QR Good, QR Bad

Business Week recently came out with an article blasting advertisers for abusing the QR code. It’s true – nowadays, it’s hard to find an ad without a QR code. And, while using QR codes isn’t a crime, it becomes a problem when you’re not using them wisely.


The QR Code: Misunderstood & Overused

In an advertising context, QR codes are meant to engage the target audience beyond the 10 seconds it takes to read an ad. For example, if a Skittles package is advertising a sweepstakes, a QR code that takes people directly to the sweepstakes entry form is a nice touch. A QR code that takes people to skittles.com, disappointing.

How do you know if you’re using the QR code appropriately? Here are the dos and don’ts of QR coding.

Do use a QR code when you have a long or complex url. If scanning in a QR code is easier than typing out your url, go with the code.
Don’t use a QR code to send people to your website just because you can.

Do make scanning the code worthwhile.
For instance, a product sell sheet might have a QR code that lets you download the digital version of the sell sheet and share it with others. Another idea would be for the QR code to provide you with a coupon for the product. 
Don’t waste people’s time.
A QR code that sends people to your non-mobile friendly website is never a good idea. Neither is providing information that’s already been given in the ad.

Do use a QR code on ads where people can easily scan the code.
Think print ads, sell sheets, product packaging and well-lit outdoor signage such as posters and bus shelter ads.
Don’t use one in places where scanning the code is impossible.
Think billboards and dimly lit outdoor signage.

Do use standard QR codes.
Don’t use QR codes that require extra work.
People have enough to do without having to download another app or register with your site in order to decipher a QR code.

Above all, use QR codes when it makes sense to use them, i.e. when the code helps people locate information quickly, save money and so on. Don’t use them just because everyone else is.