Quick Response to 5 Most Common QR Code Critics

April 26, 2014

WHEN IT COMES to QR Code Marketing, debates between detractors and supporters are often very passionate.

Before landing on our blog, you may have been looking for “QR Codes” on search engines. You surely noticed some articles were taking down the utility of QR Codes for marketers. Some arguments used may have scared you, or worse, discouraged you to incorporate those little magic square codes in your marketing strategy.

But we ought to go back to the facts, and this is what we intend to do today – so we’re glad you stumbled across this article!

QR Codes, the true story behind the love-hate relationship

Mobile Marketing Blog_QR Codes

Sure we can’t say we’re impartial, as offering great QR Code services to marketers is part of our business. Plus, we love QR Codes at Unitag, we really do. Why? Because we’re convinced that they are a simple, yet very useful marketing tool – when used properly – and that QR Codes are here to stay, alongside with new mobile technologies.

However, let’s take a step back to try to understand the uncalled hostility to QR Codes and consider each critic from a user’s point of view. To do so, we used the expertise we have gained from the 1.3M QR Codes generated on our platform and from our successful client case studies.

Just take a look below at our “Quick Responses” to the 5 most common critics against QR Codes. And make sure to follow the helpful and easy tips from each argument to maximize the potential of QR Codes: why not print the cheat sheet at the end of this post for your next campaign?

#1 “QR Codes are ugly”

Well, this argument may have been true 3 years ago, when QR Codes were only available in black and white and could detract from your brand’s look and feel.

This is precisely the reason why we created Unitag back in 2011! With the first online design QR Code generator, our goal was to enable marketers and advertisers to easily customize the logo, colors and shapes of these 2D codes to match branding guidelines.

QR Codes do not have to look boring anymore. Design QR Codes now catch the attention and become full part of brand designs. They can even turn into true pieces of artwork – without the help of a designer!

Our QR Tip:

Unitag Mobile Marketing Blog_QR Codes can be design

The 1st designer QR code by Takashi Murakami for Louis Vuitton, Japan 2009.


#2 “No one scans QR Codes”

Sure, QR Codes here in Europe or the United States aren’t as popular as in Japan, where 60% of smartphone owners scan QR Codes, or in China with 9 million QR Codes being scanned every month.

China Monthly QR Codes Scanned_Unitag Mobile Marketing Blog

However, many surveys report that QR Codes are rapidly gaining in popularity, following the exploding worldwide smartphone adoption. An Adobe Mobile Consumer sur­vey 2013 found that “37% of young and 32% of mid­dle seg­ments have scanned QR codes in the past three months” in the US, and approximately 2.75 million Americans scan QR Codes at least once a day (Arbitron and Edison research)! As for Europe, there are 17.4 million people in the top 5 countries who have scanned a QR Code, according to Comscore.

Yet, like for any new technology, there are still non-savvy consumers who do not know how to use a QR Code. And like for any standard marketing operation, you will need to convince people to scan your code in the first place. Give them a reason to scan your QR code, such as “Scan to get your coupon”, “Scan to enter the contest”, “Scan to find a store near you”, “Scan & follow for our latest news”, “Scan & watch the video” or “Scan this code for more infos”.

Our QR Tips:

To boost your QR Code scans, make sure:

  • to add a simple call-to-action teasing the benefits of scanning your codes: why should I scan this QR Code?
  • to guide your consumers to action and address novice QR Code users, with a short how-to statement: how should I use this QR Code?

And the basic rule to guarantee your campaign success: make it easy for everyone, keep it simple!


#3 “QR Code campaigns don’t work”

More than 225K QR code scans for Taco Bell’s 2013 exclusive video campaign (US), 20K referrals for Turkish Airlines thanks to their 2012 QR Code scavenger hunt (UK), more than 12,000 coupons and +25% sales increase from the creative Emart shadow QR Code (South Korea), $35,000 revenue from the $1,000 in-store campaign of Verizon, +49% online store visitors and twofold increase in sales for Lego QR advert on MyToy.de (Germany), etc.

QR Code Campaign Taco Bell’s 2013

Taco Bell’s 2013 successful QR Code campaign.

A bunch of successful case studies and 95% marketers claiming QR Code campaigns were effective prove QR Codes do work.

Indeed, QR Codes have some amazing potential as a tool for marketers:

  • they offer endless possibilities for just any marketing purpose – take a look at our Top 10 Smart QR Code Marketing Ideas
  • they are easy-to-use and inexpensive
  • they can be used to track the ROI of print marketing channels in real-time thanks to detailed scanning statistics, e.g. to instantly measure the real impact of your magazine advertisements, collect essential consumer data such as geolocation and device, or detect the most effective channels for your promotion campaign using distinct QR Codes.

