QR codes don’t suck, your use of them does

QRCodeBlogPostI’ve been sitting on these two articles for a while now, waiting for when I had the time to get to them and today seems to be that day.

The first is “Don’t Blame QR Codes for Bad Marketing Ideas” from GeeklessTech.com. Here’s a few choice snippets:

So, whenever I hear someone write about how QRs stink, or are a waste, or even how they are already obsolete, I just shake my head. I check out the writer’s company and make a note to never deal with that person or company.

Most of the QR code detractors mention Augmented Reality (AR) and Near Field Communications (NFC) as better and more functional technologies for print to web linking. AR and NFC are great technologies, but they have different functions as well as expenses not shared by QR codes.

QR codes do have limitations. All of them, however, involve the ability to scan the code. A code that is too small, too far away, or on a moving object, won’t allow a user to get out their smart phone in time to scan the code.

Placement has always been a consideration for any print piece, and has long had the problem of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Who says marketers have always been at the top of their game? Is every advertisement successful?

These are comments that I can totally agree with. For a while there was a Tumblr account showing how stupid QR codes were. (I can’t seem to find it anymore. If it still exists please point me to it in the comments.) At first it was funny but it ended up annoying me very quickly. In one example, the poster was complaining that this particular QR code was way too small to be usable. Trouble is, what was pictured wasn’t a QR code, it was some other 2D code meant only to be read by a particular machine, not by smartphones. Others often complained about QR codes on moving vehicles like delivery trucks. Trouble is folks, those trucks aren’t always moving!

So how about a good example? The other article is “Readers Advisory Initiative at the Chelmsford Library” from The Swiss Army Librarian.

The best way to promote these [reader’s advisory]  lists, they felt, was to print out labels with the list URLs (and QR codes) on them, and stick them in each book that was on the list. I know other libraries use QR code labels in their collections (notably the Dover [MA] Town Library), but I don’t know how many are mass-sticking the actual books. And they’re trying to stick them in the books as close to the end of the story as possible, so that patrons find them immediately after finishing a good story.

In this example we have great placement, and a simple use for which something like NFC (which not everyone phone has yet) would be completely overkill.

So, if you’re a QR code hater, please read both of these articles and then leave a comment. Let me know if you’re still a hater of the tech, or really just a hater of how many people implement it.

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2 Replies to “QR codes don’t suck, your use of them does”

  1. Hi there! I really enjoyed reading your article but I am still not convinced. As I appreciate all the library innovators out there using technology such as QR codes as a mode of marketing / outreach to the user – I have personally found it not work. I first began to explore QR codes in 2007 in the library I worked for at UC Berkeley and really thought they were amazing! I am a technology geek too — so it takes very little to get me excited when it comes to a new technology outreach tool. However, the students really didn’t think it was as cool as I did. Ha. I tried to display QR codes in library information signs posted around the library which included how to download the QR app. It just didn’t take off. When I moved to Boston, I didn’t give up! I tried to incorporate QR Codes again at the Law Library I worked for and still no interest from students OR staff. Some grew interested in my enthusiasm for QR Codes and used them once or twice but sadly never used them again. Heck, I even had a business card created as a QR Code to try and spark some interest. Have you ever seen a QR code somewhere and thought.. “wow… I really should stop scrolling through facebook updates and instead take a photo of this QR code!” I am speaking from the student perspective here.

    The marketing / outreach formula used to promote library resources with QR codes just didn’t work for me in the academic setting. Truly.. I have tried many times!

    Anyways, I definitely applaud you for your success and writing such an informative article, but this librarian will have to pass. I have peeked in our database on studies related to QR Codes in Academia and found some interesting articles! Off to read more. Who knows, maybe I will give it another shot. 😉


  2. Thanks for your comments. Even I will say that maybe they won’t work no matter what you do and that’s ok. You tried, then moved on. What really concerns me is the attitude (which you don’t seem to have,) that QR codes are a failure as a technology or are just stupid. That’s what I’m mostly frustrated with.

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