7 Reasons Why QR Codes Suck

Dean Browell had me cracking up at last year’s SHSMD conference in Chicago. As Executive Vice President at social media strategy agency Feedback, he’s pretty much on a personal crusade against QR codes. And he didn’t hold back in his presentation. I laughed because I’ve never scanned one. Ever.

I downloaded one of those scanner apps, but never used it.  Dean helped me understand why. It’s because…

QR Codes Suck

After the conference, I called him up to get more information to share with my fellows healthcare marketers so they can “just stop it,” as he advises. First a little history:

QR codes were never a new thing, but they did become a new trend with marketers a few years ago. Actually, inventory managers initially had been using bar codes to keep track of their supplies. When smartphones became ubiquitous, marketers thought it would be cool to combine the phone’s capability to scan stuff with this bar code thingy, all with the purpose of accessing a website.

Here are 7 reasons why QR Codes suck:

1) “They’re a tactic in search of a behavior.”

It’s not that customers saw them and wanted to use them. It was marketers pushing this on consumers. Even if a consumer succumbs and does it once, you rarely find someone who’s done it twice.

2) “You could have just Googled it.”

It’s amazing how many people know the address of the website they want to visit, but will still type it into the Google search bar rather than just typing the address in directly. But even if your site’s address is not known, it should be optimized for Google so that people can find it even when they spell it wrong or are just guessing. People have gotten so used to Googling stuff that it’s second nature. Scanning a QR code is nowhere near as intuitive. It’s takes like 5 extra steps. So, why ask people to do it?

3) “People put QR codes in dumb places”

It’s become a bit of a joke now, but marketers got so QR code crazy that they forgot about the consumer. They started putting them in dumb places like:

  • Billboards – like I’m going to stop driving or crash my car just to scan your QR code
  • Airplanes – where no one can use a cell phone
  • Business cards – where you probably already have your website address anyway
  • T-shirts – because walking up to someone and randomly snapping a picture of their t-shirt is totally normal behavior, right?
  • Rooftops – Just in case your parasailing by
  • TV Commercials – because by some miracle, within those 30 seconds, your consumer is sitting there with their phone out, QR code app open, ready to snap.

no one likes QR codes4) “Just get a better domain name or a forwarder”

Some marketers default to a QR Code because their domain name is too complicated. So, get a better domain name. If for some far-fetched reason that’s not an option, get a shortlink or a forwarder.

Don’t sacrifice a memorable name or website address just to use a QR code.

5) “It’s distracting”

You have to make sure the QR code is big enough to scan. That means it’s taking up valuable real estate on your ad, your business card or your flyer. Plus, the consumer has no way of knowing where they’ll be led after scanning the QR code. That space could probably be better used by putting in your marketing message or better yet, your actual contact information. Besides, QR codes are just plain ugly.

6) “You’re probably not tracking where people are coming from”

Most marketers don’t have any way of tracking whether the QR code is bringing them more traffic than search engines or typing the URL in directly. All they know is that the visitor came from a mobile device.

I’ll add another side to that. Most marketers probably haven’t optimized their site for mobile users. So, even if this QR code scanner actually uses the thing, what’s the point if it takes them to a site that doesn’t render well on a mobile device?

7) “Apps have a short shelf life on my phone”

And this could be true for anyone. You’re downloading all these “cool apps,” but as soon as you see that storage bar on your phone go into the red zone, it’s time to delete some stuff. That means the apps that are not being used are going to get deleted. Bye-bye QR code scanner.

In case you’re not convinced, here’s an amusing website that kept a log of QR code failures…back in 2012.