However, these benefits which made their success might have harmed them in some way. Many marketers and advertisers overuse QR Codes, placing them anywhere, but merely as a link to a homepage, without thinking about relevance or context. And this leads to some bad or absurd QR Code campaigns out there.

We often tend to neglect that QR Codes are a simple trigger bridging the gap between the offline and mobile world. This is the marketer’s role to create the experience and provide something worthwhile behind to connect and engage consumers!

Our QR Tips:

Keep in mind that content and context are key, so stop using QR Codes without thinking of user-centric content first:

  • Provide a real added-value to your customers with compelling context-dependent mobile experiences.
  • Link your codes to actionable mobile websites dedicated to your campaign.
  • And place your campaign in an appropriate way to make your QR Code work!


#4 “QR Codes are not safe”

According to detractors, QR Codes are facing security issues, leading smartphone scanners to malicious websites.

One can’t deny the fact that QR Codes, like any other mobile and web technology, can sometimes be misused. Still, there are some simple ways to avoid these bad experiences and help protect users’ smartphone security.

A lot of QR Code reader apps, such as QR Code Scanner display the end URL before loading the destination page, letting the users decide whether they want to proceed or not.

Best Practices QR Codes, Unitag Mobile Marketing Blog

Our QR Tips:

  • Recommend to your consumers a QR Code reader with URL preview and place the app’s download link next to your QR Code. By doing so, you also show that you care about novice users that haven’t installed a QR Code scanner on their smartphone yet.
  • If you are using a shortened URL, mention the link next to your code to clear any doubt. This is also a way to prevent any reading trouble with your QR Code!
  • Preferably, use your own domain or mention your brand name in the shortened link of the QR Code, allowing users to easily do the match.


#5 “QR Codes will soon disappear, being replaced by NFC or Beacons”

From year to year, we keep hearing that QR Codes will soon be obsolete, eclipsed by newer technologies. We heard that too when Microsoft tags were launched – and, well, QR Codes are still around!

Every new mobile technology brings its own benefits: Near Field Communication (NFC) enables large data transfer from a single tap without any mobile app needed, Image recognition combined with Augmented Reality (AR) creates beautiful mobile experiences based on the real world, whereas Bluetooth Low Energy and iBeacon grants similar possibilites as Geofencing to push relevant information onto consumers’ smartphones in the right place, etc.

Yet, they will not replace the good old QR Code.

Since their arrival in 2010  QR Codes have gained a big advance in terms of use and popularity. As an open-source technology, they can be used by anyone without any licence fee and can be created at no cost for private or marketing use. They are compatible with all mobile OS and devices and do not need any additional chip or hardware to be scanned. All this helped these 2D squares to be widely recognized as a symbol by users.

At Unitag, we do not even see this as a competition.

Instead, we’re convinced that mixing NFC, iBeacon and image recognition with QR Codes will become the winning lot for marketers in the future.

Combine QR Codes, NFC, Beacons, AR for your Mobile Marketing, Unitag Mobile Marketing BlogTaking advantage of each technology will allow to connect with users in many different ways and reach a wider audience, to bring enhanced experience and to run even more powerful and engaging mobile marketing campaigns!

We will go deeper into this topic in a next post, with a detailed characteristics comparison and application examples for each mobile technology. Stay tuned!


Our QR Tips:

  • If you have the opportunity, do not hesitate to add different mobile triggers to your QR Code campaign to address more savyy customers and create full innovative mobile experiences they will associate to your brand.

Now becoming more design and sophisticated, QR Codes will definitely continue to be a valuable, universal and powerful tool to connect and engage with consumers. 

The greatest challenge for marketers will be in leveraging their full potential. So it is up to you to use QR Codes effectively! For this purpose, we have listed for you all the tips discussed above in a handy ready-to-print tip sheet:

At a glance: 5 Quick Tips to learn from QR Code detractors
Click the image below to download your QR Code cheat sheet

5 Quick Tips for your QR Code Marketing

 Tweet these QR Tips!Tweet this!

Do you have any thoughts to share about QR Codes? Leave us a comment below, we’ll be happy to answer all your questions!

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Photo Credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/schani/13121506/ – http://www.blogcatalog.com/directory/technology/mobile/

About the author:

Sophie Descarrega

Thanks for reading! After 6 years in Germany helping brands and retailers to engage on Web & Mobile, I'm now enjoying the startup way-of-life at Unitag. When not working on leading our communication and social media efforts or exploring the blogosphere, I love socializing (IRL), tasting wines in Bordeaux and watching Zombie movies. Let's connect!