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Stop Vomiting QR Codes at Me

Submitted by on Monday, 12 December 20116 Comments

Seriously. They are everywhere. They are annoying (because they are overused and misused). They serve no purpose most of the time. Most people don’t know how to use them.

Stop vomiting them on everything.

Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

QR codes can be seen everywhere, from freeway billboards, to TVs to T-shirts to business cards to soda cans.  They are now beginning to appear on packaging and in magazines. The chart below shows where consumers report seeing QR codes.

They are quickly everywhere.  The question is……

Do People Know How to Use QR Codes?

The short answer is “not really”.  Only about 50% of the population has heard of a QR code (although based on the recent surge of them you would have to live in a cave not to have seen one).

Only 28% of the population has ever scanned a QR code.

Those who have scanned QR codes report very infrequent scanning, with 80% scanning something once a month. So, even if people are scanning QR codes, it may be more out of curiosity vs. a consistent consumer behavior.

Just Because You CAN Doesn’t Mean You SHOULD. Ask Yourself WHY.

Here is the thing.  A QR code is just a simple way to access information. Rather than posting a web address, a QR code allows someone to scan a bar code with their phone as a way to call up information.

If you are using QR Codes, here are some tips not to suck at it

  • Provide a clear value proposition of WHY someone should scan your code
  • Provide an alternative for the majority of people who don’t scan
  • Make sure that it is scanable (for example on TV they don’t scan, and some billboards are too big to scan)
  • Use them in times/places where people have their phone
  • Be sure that you are bringing them to relevant content that they would want on the go or at that moment
  • Don’t use it instead of providing actual websites/information

Here are some Examples I’ve seen of Useful and Helpful QR Codes

  • To provide more information at an open house
  • On a for sale sign to get more information
  • At a music festival to get a schedule
  • At the zoo to get more info on the animals
  • On a menu to see the dish being prepared
  • Bestbuy included a QR code reader into their mobile app
  • QR codes to create augmented reality opportunities

Here are some videos with cool QR code usage.


  • Aharon said:

    Nice article, Krista. You know, outside of testing them for design purposes, I haven’t needed to engage with a QR code until last weekend. I was buying a printer, the box didn’t have all the detailed specs I needed but did have a QR code that sent me to a mobile designed site that had the information I needed. I thought to myself, “THAT is how to use them, everything else is futile”.

  • Krista Neher (author) said:


    Great example – thanks for sharing. There are LOTS of cool and relevant uses of QR Codes – sadly just not enough people using them well!- Krista

  • Ryan Hukill said:

    Spot on! Nothing worse than seeing QR codes on a website (if I’m already at your website, why would I want to pick up my iPhone and scan a QR code to be taken somewhere else on another device?) or a QR code that takes you to a website that’s not even mobile-ready. Please people, for the love of all things sacred and holy, think the entire user experience through before you go plastering QR codes everywhere! Otherwise, it’s just more spam in an already over-spammed world, and will ruin it for those of us who want consumers to scan QR codes to get real, useful, mobile-ready information.

  • Krista Neher (author) said:

    LOL – Ryan – I totally agree. QR coes seem to have a lot of novelty but not a lot of logic behind their use.

    Thanks for commenting here!

  • Martha France said:

    You are so right Krista! For example, we recently encountered a QR code in a bridal magazine for Hearts on Fire. Not only did the code not work, it linked to the code provider. Talk about confusing for the consumer! So surprising from a high end brand. If you are going to use QR codes, remember that they will probably be available in public long after your offer expires and plan accordingly.

  • Krista Neher (author) said:

    Martha – thanks for commenting here! I couldn’t agree more…. and it really is surprising to see so many big, well established companies blowing it!

    – Krista