3 Reasons Why You Should NOT Use QR Codes

This post was updated in 2015.

Over the past few months I have noticed a growth in the use of QR codes in advertising from construction companies, especially by those who advertise in RCI Mag for some reason. I personally think QR codes are great and a very innovative way to deliver specific messages and add value to the user, customer or prospect. I just want to repeat the phrase again  ‘and add value to the user, customer or prospect’! One more time ‘and add value to the user, customer or prospect’!

Ok, so I’m not going to go into how it all works but what I do want to highlight are 3 good reasons why I think you should not use QR codes as part of your online marketing campaigns. Here we go:

Reason number 1: You just don’t get it!

From what I have seen so far on the usage of QR codes in the construction industry, I have seen more poor implementations than good. Maybe it’s just that marketers want to look like they’re creating something new and exciting and slowly moving away from those dull, boring direct mail pieces. Maybe they just want to bring their advertising campaigns to life by adding some new technologies to it and give the reader a new experience. Far from it.

An example. A few months back I picked up a copy of RCI mag and flicked through taking note of all the adverts (ignoring the uses of cliches in advertising like a handshake, light bulb and rubik’s cube) and noticed a well known products brand within the construction industry using a QR code on their full page print advert. I quickly (yes quickly) grabbed my phone, activated my QR code scanner app on my iPhone and zapped the QR code.

I waited in excitement for my phone to load and hoped that this was going to load up something good! Big brand, good marketing…must be good.

I was left disappointed. What loaded on my phone was the homepage of the company website. To add to my disappointment the website was not mobile friendly. Not very well thought through in my opinion. Why? Why not load up a nice mobile friendly website with a mobile video showcasing their latest range of products? Or a mobile friendly landing page with a quick form to download the product brochure? Ah, I know, they just don’t get it.

Here is another QR code fail example as tweeted by a friend @snowarchitects:

Poor placement of QR code

In order to use QR codes you need to be standing still as you will be required to scan a code. You’ll also need a mobile phone with a QR code scanner app pre-loaded and, most importantly, you’ll need a mobile or wi-fi signal. So the example above was a complete fail!

Reason number 2: Your customers don’t know what they are yet

QR code uptake is still in its infancy in the construction industry and marketers, especially B2B marketers, are still getting to grips with ways of using QR codes to create demand for products and increase interactions at various touch points. If QR codes are a new technology for construction marketers, imagine your customers! I wonder how many marketers had researched into mobile usage by their customers and what sort of levels their current website traffic is generated from mobile devices prior to the use of QR codes. Is it on the up? Are you seeing an increase in the use of mobiles to access information from your website?

Are you seeing an increase in mobile traffic to your website?

Reason number 3: You are not providing any value!

Going back to my example at the beginning of a QR code used on an advertisement where I was left disappointed. There was nothing in it for me. It completely ruined the creative used in the advertising campaign and made me wonder how this sort of stuff gets approved by the Directors. Why take me to your website which I cannot view on a mobile device and then make me look for the product which you are advertising? Why not take me directly to the product page?

If you’re intending to use QR codes in the future remember to think beyond the placement of the QR code. Think about what the user will see on their mobile device and what information you will provide at the end. What problem are you trying to solve for the user and what will their experience be?


Use of QR codes on product packaging

A client of ours is using QR codes on the packaging for a specific product. We were able to show an increase in traffic from mobile devices to the website over a 8-12 month period. This mobile traffic was coming from Google in the main and a majority of the search phrases used began with ‘how do I install…‘ or ‘how to…‘ which gave us a clue that it may be on-site contractors who required detailed information on product installation methods. As a result, QR codes are now printed on the product packaging taking on-site contractors directly to a mobile friendly detailed installation video in relation to their search queries. The use of a QR codes here serves a purpose. It solves a problem and it adds value to the user. Some may prefer to read the installation manual but some may prefer to watch and learn.

When used appropriately, QR codes should aim to to solve a problem. IKEA also include QR codes on product packaging to show people how to assemble and install their products and recruitment agencies now use QR codes to enable job seekers to directly apply for jobs via their mobile device.

To wrap up my rant, I’ll leave you with some positive pointers:

  • Do your research. Find some data points which backs up your requirement for the use of QR codes to address a particular problem.
  • Provide value. Ensure that the user gets something different if they scan your QR code such as a discount code or information which is of value.
  • Think about the experience. From seeing the print advert or billboard to viewing the website/landing page to viewing the downloadable guide. Think about the entire user journey.
  • Optimise your technical documents. If you are promoting a technical document then make sure that all technical documents are viewable on a mobile device and easy to read.

Have you got any examples (good or bad) of how QR codes are being used in the construction industry?

About Stuart Dinnie

Stuart has worked in the world of digital marketing for over 15 years. With his measured and planned approach, he has delivered robust digital strategies for construction companies to achieve real business growth. He now heads up the team at Pauley Creative as Managing Director and is leading his team & clients towards digital marketing excellence. He’s worked with over 100 construction clients; helping them on their digital transformation journey, providing sustainable strategies that return year on year incremental growth, delivering award-winning websites and adding value from board level to marketing assistant.

3 Responses to “3 Reasons Why You Should NOT Use QR Codes”

  1. Anna Talerico

    Great post Pritesh, I agree on all points! We can’t do QR codes just to do them, they have to provide value. And they have to take context into consideration—the visitor will be mobile!!

  2. Lorna

    In many ways I completely agree with this, and yes it is annoying when a brand uses a QR code and all you get it taken to their website homepage. However, I have seen some really good uses of QR codes – such as in Marie Claire magazine, hair brand Kérastase used their QR code to take you to a landing page including videos with styling tips and best use of their products. I think if you want to link to a great new landing page they’re an excellent way to tell people about the site, if you’re just using them to direct to a homepage then you shouldn’t bother!


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