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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. 


Why QR Drives Creatives QRazy


"Scan the QR code above to read the latest NZP online."

A seemingly harmless and common request. But this specific QR code was an e-mail blast. Yep, a typical case of overuse of technology to the point where it doesn’t even make sense anymore.

Why anyone would think that adding a QR code to an e-mail blast was a good idea beats me, and feeds the dislike creatives have developed for these odd looking squares.

Don’t get me wrong, QR codes as such are an interesting tool if used creatively and sensibly. But we pretty much ruined it from the get-go and now...

The Outdated Truth
Time and time again, I see the following statistics from Chadwick Martin Bailey quoted from a 2012 survey—which in this day and age is so long ago. (It makes me wonder why no one seems to have done a more recent study.)

According to the survey, those who do scan a QR code do so because:

  • 43 percent are willing to scan for coupons and discounts
  • 26 percent would scan for more information about a product or service
  • 23 percent would make a purchase or buy something online
  • 22 percent want more information about local events
  • 18 percent are interested in scanning to learn more about a brand.

Nice statistics, but what do they really tell us?

The Forecast for 2014
MidAtlantic360—a Google Business View developer (and thus a company we hope has some insights)—predicts that:

  • Mobile Web traffic will surpass desktop (and laptop) Web traffic by 2014.

No surprise here.

  • An estimated 139 million people own a smartphone. 

50 percent of smartphone users have scanned a code according to QR code statistics from

Approximately 2.75 million Americans regularly scan a QR code.

"Millions of Americans" sounds impressive, but when you do the math it boils down to less than 2 percent of smartphone users are even willing to scan a QR code.

And that, in my eyes, is a dismal number.

What About Those Rare Success Stories?
Every once in a while we hear about a great success story. SeaWorld used a QR code to drive traffic to their app with great results: 20,000 app downloads in just six weeks. A number any of us would be happy with that, but...

The only way we could’ve really seen if this was a good result was if SeaWorld had done a simple a/b split test (like we have been taught to do with e-mail blasts). QR code versus a, for example. I could not find any statistics or case studies that have ventured into this arena, so if you know of anyone who has put QR codes to the true test, please let me know.

Until then, I remain skeptical about their use and success. I want to believe in them, so please prove me wrong.

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