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Are QR Codes Dead?


If QR codes are already dead, its epitaph would read “we hardly knew ye.” It seems like just yesterday that someone was explaining a QR code to me, and I’m a pretty tech-savvy person. I know that some of my less Internet-y friends don’t understand or use them, my sister doesn’t even have a smartphone, and at BlogWorld, a group of us were actually talking about how the scanning aps we have don’t work very well, so we don’t scan them very often.

So are QR codes already dead? Is this a failed technology that we should put in the “it was a cool idea that never really panned out” pile?

Recently, Dave Wieneke from AdAge wrote a piece entitled “Why Marketers Shouldn’t Waste Their Time With QR Codes.” It’s hard to disagree with his claims – that marketers love them more than consumers do. They’re overused and often just lead consumers to more advertising, which is turning off anyone who has decided to check out what this QR thing is all about.

Not everyone agrees with Wieneke, of course. On ClickZ, Melinda Krueger argues a case for QR codes and if you do a quick Google search for “cool QR codes” you’ll come up with tons of results for people and companies using them in really unique ways. At BlogWorld LA 2011, Peter Shankman actually used the Stefan Pinto ad pictured at right to highlight smart advertising – it’s an example of a QR code used in a really funny way.

But there are a lot of people misusing QR codes, and it’s perhaps making them irrelevant for all of us. I can’t tell you how many times I see QR codes on websites. Really? That doesn’t even make sense. Or when I scan a code, it often takes me to the company home page. So what? I could have found you easily online after shopping…a QR code wasn’t necessarily. There was no “next step” for users (like “liking” a Facebook page) or benefit (like getting a coupon for some free products).

I don’t think QR codes are dead…yet. They are perhaps in the hospital bed, but the disease isn’t incurable if we take action. What do you think? Are QR codes on the way out? Do you use them for your website or business? As a consumer, do you scan them when you see them as part of marketing campaigns?


  • Bucksome

    I can’t stand the QR codes everywhere. Why make it harder for me to get the info?

    • allison_boyer

      @Bucksome I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to bad QR code use. If it makes it harder for the user to get the information, it’s not being used well. QR codes (and all tech really) should be used to make things easier for the consumer, not just because the tech is available.

  • brentsells

    No… QR Codes are far from dead. Ask our 26k customers af DoggieQR.com We laser etch QR codes in stainless pst id tags and point to ths pets personal web page.

  • blogworld

    QR codes for for pet id tags sounds like a pretty darn good idea actually.

    • larakulpa

      @blogworld I agree that is a great idea – if only people knew to use them. If my father, for example, found a dog with a QR code on a dog, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. He’d probably just think it was some kind of “new art design”.

      I think QR codes could have their place, but I can’t tell you how many times I have to answer the “What the heck is that?” question from just about everyone I know (offline, of course).

      • brentsells

        We deal with that a couple ways. The back of the tag is engraved with instructions. Also, if the rescuer doesn’t have a smart phone (by 2015 – 200 million will), the instructions say to plug the visable 7 digit serial number into our website and they will receive the info.

        You’re also right on the “demo” front. It’s like making 2 sales when we sell one to individuals that are not computer literate or are of an age group out of the 24 to 48 that we target. One is “Wahet is this?” and the other that its to convince it’s a good enough idea to buy. We deal with that by not advertising with Google adwords but a much more refined demo of Facebook. We can exactly target the demo here and really anyone with a FB account is going to be fairly computer literate.

        What is really needed is a good “This is a QR code” campaign. No one will do it though as the owner of the patent is Toyota. Invented in the 90’s to track cars on

        their assembly line. They say they won’t inforce the patent. But why would someone invest loads of bucks to PR it if they’ll never really own it.

        My own 21 yo daughter thinks it’s just a fad that will fade. We’ll have to see.

        – Brent

  • DanyGoel

    TxTImpact has Mobile QR codes or 2D code are codes in the same way as ordinary barcodes are, but their matrix structure can hold more information. The codes are also mobile in the sense that you can use the camera on your mobile device to scan and decode them. You can convert a web address (URL), a phone number, an email address or plain text into a mobile code. After scanning it with your camera phone, you will have instant access to the encoded information straight on the display of your mobile device. http://www.txtimpact.com/mobileqrcode.asp

  • KenChen

    QR Codes + Augmented Reality should be the way to go. I tried those but I’d to install first an app on my not so advanced blackberry and the whole experience turned me off. If only it could be fully integrated it would prove its worth.

  • dennypezic

    I don’t think they are dead, just poorly used by marketers and not quite yet adopted as widely as in other countries. Adoption rate is on the rise though as widespread use of Android phones and iPhones is growing. There’s also more and more creative and fun uses for QR codes out there. @KenChen Check out http://www.tagdee.com they are doing something that is exactly down the line of what you think they should be used for: personal augmentation, cool stuff!

    • allison_boyer

      @dennypezic It’s hard for us to remember sometimes, I think, that not everyone has a smartphone. We’re all so into tech that we’ve had smartphones for years, but a lot of the general public does not. So yes, I think you’re right that QR codes will gain in popularity as most people purchase the phones needed to use them!

  • elbuild

    NFC will kill QR in a couple of years. It’s more intuitive and it seems less “techie” to the user. I think NFC will rule mobile marketing along with mobile payments.

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