QR codes my oh my – Is it Already Time to Say Good-Bye?

QR codes my oh my – Is it Already Time to Say Good-Bye?

The projector was white, slick, the size of a small suitcase and the coolest piece of hardware I had ever set eyes on…until I looked at the entertainment center. 

Growing up we all had this friend – The one that seemed to get it all before anyone else in the world.  My friend’s name was Jeff.  His dad owned an ad agency and they were addicted to technology (along with impressing the neighbors).

His dad’s instructions were clear as he pulled out of the drawer what looked like a hard plastic cover for an LP record. 

“Do not ever, ever, touch this.  If you want, I am more than happy to help you get this playing, but you are never to touch the player.”

Then he popped open the case and pulled out a shiny silver disc the size of a full size record.  It was a Laserdisc. 

Some of you may remember this machine unless you missed going into the home theater department for a full 6-month stretch.  If you do not remember these devices that is because they never really grabbed a hold in most markets…

It was the DVD that caused the spectacular crash of the Laser Disc player market..

There is a crack in the DVD market as well.  Sure it was more compact than the laser disc, it still has a dramatic flaw.  Before we discuss how your practice presence online might be like the Laserdisc, let’s talk about QR Codes.

This is a basic QR code:

Developed in 1994 by an employee for Toyota, to track inventory, the QR code is a simple method for sharing data.  Unlike a bar code, which requires a system with specific information related to the number code or information to recall usable information inside the bar code, a QR code holds more information in the pattern allowing it to be used by a broader system like the internet.  Anything you want to put inside the image can be recalled by a simple QR reader. 

Today you are most likely to see one of these as a marketing piece.  The QR code to the left takes you to a webpage.  The squares and pixels above spell out http://www.GetNoticedGetFound.com/QRcode

When you scan the above QR code with your mobile device (visit your online app store on your mobile and download a QR reader) you are taking directly to the website above.  These are not just for website URL’s.  You can store notes, v-cards (electronic business cards), or just about any words numbers or symbols.

Creating a QR code is free online on many sites including – http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ You just type in your URL or what information you want to display and hit generate.  These websites will then create for you a QR code with your information.

For right now QR codes are certainly something you should consider implementing.  By the end of 2011 over 50% of all cell phone users in the US will have a smart phone that is able to read QR codes.  http://www.asymco.com/2011/01/07/half-of-us-population-to-use-smartphones-by-end-of-2011-update/

So what is the right way to use a QR code and what is the Wrong way?

Seeing QR codes used the wrong way is like seeing fingernails scratch a new iPad screen.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a chalkboard so I figure that cliché is on its last legs as well. 

I estimated today on Google+ that 99% of people are miss-using QR codes.  Now I didn’t do a scientific study so don’t publish that statistic anywhere, but the truth is people just don’t get it.  There are a few key things to avoid when marketing with a QR code, some of these may seem obvious, but major brands like Best Buy and many smaller companies fall prey to these simple mistakes:

1)   Since almost 100% of people that are going to scan your QR code are using a mobile device…send them to a mobile friendly website. 

This is my #1 pet peeve! You have two options here. 

Create a mobile ready version of your website or the landing page the QR code points toward, or have a website that is easy to read on a mobile device.

If I kept a list of all the QR codes that I scan that take me to a website where the text is the size of grains of sand on my mobile device the list would stretch across the Atlantic Ocean. 

2)   Sending people to your home page from your QR code.

Why on earth would you waste such a great opportunity?  For now most people don’t know what a QR exactly does.  You should be taking advantage of people like me that get excited to scan a QR code.  We feel like we are on the inside and you must acknowledge that fact. 

A better strategy is to send your QR code to a special QR code page.  You should mention the fact this is the QR page.  This page should be mobile friendly and would be a great place for a promotional invite or material.  Even sending me to a page that asks me to connect with you on various social networks would be great. 

3)   Not double checking that the code works.

Sounds simple, but there is nothing more embarrassing than a code that won’t scan or a miss typed URL that send the scanner to a broken page or a 404.

4)   Branded QR codes are just awesome.

There is a great feature to QR codes – you can distort up to 30% of the pixels and still use the QR code.  This means you can manipulate almost 1/3 of the square code and the user can still scan the QR code and be directed to your URL of choice.

Here are a couple of cool examples of custom branded QR codes: (notice the soft edges, color, and use of images) http://mashable.com/2011/04/18/qr-code-design-tips/

And with all good things, eventually they must come to an end.

Like the DVD that will eventually fall to online streaming of video and storage devices that play your videos on your TV the QR code will not be around forever. 

In fact the technology is already here, and being used on smart phones, that will render QR codes unnecessary – Recognition Software

You can already take a picture of someone and find them on all their social networks, or point your phone to the night sky and get all the information about each constellation.  Pretty soon you will be able to take a picture of anything and get results on your phone.

