You see them everywhere: on business entrances, restaurant menus, movie posters, brochures, direct mail pieces, the list goes on. Although we have heavily utilized these quick response barcodes for over two years in the marketing and tech world, as an industry we have yet to perfect the use of QR Codes (and in many instances failed miserably at understanding their effective placement).

At first these barcodes were new and different and marketers jumped at the chance to use QR codes in efforts to be “ahead of the curve” or a “leader in the industry.”  They started popping up and you hear clients ask, “Can we put a QR Code on that?” Sure. Of course, everyone’s using them. While their presence was noticed, often times, strategy was not.

QR Codes can be a very powerful tool to engage, educate and track customers, raise awareness of a product or business or grow your social media following. When used in a practical way, it can be the perfect accessory to a marketing or advertising piece. But when creativity lacks common sense, all kinds of complications arise.

Some recent, notable mishaps include Red Bull and other companies placing call-to-action QR codes on ads located in the subway, underground. Needless to say, potential customers had little to no cell service to scan these bar codes. Campaign efforts, completely ineffective. Other unpractical uses include taxi cabs, articles of clothing or any other moving object. It is very difficult to scan a vehicle moving at 40 mph.  One of the worst publicized offenses was Esquire Magazine placing a QR code on one of their covers in 2011, the problem? It was where the mailing label is printed.

How can you avoid becoming one of these blunder stories? Don’t fail your creativity, client or better judgment by thoughtlessly placing a barcode on a marketing piece simply because it was requested. Most importantly, think through the realistic application of a QR code: What is the purpose? Is there a strong (and clear) call-to-action? Does the QR code provide an incentive of value to the audience? Is it scannable and accessible? (This includes testing your barcodes before use, yes, a simple but also forgotten step).

QR codes, like any strategy or campaign that lacks thorough planning, will also lack results. Rule of thumb: Use your common sense when using QR codes.

Have a creative, inspiring use or a humorous mishap to share? Comment!