what a QR code is and how to scan it. So it’s necessary to include clear and concise instructions that include the benefits of bothering to make the scan.
  • Using a proprietary code so you need a specific type of QR readers to scan it. As if people would download a scanner just to read a code they don’t understand. Fail.
Going too far
The same agency that came up with the Croatian postage stamp also proposed QR codes on license plates in Croatia. To use them, you’d just whip out your smartphone, keep your eyes on your phone while you find your QR scanner and take the scan while tailgating the car in front of you at high speeds. Should you live through this, you are directed to a tourism website. Sadly, it seems many potential tourists might die before they get to book their trips. The good news: this one didn’t get done.

Here some 2011 Q3 global stats for QR code use, from research firm 3GVision via 2D Code blog editor, Roger Smolski:

  • Worldwide usage on growth path: Q3/2011 growing by 20.0% over Q2/2011, with daily scans coming from 141 different countries around the world
  • Barcode usage in North America continues to expand in Q3 with 42.1% growth in the USA and 35.1% growth in Canada compared to Q2/2011
  • QR code activity in the Spain and Australia showed a significant growth in Q3 of 66.5%, and 50.9% respectively over Q2/2011


About Abdul Rahman Alieh

I use this space to share interesting videos and snippets from articles and books I come across. I hope you find this blog interesting. Can't wait to read your comments! Abdul Rahman

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