Top 11 Reasons Why QR Codes Suck

Aside from some retailers offering immediate discounts (“Scan for a gift card in a random amount.”) or publishers trying to get you hooked on a new novel (“Scan for the first chapter.”), we rarely see examples of a good implementation of the technology in the wild.

But alas, QR codes have somehow become a necessary evil—generally included in a project because the client thinks they’re mysterious and high-tech. Well, they’re not. So next time your client asks to include a QR code, feel free to pass along the Top 11 Reasons Why QR Codes Suck:

11. It’s dependent technology. QR codes rely on good (read: great) data coverage on the user’s mobile phone. Are you really going to trust Big Wireless with anything except screwing you on upgrades?

10. They’re dangerous. Who are the geniuses putting QR codes on moving vehicles and highway billboards?

9. They’re a waste of space. That’s real estate that could be used for more compelling creative content (and pretty much anything is more compelling than a bunch of black and white squares).

8. They confuse your CTA. Calls-to-action should be simple, like “visit”, not nebulous like a mystery portal to who-knows-where.

7. They are doubly(!) dependent technology! There are a million different scanning apps, and most of them are buggy. Don’t leave your ad at the mercy of a technology that’s been proven…to consistently fail.

6. The odds are against you. Only 35% of U.S. adults own smartphones (and even fewer have scanning apps), which means you are cutting, a good portion of the population completely out of the equation.

5. They’re an afterthought. Most marketers just slap them on ads with no context—so you don’t know what you’re getting into when you scan it.

4. They’re actually anti-mobile. So you’re saying that busy people are going to stop mid-stride, pull out their phone or get off their current call, download a scanning app, scan the code, and then wait for your content. Good luck with that.

3. They lack track-ability. Because they’re essentially just a fancy link, without a unique landing page dedicated to the code, those hits to your website appear the same way as any old mobile web visit.

2. They’re confusing! For instance, 79% of college students have no idea how to scan a QR code*— and they’re one of the most tech-savvy audiences out there.

1. There’s no proof they even exist. Think about it—have you ever seen someone whip out their phone and scan a QR code in public? Thought not.



2 thoughts on “Top 11 Reasons Why QR Codes Suck

  1. wrong. wrong. and wrong. they’re a very handy technology for the tech-forward and tech-savvy market. sure, some people don’t know how to use them. but there was also a time when URLs were confusing, it was 1996. stay on top of emerging technology and you’ll stay ahead of your competition. if you’re marketing to monkeys, then you can leave them out of your ad.

    1. @Dave,

      There are some reasons to use QR codes (such as the examples we listed in our post), but in our experience the vast majority of marketers are using QR codes because they are trendy, not because they actually make sense for a given campaign.

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