Open Enrollment | Subscribe to Printing Impressions HERE
Follow us on
Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


Quit with the QR Craziness Already


The new Indian take-out place around the corner from my office is barely larger than the proverbial hole in the wall, and offers three main dishes that you can personalize with ample side options to make them your own.

I was waiting in line at this place—more fast-food joint than sit-down restaurant, really—a few days after the grand opening admiring the huge QR code on their soft-drink cups. And I just could not help myself.

“What is this on your cups?” I asked the friendly student behind the counter. After a few seconds of silence and a dumbfounded look, he tried to explain that this was a thing that you could use with your phone and get “somewhere.” His words, not mine.

I then turned to the friend I had dragged along to this new dining experience and asked her if she knew. Nope, she was no help either; had never seen these things and did not know what to do with them.

So when was the last time you scanned a QR code? Now be honest. If it was less than three weeks ago, are you hooked now? Not to worry, I do not really expect you to answer. But ask your friends. Do they know what to do with these things? Do they have the software? Do they know what this funny square thing is even called?

Chances are none of them do.

Many statistics tell us that the number of people who are scanning QR codes is rising. But who are these people…and rising compared to what?

Asking consumers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, a study conducted by independent research firm Forrester Research in 2012 showed that on average, 15 percent of consumers had scanned a QR code. A dramatic increase from the 1 percent and 5 percent we have seen in 2010 and 2011, respectively, but by no means has it reached anything you’d call a tipping point.

Here are some more findings from that study:

  • 37 percent are 18 to 34
  • 60 percent are male

OK, after looking at those figures I know we’re all thinking it so I’m just going to say it: QR codes are scanned…by nerds. And while nerds have done wonderful things for society (hello Internet), marketers don’t seem to understand that most people who aren’t nerds don’t use them.

If you must QR, QR correctly
“Just because we can does not mean we should incorporate QR codes into everything,” marketer and author Scott Stratten so rightfully points out in his book “QR Codes Kill Kittens.”

I am sure you have seen QR codes on the back of vans and billboards as I have. I’m always wondering what they expect me to do with them. At least in California, I am not allowed to text and drive. Do we need a law that adds “Do not scan QR codes while driving” to the list as well? And have you ever tried to scan a highway-side billboard?

So think before deploying a QR code. Make it both possible to use and worth your customer’s time to pull out their phone, open a QR reader and scan the code...all in the hope that it works.

Beside the fact that you still have to explain what this square thing is (remember the 15 percent) and how it works (I’m pretty sure I didn’t see any instructions on the billboard while driving by at 65 mph), you must always make it worth your target audience’s while.

Remember, according to an October 2011 QR Codes survey by market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, U.S. consumers are ready to scan QR codes for a variety of reasons:

  • 43 percent for coupons and discounts
  • 26 percent for more about a product or service
  • 23 percent would make a purchase or buy something online
  • 22 percent for more about local events
  • 18 percent want to learn more about a brand

Now these numbers are more than a year old, so I dare say you should downgrade them a bit accordingly—and yes, apply some common sense.

Something tells me the Indian restaurant did not share their family recipes or offer me a “buy one get one free” deal, but simply directed me to their Website. Yep, bingo. Here I am on the Website of America’s gateway to Indian food…

P.S. If you or someone you know are hooked on QR codes, please make sure to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.

Industry Centers:



Click here to leave a comment...
Comment *
Most Recent Comments: