QR Codes in Digital Marketing – Useful or Useless?

QR (Quick Response) Codes – have you seen them?  They are a way of providing the end user with more information without the need for them to type in information and ideally are used on leaflets/flyers (always use a trackable code then you can measure results), business cards, magazines and actual products!
Example of QR Code (if you have a smartphone scan it and see where it goes)
QR Code
Examples of QR code uses

  • Website URL
  • YouTube Video
  • Google Maps Location
  • Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • App Store Download
  • iTunes Link
  • Dropbox
  • Telephone Number
  • Skype Call
  • SMS Message
  • Email Address
  • Email Message
  • Contact Details
  • Event (VCALENDAR)
  • Wifi Login (Android Only)
  • Paypal Buy Now Link

They get everywhere these days from magazines, TV, billboards and on food items, perhaps horses will have them stamped on the side to tell us information as to which product they will end up on?  On TV Adverts though you really need a flat screen tv to be able to scan on a TV so there’s one of the issues if you are on an old boxy television from the early 90’s you can’t scan a QR code on the telly.
Then the other issue is how do you use them? Well if you are techie people like us you have an iphone or a smartphone and ideally have google googles installed. If you have not got a smartphone then you miss out and if you don’t have google goggles then you can download a QR reader from the appropriate app store, notice you have to download one first and then scan the code as they don’t currently come as standard on phones!!    So that’s another barrier to the end user!!
Always think: “can my intended audience actually use these?”
Now the problem arises of badly executed marketing plans, examples are:
QR codes placed on road signs, your driving fast down a motorway and no chance to stop and get the smartphone out load the app take the picture without a causing a major crash, how many people are going to be able to scan it?
QR code on busy road
Or high up on walls, so again not easy to photograph and take into account distance and the quality of the camera, chances are it’s going to be pretty much a waste of space!
QR code on billboard
Our fave examples are undergrounds around the world where logic would say, hang on we don’t have phone signals deep underground and a QR code reader needs the internet to be able to scan the code and take the end user to the desired point .
Underground QR code
Our personal favorite is when they are used on websites which then bring you back to the same site on your smart phone!
However if you put one on your contact page which is linked to google maps then it becomes quite a useful add-on for people who want to visit your office, retail outlet etc.
And here is a more useful example in a magazine, OK if you’re on a plane reading it or on the underground your going to have problems but a magazine can be taken anywhere so you could scan it later when more suitable.
Good QR code
So watch out for them as they will get more and more popular over time, imagine if all the food companies used them and you got a full honest report of the contents of that microwave lasagne! Oh wait a minute they would not be doing that!!!  More likely to be used in marketing promotions, scan the QR code and get a free day out at a horse sanctuary perhaps?
What do you think – a useful tool for your marketing, or not?

The founder of Attwood Digital, Mark is a digital marketing veteran having been working online since before the dotcom boom. He created the world's first online skip hire service in 2003, has created multiple online courses, lectured on digital marketing and even written a book on the subject. He is also an ICO advisor and crypto-enthusiast.
  1. i scan qr codes on the underground and when i come out of the station the info connects not a problem, i bought my daughters ski insurance doing that last february…mark j

    1. Hi Mark, That’s the problem with technology no sooner you write something it’s out of date, which app are you using?

  2. We have them on our business cards and on our (street-level) signage so people walking by can check us out. Interested to find out that you can do them in colour too, eg corporate colours (as long as its not yellow!). I like the examples. Cheers

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