The Rise and Fall of QR Codes

As technology continues to evolve, it’s no surprise that the e-fads of today may be deemed completely irrelevant next week. So what happened to all of the Quick Response (QR) codes I was seeing a few years ago? These QR codes were ubiquitous, and more often than not, I would scan the code and…nothing.

So what exactly is a QR code? Essentially, it is a glorified barcode, just like what you would find on a can of soup or package of socks. What sets them apart is the fact that they can hold roughly 350 times the amount of information that could be stored on a one-dimensional barcode. The QR code was invented in 1994 by the Denso Wave company in order to track the vehicle manufacturing process. It wasn’t until 2010 that the first QR code scanner and reader applications were released for smartphone platforms in the United States. Since then, different companies have been experimenting with this form of digital advertising, using QR codes in their marketing strategies.

I blame a lot of the failure (or soon to be) of QR codes on a lack of education. Creating a QR code is free, which happens to be both a good and bad thing. The good part is that it is a free marketing service to any business owner. The bad side is that most business owners do not know how to set one up in order for it to be an effective marketing tool. This alone might be the downfall of this marketing feature never truly catching on with the general public.

Simply scanning your code is not going to make me ‘Like’ your Facebook page or instantly become a consumer. As a consumer, if you scan enough codes that do not take you to a mobile-friendly site or codes that simply fail, sooner or later, you will stop scanning them. Another downside is when the destination is a virus or malware, corrupting the person’s phone and possibly stealing their personal information.

QR code

Please scan me!

One of the worst things a business can do is spend part of their marketing budget to put up an ad on a billboard right off the interstate and place a QR code on it. Talk about a waste of money and time! They could be giving away one million dollars through that QR code and no one would be able to scan it. Even putting one a vehicle doesn’t make much sense; you’re basically asking a person to scan the code while they are driving down the road, which is as bad as texting and driving.

When you are selling a product or service, educating your customers is the key to success. Sure, over time a person might get it after trial and error, but only if you’re lucky. A person’s attention span is less than nine seconds, so how confident are you in your product? The QR code lacked education for both the consumer and business owner alike.

My rule of thumb is this: once my dad understands it, it is ready for the general population. And my dad has no clue what a QR code is or what it does.

Do you use QR codes for your business? What results have you found from using a QR code?