See a printer at a friend’s house and you are interested in ordering one.  Take a picture and all the machine information plus several places to order one online will pop up on your screen.  Need to know that name of a building, snap a photo, maybe you want to send a message to the cab company telling them you just left your wallet in the cab, snap a photo real quick and be connected to that exact company.

Fairly soon (within 5 years) you will be able to take a picture of a logo and brand and be directed to a specific website URL.  Now 5 years in my educated guess.  The issue is not rather you should or shouldn’t use QR codes, of course you should, the real question is are you going to be ready for the new marketing mediums of tomorrow? 


I come across firms all the time that are in the same situation Laserdisc was in years ago…next blog post we will uncover what are signs you are about to be past up, how you can get more market share, and avoid becoming extinct before you get started.  


Got any questions or comments about QR codes?  Let us know, leave a comment.


  1. 1) If people don’t know what a QR Code is, bisacally they don’t even see it. Some are even thinking it’s used for internal purpose, as barcodes are. False. All young (<30) people know what QR codes are. QR codes are spreading, and it's only a matter of a couple of years for everybody to know how to use/scan QRCodes."2) If people know what a QR Code is, then they have no idea what reader they should use or what content they’ll get."Ok, but will they know that Castorama or any other client using Moodstocks APIs have themselves an application to recognize the items they want to buy ?As you can see, same problem for Moodstocks-powered apps and QRcodes Readers !And if Castorama advertised their app, close to the item (like "download our app on iTunes!"), why wouldn't they simply put a QRCode on this item, redirecting to their mobile website ??Furthermore, we can imagine that someday, QRCode scanning will be embedded in the iPhone Camera app, don't you think ? Hard to make it more simple : ONE protocol (the QRCode), in the OS."So a lonely QR Code won’t make it."Wrong. (IMO) : See my answer to point 1)People will have to download and use dozens of Moodstocks-powered apps AND CHOOSE THE APPROPRIATE APP DEPENDING OF THE NATURE OF THE ITEM TO SCAN ?Nonsense. I am too lazy for that I'd prefer to launch my camera Apple app on my iphone, scan the QRCode and being automatically redirected to the appropriate mobile website (or maybe app?). Because i am LAZY. (And I don’t want to wait. I want the information, and fast please.)Now take a real use case.In your youtube video showing the usage of Moodstocks APIs in the Gaumont Pathe9 app, the guy has to :1) take out his smartphone out of his pocket.2) Launch the Gaumont pathe9 app (not the Allocine9 one, be careful!!). Let's assume that the guy is smart and knows that this movie is screened in Gaumont/Pathe9 cinemas. So he launches the Gaumont/Pathe9 app 3) Go the the scan button.4) Carefully frame the poster, hope that there are not too many reflections on the glass protected the poster, hope that the exposure/contrast will be ok (f*** this is not a backlighted advertisement poster!), hope that the pic will not be blurred, etc 5) Wait 'til the Moodstocks APIs search and find the item. And we know it can be long. And we know it can fail (image recognition is still a difficult task)6) Finally get the info. Ooch.How I’d like things to happen ? :1) I take out my smartphone out of my pocket.2) I Launch the Apple/Android Camera app3) I barely/loosely frame the QRCode. A QRCode is black & white, so no need to worry about the contrast. QRcodes have distinguishable shapes (rectangles, triangles, …) so no need to worry if I move a little bit…4) Apple software notifies me that it has recognized a QRCode and can redirect me to an URL in Safari Mobile5) I get the info. Nice. Simple. I am not too tired.How I’d really do things in the real world, if I came across a poster of a movie I am interested in :1) I’d launch the Allocine app (because _it is known for_ having a pretty good database !!)2) I’d begin to type the name (because afterall the best scanner/reader are my eyes+brain) of the movie. No need to type the whole name, allocine9 app has already found it ! Great !3) I have the info.This is the fastest way to get what I am interested in : info about this movie. BECAUSE I AM LAZY (As you can see, we don’t always need QRCodes…)Make it simple. Dead Simple. Ubiquitous computing what we are all running after must be simple, dead simple. Because we are lazy. And impatient.

  2. Thanks Patrick for contributing.I agree with you when you say that both QR Code and image cgioenitron are tools that can be used in a good or a bad way. Howewer, as tools, they are not totally neutral and influence the way marketers design an interactive campaign. My point with this article was to show that thinking that a QR Code is a call-to-action (and that nothing else is needed) is a mistake and can influence the quality of some QR Codes campaigns. On the contrary, with image cgioenitron and the invisible QR Code things are clear and so brands have no choice but to understand that they have to design a good call to action if they want people to scan (and they definitely know how to do it).But that’s definely just one point amongst many that differentiate image-recognition from QR Codes. And I totally agree that both have their positive/negative aspects.I would love to continue the discussion if you want. Don’t hesitate to drop me a line or two on this blog or by mail. Also, if you happen to come to Paris soon, tell me so that we could meet up.Cheers,Cle9ment


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