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Recently, I was driving through downtown Atlanta when I stopped at a red light next to a commuter bus. The side of the bus displayed a Mercedes Benz automobile advertisement with a big QR code that said, “You’ll be glad you scanned this code.” Curious, I whipped out my iPhone and scanned the barcode. But, instead of being glad, I felt mad. The QR code simply took me to the Facebook page of a local car dealer’s website. There was no contest, no discount, no special promotion…nothing but a waste of my time. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this same boring example happen dozens of times with other QR codes I’ve scanned.
A year ago, I wrote an article touting the ability of QR codes to revolutionize marketing and transform print media into multi-media. But, the execution has failed to live up to the hype, and QR codes have failed to catch on with the general public…for good reason. Companies and marketers across America have basically killed consumer interest in QR codes, because they didn’t link them to anything interesting. Why go out of your way to scan a QR code when it just takes you to the company’s website? Why scan a QR code when there’s nothing in it for me? Instead, give me something impressive, such as a special discount, exclusive behind-the-scenes access, funny video, etc. Make me glad, not mad, that I scanned the code.
QR codes have become an example of good marketing gone bad, because too many marketers forget a basic principle: people don’t respond to ads unless they perceive there’s something in it for them. QR codes had the potential to engage consumers in a really unique way. But, as consumers have realized that scanning a code just links them to a boring ad or lackluster website page, they do what any normal person does…they start to ignore them. It’s too bad that so many companies have wasted this new technology. But, if you fail to offer a positive result to the consumer, then no new type of marketing will yield the intended result.