Why QR Codes don’t work and the one big thing agencies are missing.


Yesterday a friend sent me this article entitled “Why the QR code is failing.” It’s a great read, but you kind of walk away from it thinking, “Well, DUH!” The analysis is so common sense that it makes you wonder why QR codes are so misused by so many agencies these days.

I think the answer is bigger than agencies not being creative enough. I think it has to do with the fact that very few agencies take the time anymore to truly work up a communication strategy for their clients.

It seems like more and more, clients come to an agency with a predetermined media plan in place. “Hey, we need some banners and a microsite.” or “We’re running two full page ads in this magazine. Come up with something.” And of course, we do it. But rarely do we stop to ask why we’re doing it. Or if it’s the best use of the client’s money. Or if there’s a better way to communicate our message.

That pitfall is even more pronounced with online technologies. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, thinks they need a Facebook page. No one ever stops to ask why. I’ve seen agency after agency recommend Twitter – but they can’t communicate a real reason for it other than vague SEO value or even more vague “conversation with the consumer” bullshit. And it’s the same with QR codes. We slap them on everything from print ads to bus sides without thinking how they’ll be used, what they’ll be used for, or even why they’d be used in the first place.

I’ve seen QR codes in the subway… where there’s no cell phone reception. I bet 90% of the websites that QR codes send you to aren’t optimized for mobile devices. I’ve even seen QR codes that are used to download a PDF of the ad you just read.

See what I mean? Nobody thinks through the most basic issues with QR codes, and that’s because no one thinks through the larger strategy of why you’d need to use QR codes in the first place.

Now this is definitely not to say QR codes (or Facebook or Twitter or any other technology) are worthless. I just don’t see the work being put in to truly understand what media mix really is important. And until we do that, nothing else matters.

7 Responses to “Why QR Codes don’t work and the one big thing agencies are missing.”

  1. 1 Christie

    I agree that it seems like QR codes, let alone other technologies/strategies, are often used for no other reason that to use them, or perhaps because “everyone else is doing it.” As communications professionals, don’t we have an obligation to make sure that a client isn’t throwing their money away on something that their audience would never use or see? And, perhaps even more importantly, to use technology like QR codes properly?

    I have definitely scanned QR codes that took me right to a PDF of a poster or page I was jut looking at, or a contest page that wasn’t smart phone optimized, let alone anything else optimized. It also bothers me when I see a Twitter or Facebook icon on a poster without the web address. Or a Twitter feed linked from a corporate website that has had 48 tweets since 2010…

  2. 2 thealeksbrand

    This is really too bad. I hope it doesn’t get to the point where consumers get fed up and QR codes disappear. I have only recently joined the smart phone world so I haven’t actually had a lot of experience with scanning QR codes and don’t have any examples of good or bad but I think they are a fantastic invention. If an organization is not going to put in the resources to follow through though, yeah I agree, QR codes are pointless. I’m hoping this is just because there is a learning curve with all new technology and once corporations figure out the actual benefit of QR codes things will change. Just like you guys said, organizations are getting too excited about jumping on the social media bandwagon and are scrambling to be seen everywhere.

  3. QR codes might be better if there was 1 industry standard (but there isn’t)

    The consumer journey is too long.
    Upload a reader, scan a photo, download that scan into your uploaded reader…
    if you are lucky you have the right reader, if you are not you have to upload a different reader..
    then you probably just receive scan of the image you were just looking at, its probably not optimised for your mobile phone…
    its a bad user experience

    its a poor brand experience too, QR codes can be added to print, but try adding it to a TV commercial or a radio advert..

    Previous experience has trained us not to visit a website via our mobile phones because its a bad user experience, websites are not optimised for mobile phones, are not easy to navigate using our mobile phones etc.. so we don’t bother..

    Soon more people will surf the web via their mobiles than via their PC’s
    Spend money on a mobile site that is optimised to format to all mobile phones.. that would be better than a QR code
    Google dropped them
    Apple don’t see a future in them.. why should you?

  4. Have had more bad experiences with them than good ones. While we provide them, we can get the same job done with sms and short url’s, much faster no hoops to jump thru. I’ve actually stopped scanning them.

  1. 1 Blog Comment: Why QR Codes don’t work and the one big thing agencies are missing. « PR Hot Air
  2. 2 QR codes: Useful or just another marketing ploy? | Amplify Local Store Marketing
  3. 3 Blog Comments: 1-10 « PR Hot Air

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