QR codes are useless

27 Oct

Should I care about QR codes? I posited the question on Twitter today…and it seems I shouldn’t care. I’m glad to know I’m not alone.

QR codes (or quick-response codes) are like barcodes that can be scanned by a mobile device’s camera and read with an app. As I understand it (and I don’t understand much about these types of things), the cool-looking black squares can be encoded to include any kind of data. They can be used to direct someone to a website, contact information or a map, product details, a coupon, a Facebook fan page and more.

The first time I saw a QR code was about a year ago on a business card for a tech startup. I didn’t and still don’t have a QR code reader on my smartphone so I never bothered to scan that card to see where it took me, but I’d put money on it being a direct link to the guy’s website. Big whoop. That saves me maybe 2 seconds of entering the address into my web browser.

Marketers are now putting these pesky buggers everywhere. They show up frequently on magazine pages, but who reads printed media anymore? I can just touch a link to the same content on my iPad newsstand magazine. I’ve noticed them on the windows of restaurants and retail shops, but then I’m on the move and can’t be bothered to stop and scan with the hopes it yields something worthwhile. I even hear they have a giant one on top of a barn targeted to airplane passengers. I won’t even touch that silliness.

Until today, I thought I was just a non-geek who didn’t get QR codes. Perhaps these ugly black boxes are really cool and I’m missing out on something awesome. Researching for this blog, however, I found out I’m not alone. Even some tech-savvy marketing folks agree with me. From memeburn: “QR codes are not the Next Big Thing (at least, not yet).” Even better, from iMediaConnection: “From the relative lack of public understanding of what they even are, to the dearth of creativity in their usage, the QR code is destined to become just the little box that geek built.”

My sentiments exactly. Can’t we just agree to stop already with QR codes? Yes, they are nifty and new but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are helpful or worthwhile. Until someone can show me value in stopping to scan that little black box when I’m reading a flyer, walking down the street, or flying in an airplane, I’m not downloading a damn QR reader.


6 Responses to “QR codes are useless”

  1. Mike Naughton October 27, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    I thought it was a nifty feature to put on the back of my business card because it does actually make it easier to read contact data into a phone. Beyond that, there might be some attractive mystery/curiosity component that marketers recognize, but why not just print out a sign?

  2. CF Gurney October 27, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    The big issue is that by indiscriminately plastering them on EVERYTHING, marketers have devalued them to the point where the average person has the same opinion as you. And the stats support that – com score reported that only 6% of US smartphone users scanned a code in June of this year. But…

    There have been and will be some interesting uses. In Japan (where they started see this for a very clever use by Disney Japan http://blog.cliffano.com/2009/05/18/qr-code-usage-in-japan/ ) and Europe, the use is more widespread – people get it. And we’re trying to educate marketers (http://torsionmobile.com/?p=780) on what and what not to do. Our CTO gave a talk just today on that very topic (http://torsionmobile.com/?p=920).

    But I can understand your position on them absolutely.

    • bmollenkamp October 27, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

      I would love to have seen Cade’s talk, Christian. Looks interesting. I am an average tech user (masquerading in the tech world as someone who “gets it”) and I hate seeing something with great potential be squandered. I hope you can help steer people in the right direction before public perception is so bad QR codes can’t be saved.

  3. Lindsey October 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    The kids put them on their club posters with videos and scan another and they will add the meetings to your calendar.

  4. Mark October 27, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    I would think a memorable, short web address would be more effective and ensure more repeat traffic

  5. Elizabeth Maple November 4, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

    I didn’t even know they had a name before I read this blog. Now I really don’t care. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: