QR Code? What’s in a name (or image?)

The QR code (or Quick response code) was developed and first used by the automotive industry to speed up the manufacturing process.  Cool.  Imagine all the way back to 1994 when some giant bar code reader could just scan one of these codes and feed the information back to a giant computer with a partitioned 30 MB hard dive.  Ouch.

Fast forward to 2012, when supposedly, we are all running around with our Iphones (or other smartphones) and saving keystrokes and swipes by capturing these little icons with our cameras.

While most people I talk to don’t use them very often, the Google trend report below shows that a whole lot of people are using search terms related to QR codes.  Translated:  A whole lot of people are about to start using them.






So, let’s assume QR code usage is on the rise and they are here to stay.  How are companies doing with them?  Facebook likes?  Promotions?  It reminds me of just a year or so ago when everyone had to have a “social media strategy,” which really meant: “I have Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.”  I think the goal of some marketers is to just get the QR code on as many products and media channels as possible.  But to what end?  Many codes drive users to non mobile sites and useless information.

I recently was shopping for a printer at an office store.  I had done a lot of shopping online, but needed to buy a printer immediately as the one I had in my office decided to stop working and leak ink all over the floor.

The office supply store had lots of printers and each one had a QR code that you could scan.  That QR code would then upload the information and features of that printer onto my iPhone.  Yuck.  No thanks.

Instead I used my QR code reader to scan the product bar code and shop for the best price of that printer and ultimately get a better price in store.  I couldn’t help it.  It was too easy.  Yes the same reader reads both QR and product bar codes, I mean really, don’t they know that?

I started to think about how a QR code COULD have helped me that day.  As I unpacked the printer and noticed the “quick start guide,” I thought, now why can’t I just shoot a QR code here and get all the directions and manual?  I mean, I think I had to restart the computer 100 times before the full install was complete, and it would have been very handy to have the manual on my iPhone or iPad (if I had one) instead of trying to use the one page guide or the PDF located, of course, on the computer that was rebooting.

If you are thinking about using a QR code, think about yourself or your family.  What would HELP you in that exact moment make your life easier, better, more fulfilled?  From a company perspective, you want the user to interact with you, provide data, answer questions, engage, but at least give them something in return.

Of course, given my profession, I’m a little biased here (no pun intended), but the best use of QR codes I’ve seen is for customer feedback.  Imagine if I had walked out of that office store and on my receipt was a QR code for me to give feedback.  I scan it, take the survey, and am offered a comeback coupon for 20% off my next purchase.  Everyone wins.

Sigh.  Instead I was asked if I was a member of the office store loyalty program, and when I said no, I was handed a brochure to fill out.  In a strange sort of Tron moment, I was hoping the employee had QR code on his name tag that I could scan and alert someone at office store HQ that this store was missing the whole point.  Now that would have been cool.

In case you haven’t used one before, go get a QR scanner for your smartphone and feel free to scan the link to my Web page for practice.









Appendix: a funny  article on poor usage of QR codes.









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