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2 More Reasons why QR Codes Suck…

I cruised past David Wach's Cellit marketing blog and found his article 11 Reasons Why QR Codes Suck … It definitely struck a chord since the last couple weeks at the

Social Media Mastermind Orange County (you know, the SMMOC) QR codes have come up again and again. I know it's a real estate heavy room, but the interest in QR codes seems misplaced to me. Maybe it struck me when I logged in to Twitter earlier today and saw this tweet RT'd by Matt Gallizzi (@mgallizzi): “Whoa! New York Times Magazine!” Source – 11 Reasons Why QR Codes Suck

11. QR Codes make receiving simple content very difficult 10. QR codes lack strong trackability compared to text messaging 9. QR Codes lack Follow-Up 8. QR codes require mobile devices to stop being mobile 7. QR Codes can’t “go viral” 6. QR Codes remove brand association 5. QR Codes only work on smart phones with cameras 4. QR Codes take up a lot of space. 3. There is no standard for 2D Bar Codes 2. You can’t use QR Codes in television or radio. 1. People don’t know what QR codes are!

To add 2 points to the debate here (of which I'm in complete agreement – QR codes SUCK)…

12… There's no context to what the recipient will receive. Even on the web, there's a tacit agreement that if I click on a link ending in .pdf file, I'll receive a PDF file. If I visit I'll know I'm about to watch a video. If I click on an @username I'll probably be heading over to Twitter. QR codes, on the other hand, have no contextual specificity, and as such leaves the consumer no information about what they're about to receive. Will I get a contact card for the person I'm interacting with? A video “welcome message”? A coupon? A map? Without context, the QR code leaves the recipient complete at the mercy of what the person using the code wants to share. 13… There's no way to replicate a QR code without a digital device. You can't draw a QR code by hand, or scribble it out on a cocktail napkin in the middle of a networking party. Nearly any other marketing channel can be conveyed and captured by hand if need be – a website URL, an phone number, a text marketing campaign, a physical address, a coupon code, etc. But the QR code is the bastard step-child of print marketing + engineers. Almost all 2D mobile ads suffer from the same problem – except the most ubiquitous 2D barcode of them all – the UPC barcode. They realized that adding a set of numbers to the barcode would ensure that at least if the red laser couldn't get it, a human could interact with the information.

Mobile is definitely the new frontier for social + marketing, but I just don't think (nor want to support!) QR codes are the right way to get things done with this new medium. It's what happens when a marketing exec has

too many tequila shots with the head of a printer company and then does Jaeger bombs with a bunch of engineers. cheap software downloads Oh, and this was gonna be a comment on your blog, David, but your Captcha code seems to be broken… Or, at least wouldn't play nicely with me…



6 Responses to “2 More Reasons why QR Codes Suck…”

  1. Matt April 21, 2011 11:41 am

    Hey, thanks for taking the discussion to the blog. Probably a lot better than Twitter. =)

    My thoughts on this:

    11. You install the reader once and it takes a few seconds to scan. He’s exaggerating.

    10. Sure, text messaging gets the phone number, but that has it’s own problems. Some people are hesitant to text in in fear of getting spam. People don’t have that issue with QR codes. They each have their pros/cons…

    9. There are workarounds. eg. social media share icons and follow up on Twitter.

    8. It’s not something Microsoft did, it was poor execution on the marketing folk at the airport.

    7. False. Add social media sharing icons. Done. Google Calvin Klein

    6. Custom brand the QR code with business branding.

    5. False. Feature phones can read QR codes if needed via ScanBuy/JagTag (although not a fan). It’s all about the audience.

    4. I’ve seen them as small as 1/3″ an inch. Although that’s probably too small for good practice, you can’t make a URL that small.

    3. True. Microsoft Tag is screwing this up. :)

    2. Not true. FOX and several others have used QR codes on TV. Although done poorly, it can be done right (with the right creative mind).

    1. As with any new technology, awareness is the first problem.

    To the additional two points:

    12. This isn’t a problem with QR codes, it’s a problem with the people executing it. There should be a call to action that hints at what the content/resulting page will be. Aside from this, who cares if it goes to a video? Or a web page? Or contact info? :) And on the web, how often do links end in .pdf? Normally they’re masked with some text like “Click here to read more” or something. We’ll scan what we trust to scan based off where we found it. I’m not sure how much this matters.

    13. I’d say this is more of an observation than a problem, but it’s interesting at that. I can’t say I’ve thought of this one, but it’s pretty nit-picky. :) Another one where I’m not sure it *really* matters. It’s just the nature of the beast.

    I’ll probably write a blog post on why QR codes will thrive soon. Nonetheless, I appreciate the conversation and you sharing your thoughts on this topic. I’m always curious to see what other people think about this stuff. Thanks for being vocal about it, even if you are a hater. :)

  2. admin April 21, 2011 2:54 pm

    Hey Matt,

    Appreciate the debate! Didn’t mean to call you out personally from the SMMOC block, it just so happened that right when I was stumbling across this article and thinking about the brutality of QR codes I saw your post about the NY magazine. But, I’m glad I did, ’cause this is definitely a worthwhile debate and I think you’ve made some great points.

    Obviously I wasn’t the original author of the original post, but I think the spirit of the discussion that we’ve had at SMMOC really divides the adopter community between “I like QR codes and want to give them a shot” and “QR codes are awful!” Somewhere there’s gotta be a middle ground.

    Lemme see where I can poke some holes!

