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Do Marketers Truly Understand QR Codes?

Having written so much about QR codes, I am amazed to have received dozens and dozens of responses informing me that I am completely wrong and that QR codes are useless, dead, witchcraft and the tool of the devil. Not wishing to get into a flame war or insulting the people who have a difference of opinions, I do have to inform them that witchcraft and the tool of the devil are the same thing.

I must also ask them why they feel their assertion is correct. At first I refrain from pointing out that they are misinformed, or, by their response, go over why they are making negative statements that are not fact and, usually, completely absent of any knowledge of what a QR code is, how it works, and how it can effectively be used in marketing. I merely ask them to explain why they feel that way.

No Idea at All

I love when people add to the conversation through the comments section on an article or on a LinkedIn group on which the article is posted. Intelligent conversation informs the readers and commuters and continues the information that can’t be added to an article lest it become a four thousand-word essay in my own voice. But, like a rabid session of “decision-by-committee,” there will always be at least one “commidiot” who feels they must move their mouth without any help from the cognitive reasoning section of their brain.

A recent commenter was a graphic designer (with a profile listing of, “looking for my next opportunity”) complained that QR codes were no good because one had to “take out their phone” and “take a picture of the code, wait for it to show up and then for the site to load.”

Although I addressed her concerns about “taking a picture,” and pointed out it was actually an app that scans the code and that goes to the linked site right away, she kept insisting that it was “taking a picture” and even though she had no idea how accessing information through codes worked, she was even more clueless about the marketing end. Some might say that as a graphic designer, she shouldn’t care about the marketing end, leaving that to marketing pros, but every designer should know the technology being used in marketing (as well as how to manipulate error correction in QR codes so they can be designed to become a more attractive element, or at least know a great QR code generator and QR response tracker) and why it works so they can make it a functional element of their designs and guide freelance clients into the options offered by QR codes, among other technology that would best serve the client’s needs.

The same goes for copywriters who have to know the best way to create a call-to-action for the codes and how to entice consumers to scan them in the first place. If you don’t know how to accomplish this as part of your being a professional, you may forever be awaiting your “next opportunity,” unless fast food service is part of your plan… and they use LOTS of QR codes!

There is some truth in the belief that consumers don’t know how to scan QR codes, but that is fast becoming the past. It was like when touchtone phones replaced the old rotary dial. Some people held out but eventually everyone HAD to make the switch and it wasn’t long before people were complaining about having to push “1” for English, in America. With smartphones coming out with QR scanner apps being built in as part of the basic functions, that argument will fade away, no doubt to be replaced by other accusations.

The Wrong QR Code Examples

A recent comment via a nasty Twitter debate from a new follower had him arguing that QR codes don’t work, and, I gather, he wanted me to stop writing about them entirely. I engaged him, as I always do with those who make a short and determined statement about QR codes not working, by asking him why he thought that was the case. His only response was an example of a QR code campaign an English firm had run for a holiday and they had declared QR codes unsuccessful.

Thanks to the internet, it was easy to find the company he mentioned, explore the campaign the company had used, read dozens of comments, both pro and con about why it failed and relay that information to the commenter. That’s when he grew angry and insisted it was the codes and not, as many commenters found in my web search revealed, the outrageous price of the product that failed and not the QR codes. He was, unfortunately for the sake of honest, open and intelligent discussion, lying. That is when I ended my part in the discussion.

Using the wrong examples or just making a blanket statement about why QR codes don’t work, or have “died” is the bulk of ridiculous complaints. To argue that codes cannot be scanned on moving vehicles, billboards, or hard to scan places is legitimate, but that is the failure of the marketer not using the codes correctly. The code is a tool and, like a hammer, it works only one way — the correct way.

Catch Up With the Technology

I can remember a time when just having a blue, underlined link was confusing to those reading web content. It was necessary to have “CLICK HERE” for a call-to-action. Even that wasn’t enough and it evolved to “CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION,” and “CLICK HERE FOR DISCOUNT COUPONS.” The call-to-actions let consumers know what following a link did for them and QR codes, at this point in time, will need an explanation as to what a consumer is getting out of scanning a QR code. As with warning labels on drain cleaners, telling people not to drink it, QR codes, as with Augmented Reality and NFC, need to play to the lowest common denominator, lest Darwinism take over and people poison themselves and marketing efforts fail miserably.

Further helpful reading on QR Codes:

Featured image ©GL Stock Images

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