Where NOT to Use a QR Code

We’ve all seen QR codes plastered across magazines, direct mailings, store windows, and more. Now that Americans are used to seeing these codes, we’re also used to seeing them used incorrectly.

One of my favorite authors, Scott Stratten of Unmarketing, even said, “Every time you use a QR code for something and don’t think it through, a kitten dies.” Maybe that’s true; let’s hope not. It sure does make people like me cringe when we see them used incorrectly though.

Below are some tips and pointers on where not to use QR codes.

Don’t Use QR Codes…

1. On a moving vehicle – Talk about a safety hazard! I have seen QR codes as bumper stickers and branded wraps on vehicles and trucks. Why? Because whoever thought this was a great idea didn’t take the time to think it through. While you could use this for a cool purpose (say a food truck and a QR code that when scanned takes the visitor to the food truck’s online menu and a schedule of where they are going to be), many aren’t used properly. Your customers don’t want to (and shouldn’t) scan your code while they are driving.

2. In an email – A huge segment of the population now uses email on their smartphone. So what’s the point of including a QR code in an email? It’s already on our phones. Unless your customer is the type to have multiple phones, please don’t use a QR code in an email blast.

3. With no mobile website – The whole point of QR codes is to take the user to some sort of digital content. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly and you have a QR code I hope you’re sticking your foot in your mouth.

4. On clothing – Do you really want someone pointing their phone at your chest or stomach? Probably not. QR codes also need to lie flat in order to be scanned. The human body is full of curves so this just isn’t a good idea.

5. In public restrooms – Having people whip out their cell phones in a public restroom makes the rest of us feel uneasy. Have you ever been using a public restroom when your stall-mate is talking on the phone? It’s just gross. Please keep the germs in the bathroom and don’t encourage people to use their phones while visiting the loo.

6. In the subway – Spending your marketing budget on QR codes where your users don’t have a clear cell phone signal and access to internet is pointless. Most subway stations and tunnels don’t have cell phone service.

7. On food – If your code is too small chances are a smartphone can’t scan it. A friend of mine said she found QR codes on a straw. While a cool idea, it’s impossible to scan anything that small. On the other hand, I have seen very clever QR codes on beer pint glasses.

8. On your skin – For obvious reasons, please don’t get a QR code tattoo. Chances are it won’t work and you’ll be stuck with a silly pop culture tattoo when you are old and gray.

9. On airline magazines – Passengers read these magazines in the air while they don’t have cell service. Unless the flight your ad is on is one lucky enough to offer Wi-Fi, please don’t include QR codes in airline magazines.

10. On a TV commercial – This one is also silly. By the time a viewer decides to whip out their phone, open a QR code screening app, and steady it over your code, your commercial is already over and done with.

In conclusion, please think of the poor kittens everywhere and stop using QR codes without first thinking of how they will be used and why they are being used. QR codes can be brilliant if used properly.

Lastly, to brighten your day, check out Scott Strattern’s QR code rant. Enjoy!