QR Code Let-Down . . . Or Is It?

By | August 19, 2011

Last week, I was in the airport, waiting for a flight from New Hampshire, and I saw a man wearing a t-shirt with a QR code. The text on the t-shirt said, “Decode This!” So I did.  Boy, was I disappointed.

Scanning the QR code took me to a site hosted by some place called Pastebin. To a non-techie like me, it looked like a bunch of gobbledygook — nonsensical source code. I assumed it was a mistake. But after complaining about it repeatedly, I looked at it again. Then I Googled “pastebins” and discovered that such “bins” are common in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) environments where public pasting is a common thing. In this environment, Pastebin is a known entity.

Was this a public paste? If not, what was the point? I scanned down through the code and discovered that — it appears — a security systems company is sponsoring a contest that allows entrants to win $1,000 by following clues and decoding a puzzle.  I had to scroll to the bottom of the screen where the press release was pasted (line by broken line) and there I started to piece together this puzzle of its own.

At first, I thought the t-shirt was part of the wearer’s attempt to win the prize. The more people who scanned the code, the more points he accumulated or something like that. But after reading the press release again (which was no small feat since it was in miniscule type on my iPhone), I saw that the contest was occurring at a trade show sometime later this year.

So what was the point of the QR code? Just to get people to read the release? When you consider the response rate to such a stark message, you’d think it would be very low. Especially with no clear incentive other than a public dare. At the same time, the people who are likely to scan the code simply for the sake of scanning it are more likely than average to be Internet techies, which is the market for the contest anyway.

So was this a good use of QR codes or not? It’s hard to say. But it does get people talking about it, which is — after all —a good thing. But it’s not a model for the average marketer to follow.

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7 thoughts on “QR Code Let-Down . . . Or Is It?

  1. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro Post author

    Yes, I suppose “Decode This!” could have been interpreted as an invitation or an order. . . one pleasant, one not so much!!

  2. Narseman

    I heard a lot of hype about QR codes, but lately not so much. I see them kind of like the laser. When first invented was a great wonder with very few applications. Now of course they are almost everywhere. QR is a good invention waiting for more useful applications. Meantime try them on everything.

  3. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro Post author

    I think that’s what people are doing — trying them on everything — but if anything, I think that undermines the value of QR codes. Many people are thinking about QR codes as “type” of campaign, but they aren’t. You don’t run a QR code campaign. You run a marketing campaign, with QR codes as one of the response mechanisms. All of the other elements of good marketing have to be there, and QR codes as a response mechanism have to make sense. Otherwise, they are a waste. More than a waste, actually, because used improperly, they can actually leave a very negative impact on the user. I talk about all this in depth in my report “QR Codes: What You Need to Know” (http://www.digitalprintingreports.com/marketer_primers_QR_codes.htm).

  4. Lou Berceli

    Everyone is invited to join and learn about QR Barcodes which is just one type of 2D Barcode on our LinkedIn group called “2D Codes for Global Media” Join via the URL below.

    We are the largest global networking group of our kind…Any and all questions are welcome on our group’s Discussions. 2D Barcodes are a rapidly gorwong Cross-Media Bridge for any and all Printed Media to the e-media marketplace. Ask how variable printed Datamatrix barcodes are growing in applications for 100% traceability and tracking….sort of like a PURL but scanned by your SmartPhone or many other scanners coming soon.


    Lou Berceli

    Co-founder of 2D COdes for GLobal Media and
    Founder of both the Digital Printing Labels and Inkjet Printing Labels groups on LinkedIn

  5. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro

    I’m a member of this group and can personally vouch that it’s one of the best LinkedIn groups I belong to. Really high quality of information coming through there.

  6. Direct Mail Marketing Services

    Interesting incident Heidi. As you can see, there are plenty of ways to use QR codes to connect and engage your audience. QR codes can provide additional information, including photos, reviews, directions and event dates and times. There’s a certain amount of fun and surprise with QR Codes, so that you can take advantage of a “what’s behind door number one” mentality.

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