    11. It’s somewhere in-between… It’s not as awful as taxes, and it’s not as easy as “just look at the thing and suddenly you’re opted in.” It requires some level of engagement, and some level of technical aptitude to engage with a QR code. It is true, for instance, that you actually have to have both the code + the device reasonably stable to capture. Reading a magazine on a couch is probably a decent time to use ’em, trying to take a picture of a billboard while traveling probably is not.

    10. I’m not sure people are aware that QR codes are passive. It looks complicated. I’d bet if you asked 100 people on the street if taking the picture of a QR code means that you’re giving away your personal information, I wouldn’t be surprised if 20% or more thought it does. Text opt-in, email opt-in, etc… All those other mediums have gone through the process of clarifying what you get and don’t. Even people using facebook have a tough time realizing that when you use “Facebook Connect” and say “Approve” you’re basically giving a marketer free reign on your site. Perhaps consumer education that QR’s are 100% passive is the trick (but, in my camp – why bother?). Really, as a marketer, you can know when the hit came to you, and with an IP sniff you can know roughly where the “mark” is. You can track the hit – but it does require one more level of interaction to yield that opt-in.

    9. Again, passive medium vs. active. Text is active, so is email opt in. They’re different beasts. I think you’re right, the trick is really on the receiving page from the QR to enable social elements. But, that adds a layer of technical complexity that many folk might not know how / be ready to deploy.

    8. The airport example is really the reality that not all ads are right for all mediums. You don’t put an 800 # in an ad that’ll play in a movie theater – those customers are expected to be quiet for 2 hours, not start a sales call. But QR codes I think struggle because mobile is everywhere, and people are trying to push the application because some companies just don’t have the common sense to say “well that doesn’t seem like a worthwhile place to spend our ad money.”

    7. This is what came up: It’s a novelty! That billboard tells me nothing. It’s the perfect example why QR codes aren’t relevant – there’s no context to the advertisement. If the entire city were full of these, the response would be zero. Being first on a new thing is fine, but let’s not call this good advertising any more than the first person who put a banner ad on their website.

    6. Yeah, point taken. It’s not that great, but as a patchwork solution I suppose I’ll let it slide. Assuming a brand doesn’t mind the noise of all those twists & turns around its logo.

    5. Didn’t realize there was a workaround solution, but the point is valid – smartphones still make up only a small portion of the cellphone market. It’s growing rapidly by leaps and bounds no doubt, but text / email / call is virtually ubiquitous.

    4. You can make them small, but that makes it harder for the consumer to engage with. Ultimately, my argument would be that the space could be used for other purposes more effectively. A URL, a text campaign, a certification mark, etc… The bigger the QR code, the more usable it is (I’d guess there’s someone right now testing “optimum” code sizes by medium based on response rate, and if there isn’t there should be). In the example from that magazine you RT’d, the code was the whole darn cover. An excusable novelty once.

    3. Google, Microsoft, hell I think even Yelp tried to get in the game at some point. QR’s are ugly, and people want prettier. That’s led the tech to fragment.

    2. I think the point is, it’s the wrong medium for the tech. People on their couch shouldn’t be asked to pause their DVR; and there’s no way a network should want to leave a code up long enough for someone to reach for their phone, load their reader, and take the picture. That’s 10-seconds of airtime for a couple percent of the market. Wrong medium, won’t stick.

    1. I don’t see any way for this tech to get widespread & mainstream since it has no context! (point 13…) It works fine in small doses because it’s still being played with, but imagine if everywhere we turned were QR codes. People wouldn’t know what they were receiving, and the first idiot to mis-use a QR code by redirecting a tire ad to a porn site starts the wave of “are QR codes safe for kids?” TV shows… Sorta covered 1 & 12 here.

    13. Nitpicky or not, the simple fact is that it requires adoption symmetry. You have to have both a device that can absorb the material and a way to get the material to that device.

    I want to say more but the plate is chock full – I’ll probably return to the debate later this evening. Thanks Matt – really good to share these ideas!

  3. admin April 21, 2011 4:09 pm

    QR Codes remind me of “Pogs” when I was a kid.

    Everyone thought they were this amazing thing, and then after about 6 months all of us woke up and realized “holy crap I have blown 6 months worth of allowances on cardboard.”

    Pure novelty.

    If Apple announces this summer they’re putting NFC tech in all iPhone 5’s, QR codes are done.

  4. David Wachs April 22, 2011 6:49 am

    Awesome points!!
    Sorry our captcha sucks… i’ll try to get it fixed.

    Keep fightin’ the good fight.


    • admin April 22, 2011 9:42 am

      Glad you found the blog David! I’ll do my best to keep these QR-code lovin’ riff-raff in check 😉

  5. Matt April 27, 2011 11:49 pm

    Kind of late… no worries on calling me out, I’m enjoying this conversation. :)

    11. Haha, and believe it or not, people do use them on billboards. It’s one thing to have it on a billboard with high foot traffic… it’s another thing near a freeway. PEBKAC? Or, shiny object syndrome, rather.

    10. Good point, people probably don’t know. Haha.

    8. Agreed. Some people are just messing up the experience for others. :)

    And that’s that… I think I’m going to mull it over some more. Thanks for taking the time to spell out your thoughts. I focus a little with QR codes… and when I live in my own little world, it’s sometimes unhealthy and I need outside perspective (which I’ve got a lot of from this (and SMMOC for that matter)). I’m going to reflect on this stuff some more… it’s all really good food for thoughts.

    Haha, I remember pogs. :)

    Thanks a ton! Hope to catch you at SMMOC one of these days.