While at a trade show recently, I walked into a booth and the sales rep immediately started a conversation with me. He seemed friendly, open, and very knowledgable about his product. We chatted for a few minutes and when I asked for more information, he directed me to a sign on the wall – a QR code.
The disconnect was immediate. We’d gone from a warm, personable chat to a stark black and white square directing me into the technological abyss. Did that QR code lead me to his company website, or to his daughter’s girl guide page selling me cookies (which, admittedly, may not be a bad thing) – or something far more sinister? Reaching out for a second chance, I asked for his card. He passed it to me, and to my dismay, it had his company logo, his name – and another QR code. Not even a phone number. I smiled, thanked him for his time and made my way to the next vendor, who was more than willing to provide their website and phone number to me without my asking.
Of course, you’re asking what my issue is with QR codes – and my answer is, I have none, when they’re used properly. In this instance, however, the technology was being forced upon me with no alternative. This is only one bad example of utilizing these codes: They’ve been placed on billboards beside busy freeways (who is going to scan a code while doing 100km/hr?), in subways with no cell coverage, or on bus and vehicle graphics. QR codes, when first introduced to the general public, were supposed to usher in the next generation of connectivity. Scan this simple square and be whisked away to a world of wonder! – but more often than not, to the company’s website, or in the case of the less imaginative, a digital copy of the ad you’d just scanned the code from.
Truthfully, if an ad or product doesn’t have me intrigued enough to remember their url or something google-worthy, I probably won’t take the time to scan their code anyway. In the time it would take to open the specific app and scan the code, I could have punched in their domain name and already hit their site. The disconnect with QR codes continues with a simple glance – they’re ugly. Initially they were created as a means of identifying car engines by Toyota (it’s true – look it up!) – not to tell you a story and connect with you emotionally. Sure, there have been several creative means of dressing them up, including colouring them and going outside the generic square, but there’s no masking what they really are.
The QR code hasn’t made the expected impact upon the connected world that many thought it would. A recent study by comScore.com found that only 6.2% of mobile phone users in America were using QR codes. Other studies are predicting QR code use will rise to 8% this year, but drop shortly thereafter as other, more user-friendly technologies take its place.
A well-placed and thought out QR code can still have a meaningful contribution to your marketing campaign; but don’t rely too heavily on it. Support it with the traditional methods of contact, and never forget that a firm handshake and a welcoming smile will tell your audience a million times more than a black and white square ever can.