English articles, QR, Top Tasks

Why QR-codes too often are counterproductive

You know the situation: you point your smartphone to one of these QR codes on a billboard, a wrapping or an ad in a magazine, and you get perfect marketing blabla as a result. That’s not the way mobile content should work, indeed. And American research now confirms it: QR codes have little impact on shoppers.

Catapult Action-Biased Marketing in the US did some research on the impact of QR codes. In Mediapost, Brian Cohen, director of digital shopper marketing, tells this about the results:

  • not everyone has a smartphone yet, and so the message to others is: “you can’t play”, not really a stimulating message
  • however, the use of the codes by smartphone owners has dropped to 20% in recent months
  • and too often, the content delivered to whoever uses the QR code is disappointing.

Offline marketing is about getting attention, online marketing about paying attention – one of these one-liners by Gerry McGovern (@gerrymcgovern) that are painfully true.

Applied to QR codes, this line means that the QR code can be used to get the attention, even in the relatively small population of smartphone users.
However, once you have the attention, the marketing should stop and usefulness should be delivered, and attention should be paid.

So, if the QR code just leads to a web page or mobile page with hero shots and general marketing blabla, then the impact on the shopper is not small, but negative.

QR codes will only have impact if the destination is useful, giving extra facts and product specifications, or an attractive game or other content that can be used to do something. For the person who did the effort to scan the code and to go to that page, that person has started on a task journey. Maybe the task is merely to satisfy curiosity, but it can be more than that: preparing a purchase, of checking whether a purchase could make sense.

If you disappoint this person in his or her task journey, you loose the whole marketing story. Even in the next visit, if there will ever be one.

QR codes are no gimmick. A QR code is a link, and every link is a promise. A promise of more usefulness. A promise to someone who is trying to get a task done. Read Gerry about links

And so the billboard or the wrapping or the magazine with the QR code is the tool of getting the attention. Paying attention starts the moment the QR code is being scanned. Because then the user starts doing something.

Continue reading A QR is a link, it needs a relevant landing page


About Toon Lowette

Customer is not king on the internet, he is dictator. Online services are successful if they allow the customer to do what he came for efficiently and without confusion. Toon Lowette is online publishing consultant in the Customer Carewords network of Gerry McGovern. Task management is the central issue. We teach websites to manage the task, not the content, not the technology. We teach websites to become relentlessly customer centric.



  1. Pingback: A QR is a link, it needs a relevant landing page « Toon Lowette – Netspanning - 16 March 2012

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