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.

Sabine Lenz is the founder of PaperSpecs.com, 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. 

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  • Frishy

    I printed QR codes on a promotional piece for a client in 2011. Asked about re-doing it in 2012 and he said "That’s so last year"…
    I had an older phone that couldn’t make them work, quite frustrating altogether.

  • Patty Jensen

    Loved this article. I must say our agency embraced the whole QR craze when it started, and we do believe there are some practical uses but on the whole I don’t think they do much for a brand.

  • Amy Marvin Wilson

    I think that qr codes can be quite helpful, I personally know of many many ways to use them (referring you to website as stated, but also, phone number, fb page, ect.

  • Brian Rothschild

    It’s exactly like you stated… "When used correctly"….

    I would estimate that less than 25% of QR marketing is done correctly. Thanks for the article. "Very good this… Any more?"

  • Michael Jahn

    Hi Sabine – well, i guess I should not actually ‘comment’ as we sell a product that uses QR Codes, and we also provide a way to add QR Codes to storefront templates in another product, so, of course, I am BIASED…

    but – okay, you asked;

    So when was the last time you scanned a QR code?

    This morning and this afternoon, with 2 different phones ( doing some QC on QR Codes probably does not count, but HEY YOU ASKED… )

    And well, many folks who create business cards now put a QR Code on the front ( or back ) so you can capture the contact details ( so you do not have to type my address, phone number, web site – yada yada )

    Also – at trade show booths, some folks prefer to scan the QR Code and capture a link to the brochure ( so they do not have to grab the printed thing and bring it home )

    But yeah, putting a QR Code on a cup that directs you to the restaurant and handing that cup to you AT THE restaurant is kinda dumb.

  • Cindi Page

    I use QR Codes on a regular basis when shopping. Why carry coupons when QR Codes are easily available on your smart phones. I work for a Printing/Marketing firm (Imperial Image, Inc.) and we create QR Codes for both marketing pieces and business cards quite often and our clients seem to like and use them.