Better Ways To Use QR Codes (and Save a Kitten)

[tweetmeme source=”rhondahurwitz” only_single=false]Who uses QR codes?

According to recent studies by Comscore and Pew, only 6% of mobile phone users scan QR codes, even though 87% use their phone to access the Internet.  QR code users are more likely to be male, young to middle-age and upper income.

With such low adoption rates, what’s the fuss about QR codes, and why write about them?

Recently, I came across a remarkable video of QR code use with amazing business results:

Use of QR codes by Tesco/Korea

What can we learn from this?  This video reminds us that technology is simply an enabler; when marketers combine technology with consumer insight, it’s a win!

Guidelines for Using QR Codes

Instead of slapping a QR code on every consumer touchpoint, find situations where this technology can add real value.  Here are some examples:

1.  Support your brand:  I like this Patagonia ad for many reasons, but I especially like how it uses a QR code (bottom right) to support a call to action (take the Common Threads initiative pledge) that ties into the brand’s promise.  Nice!

2.  Provide a Rewarding Experience:  Asking someone to scan your QR code is asking them to do extra work.  Put yourself in the shoes of the user.  What’s the “payoff”?  Is it worth pulling out your phone?

Consider using a QR code to link to the following:

    • valuable content (free downloads, videos, etc.)
    • a special offer, coupon or gift
    • a contest, instant win promotion, etc.
    • to demonstrate a product or service (like a real estate tour!)
    • exclusive VIP access or offer
    • customer reviews at point of purchase, post sale product support, etc.
    • Note: and provides a QR code that you can scan to create facebook likes — a useful application in certain situations.  

QR codes are everywhere, but shouldn’t be.  If you ask consumers to use a QR code, make it worth their while.

Three QR Code Don’ts  

    • Don’t link to a page that creates a poor user experience.  At the risk of stating the obvious, make sure that the URL you link to is optimized for mobile, since that’s how your user will be viewing it.
    • Don’t be boring .  Engage and delight your user, or why bother?
    • Don’t screw up the execution.  Test, to ensure codes are scannable in the environment where they are likely be used (no subways!)

Use QR Codes Correctly … Or a Kitten Dies!

Scott Stratten of Unmarketing explains the dangers of thoughtless QR code marketing.  He explains the problem (and the solution) better than I ever could:

The problem with QR codes

PS – This must be “Save a Kitten Month”.  The photo accompanying this post is from a recent Mike Volpe Hubspot webinar ;  according to Mike, we’d better get marketing automation right, also … or more kittens will die!

Bottom Line:  QR technology still has pretty narrow appeal — but if you create a worthwhile experience, provide an incentive, or make life easier for the end user, it can be a marketing win.

Share any examples of QR codes you love  … or, personal experiences with QR codes that were disappointing!

Make my day … leave a comment!  And, stop by and say hi on my facebook page, where I share marketing tips, opinions, and news.  Thanks!


About Rhonda Hurwitz

Rhonda Hurwitz is a content strategist and marketing consultant who helps mid-sized businesses develop more effective online strategies. @rhondahurwitz on Twitter, and on
This entry was posted in marketing communications, marketing technology, mobile marketing, QR codes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Better Ways To Use QR Codes (and Save a Kitten)

  1. Johannes says:


    Thanks for great summary about QR Codes 🙂 . The key to a successful QR Code campaign so that people scan as well as buy in is simple: provide consumer benefit. If you create a Code that when scanned directs people to your generic .COM website they will never scan again. These companies claim that QR Codes don’t work… That’s like saying that social media is useless after playing around with Twitter for a week.

    The solution is to create a Code that you can schedule in advance, that is, so you can gear the content/information differently during different parts of the day. You can do that with our service .

    Thanks again for a great article as well as for linking to one of our articles.

    • I found your site very helpful in researching this blog post, and you sum it up perfectly: provide consumer benefit. Now why did I take 500 words when you said it in 3? JK … Thanks for your comment.

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