I was in a meeting with a client reviewing a project and the question came up on whether or not we should include a QR code. There was a bit of a disagreement – it was mostly friendly banter via email, each side finding articles to support their argument. One person thought we should dump QR codes because they are outdated and overrated, and no one uses them anymore – she certainly doesn’t and none of her friends do. In the end, we decided not to add it to this particular project because it didn’t really warrant it. However, the debate continues on whether or not we should be utilizing them at all. This got me to thinking I should really open this conversation up to others, so here we are! Read on and then tell me what you think.

I believe the reason people think that QR codes are useless is because they just aren’t using them correctly. Often companies are so excited to use a QR code, they just slap it on every piece of marketing that goes out the door without first asking if using the code will add value, can it be scanned easily and will users be motivated to scan it?

Keep in mind that these codes should be used to support or simplify the marketing message, not to complicate it. Convoluted messages detract from the effectiveness of using the QR code. Long complicated lists of instructions will deter more than attract, and not only will the innocent code suffer being labeled as useless, but the entire marketing message will be lost. Don’t ignore the basic rules of marketing just to incorporate a cool-looking code into your design – your attempts to look tech savvy might result in you looking quite the opposite.

The Proper Use of QR Codes

QR codes are most effective when they are an integral part of a marketing message that is appealing, engaging, interactive, and unique. There is a multitude of ways to customize QR codes to increase their visual appeal so that potential customers are more likely to stop, scan, and enjoy the multimedia message the QR code has in store for them.

QR Code Do’s:

  • Do use QR Codes to add value. Entice customers to scan by providing a benefit such as discounts or additional information.
  • Do use QR Codes to make life easier for your customers. Allow people to scan and purchase food, theater tickets or merchandise instantly.
  • Do use QR Codes for entertainment. Certain audiences are simply looking for unique experiences such as augmented reality opportunities, silly games, new music or interesting art and culture opportunities.
  • Do use QR Codes for education. Libraries and schools can use codes to link to resources or books.
  • Do use QR Codes to engage. Ask customers to give their opinion. What’s better – Coke or Pepsi? A Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder? Then give in return… a coupon for their choice beverage or burger.

QR Code Don’ts:

  • Don’t use QR Codes on posters, signage or in buildings where cell service is limited or non-existent.
  • Don’t place QR Codes out of sight – high on a billboard, below eye level, or on the bottom of a box – where they won’t be seen or scanning will be difficult.
  • Don’t use a QR Code just because it’s cool. Sometimes words or graphics are much more effective.
  • Don’t use a QR Code to link from your social media page to your website home page. Good ol’e fashioned links will do the trick.
  • Don’t over use QR Codes. Be strategic in their placement rather than excessive.
  • Don’t reduce your QR code down to a size that will cause it to be missed or unscanable.

QR code success stories abound in categories from lifestyle to leisure, entertainment, food and drink, promotions, events, information, and beyond. Companies that don't understand the true marketing potential of this resource run the risk of losing out on getting their messages across to customers quickly and effectively. QR codes, in one shape or another, are here to stay, and the sooner their untapped potential is understood, the better for everyone.

Have a Pawsitively Tail Waggin’ Good Day!

P.S. Ruff Haus Design is a results focused brand consulting company located in San Diego, CA. Let us help unleash your brand image, connect with your customers and gain their loyalty.