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 included…in 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The Outdated Truth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 econsultancy.com

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.

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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  • FrankHudetz

    While you are not alone in your opinion of QR Codes, it baffles me how many posts like this have failed to really understand why this idea of scanning a bar-code to connect to a server was even conceived. One word is the answer – Convenience.
    Like 800 numbers which were created for the same reason, QR Codes are proving to be the 21st Century answer to getting the right information when needed. So if QR Codes have made life easier for close to 3 million Americans last year I think you’ll find that number growing significantly more in the future.
    Case in point, read how Verizon has announced this week their plans to use QR Codes as part of their Universal ID.
    Sorry, but they are not going away and as for creative they will soon learn there are ways to make the codes more attractive.