There’s nothing ‘quick’ about QR Codes

Thanks for reading! As you can see, we love to talk content. Get in touch to start a conversation about what great content can achieve for you.

For those of you that don’t know, the ‘QR’ in ‘QR Code’ stands for ‘quick response.’ But the reality is, scanning a QR code is anything but simple, quick, easy, or ever rewarding.

A glutton for punishment

Tile mosaic QR Code at #Coverings
Tile mosaic QR Code at #Coverings

Maybe I’m a digital masochist, but everywhere I go I scan QR codes. It’s an experiment, really. I’m waiting to be wowed. I’m expecting to be excited, impressed, or even mildly engaged by someone’s smart use of QR codes, but I’m not.

This week at the Coverings trade show in Orlando I finally hit my limit. At not one, but two, tile trade show booths they’d put a huge amount of effort into creating QR Code displays using tile mosaics. Genius, I thought. Genius. This must be good.

I opened my phone and found my scanning app. I tried to align my camera with their mosaic. It wouldn’t scan. I tried a different app. I tried taking a picture of the code and then using the picture as the source for my QR code app. Nothing. I tried standing back and moving forward. After, quite literally, five minutes I gave up.

When I asked one of the booth monitors if anyone could get their QR code tile mosaic to scan, she simply shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I can’t get it to work.”

When they do work

@SchwarzenbachB In front of a Slow Response Code
@SchwarzenbachB In front of a Slow Response Code

A year ago I attended a trade show with Brad Schwarzenbach. In the middle of the busy trade show aisle was a giant QR Code mounted on a sign that read, “Visit us at booth #147.” Brad directed traffic around me as I took the time to scan the code. As I waited for the scanning app to launch a browser, which launched a web page, which painstakingly downloaded an image I almost screamed out loud.

The QR code led me to a digital image of the EXACT sign I was standing in front of. The very sign I had just scanned. I don’t need a QR code to get a picture of your sign. My blood boils just recounting the story.

Ask Yourself…

QR Codes are a novelty. Not because they couldn’t be useful, but because marketers use them so terribly! Not one of the QR codes I’ve scanned has really been worth the effort. You need to ask yourself if you’re using QR Codes¬†because¬†you think you should or because they’re actually adding value to the consumer’s experience?

If you’re going to implement QR Codes you need to ask yourself whether the content on the other side of the code is worth the effort to get it? You need to ask yourself why you’re using QR Codes?

The truth is, I can type a URL faster than I can successfully scan and experience a QR code. QR codes aren’t Quick.

What if…

What if QR Codes were actually valuable?

P.S. The QR Code Bradley is standing in front of has been updated for 2012 (go ahead take the time to scan it and see if it’s a ‘rewarding experience.’)

7 Responses to “There’s nothing ‘quick’ about QR Codes”

  1. Alana Coble

    Hear, hear! If I’m going to take the time (and it does take time) to scan a QR code, I want something worthwhile to result. At a minimum, a nugget of interesting content, or a coupon, or a link to a website with a non-obvious URL.

    • Drew Davis

      Thanks so much for the rapid read! Really appreciate it. It’s so nice to see your avatar!
      Hope all is well!
      - Drew

  2. Mike O'Toole

    No, they aren’t quick, and aren’t particularly useful. There is promise, though. Think of airport ads that capture your imagination where a QR code (done right) can lead you to deeper content. I love the anecdote about the tile-based QR code. QR codes can be beautiful and clever, but what happened to form ever following function?

    • Drew Davis

      Thanks for taking the time to read the post – and comment. :)
      I spend a lot of time in airports, and I can see the opportunity. If I was sitting in front of a sign that enticed me to get something special (not sure what) on the other side of a QR Code, I might get up, walk over to the sign and begin the process of scanning it.
      However, I think I’m much more likely to stay seated, read a URL (a link even), type it into my phone and get the exact same experience without any of the hassle.
      Maybe it’s just me. But when I ask audiences at speaking engagements to raise their hand if they frequently scan QR Codes very few hands go up. And the people that do always caveat their response with “I’m just checking them out.”
      Anyway, I’d love to Love QR Codes. :)
      - Drew

  3. Andrew Boer

    I think QR codes make sense if they replace annoying pieces of paper with a fair amount of information on them. The two most obvious potential uses to me are: 1) receipts and 2) business card information.

    • Drew Davis

      Thanks for the great ideas. While receipts seems like a great idea, I’m not so sure about Business cards. I use Cardmunch on my iphone and get everything I need without having to focus on a QR Code, then figure out where it takes me, then try get the info into my contacts. Cardmunch changed my life. Sometimes, I come back from a speaking engagement with 200 cards. I can ‘Munch ‘em in 10 minutes – every single one.
      It’s genius.
      Anyway, thanks again for reading and commenting!
      - drew

  4. Luke Meyers

    Hey Drew, long time no social-network-see…I just thought I’d throw my two cents into the mix since I’ve also been pained by the under-utilization of QR Codes. This is a blatant pitch for the blog that I manage over at, but I tackled this concept a while back and likened it to the HD-format wars before Blu-Ray was selected the official winner; there just isn’t enough standardization or uniformity in how QR codes are used to make those fun, engaging, effective marketing opportunities a reality yet. But, will it happen? I think it absolutely will.

    Just thinking of a couple experiences I’ve had recently I’d love to see QR codes used at car rental locations (especially airports) so that I could walk through the lot and scan a car to see the going rate or, even better, wave my own QR reservation from my phone or piece of paper through a scanner that would just allow me to jump in and go.

    Another opportunity I thought of just today was while I was waiting at my favorite “food truck” in town was that they could tag each menu item to let you bring up a summary, ingredients list, etc while you’re waiting in line. It’d be especially effective for restaurants trying to sell specials.

    Anyway, I’ve got a couple more thoughts (although a tad outdated) on this blog post and even a live example from one our favorite clients.


Comments are closed.