QR Codes: What Not to Do

By | March 4, 2015

As I’m sure you’re all well aware, a QR code is a type of matrix barcode that is commonly used for marketing purposes across a wide variety of different platforms. The main benefit of this type of marketing tactic involves the ease at which the customer can use a QR code to find out information. A customer can use their smartphone, tablet or other mobile device to scan a QR code using the device’s built-in camera. Information associated with that code, which can be anything from a link to an app download to a movie trailer and everything in between, pops up on the user’s device a few seconds later. When it comes to QR code marketing, however, there are just as many things that you shouldn’t do as there are things that you should. Here are a few to watch out for.

1. Location

When engaging in QR code marketing, you’ll definitely want to avoid putting your codes in areas with poor cell reception or no Wi-Fi access. The success of QR marketing depends on the user being able to employ a device like a smartphone to access the associated information. If they can’t get cell reception in the area where the QR code is located, you’ve essentially wasted your money. You also want to keep in mind where consumers will be seeing the QR code. Make sure to put it in places where they will have their phones, and they will have time to safely take out their phones and scan the QR code (e.g., not on a highway billboard).

2. Sizing

You’ll also want to avoid making your QR code much too large or much too small. Codes that are too big or too small are difficult for even the most advanced mobile devices to properly scan. Keep this in mind when incorporating your codes on printed products and materials.

3. Mobile Optimization

When it comes to QR code marketing, you’ll also want to keep in mind that your potential customers will be using a mobile device at the time they scan the code. If you’re trying to use QR marketing to drive hits to your website, for example, you’ll want to make sure that your website is optimized to be viewed on those devices. Sending users to a site that looks distorted or that is difficult to control on a mobile device will send a mixed message to those customers.

4. Call to Action

You can’t forget a strong call to action when marketing your QR codes. If your audience doesn’t know how to scan your code, or why they should be scanning it, they will walk away. Make sure to give them a good incentive to scan the code, such as to receive a coupon, more information, or to watch a video tutorial.

These are just a few common QR code mistakes you should avoid. Have you had any negative experiences when trying to utilize QR codes in your marketing efforts? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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One thought on “QR Codes: What Not to Do

  1. Heidi Tolliver-Walker

    I would add to this list sending the person who is scanning the code to genuinely useful information. The number one reason I hear people kicking back against QR Codes is that they lead nowhere. Give the person a reason to scan it — something truly valuable to them on the back end.

    Personally, I like scanning QR Codes on food packaging to get new recipes. I also scan take-out bags and restaurant menu to access nutritional information. I scan receipts to get the retailer’s mobile app. QR Codes need to be technically functional, but more importantly, they have to be useful and something people WANT to scan.

    I think marketers are doing a better job of this nowadays, but we still have a ways to go.

    I offer a brandable best practices white paper with a whole list of best practices that printers can use to educate their customers on using QR Codes effectively. Here are the top three best practices:

    1. Create marketing campaigns, not QR Code campaigns.
    2. Think strategy
    3. Identify the purpose for the code.

    The technical implementation best practices are toward the bottom.

    If anyone is interested in the white paper, here’s the link:


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