5 Common QR Code Marketing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Podcaster Ciaran Rogers from Target Internet recently connected with Egoditor co-founder Nils Engelking to talk about how QR Codes are back and what marketers can do to make the most out of them. In the interview, they discuss a couple of common mistakes to watch out for when using QR Codes. Without giving away too much, here’s a sample of some tips from the podcast. Have a listen to the complete session.

Mistake #1: Having a QR Code just to have it

Unsuccessful marketing campaigns include a QR Code as an afterthought, making it a tiny square right next to a barcode on a product label that no one notices or cares to scan. It gives the impression they included a Code just to check it off a list, without giving any thought to form or function.

How to fix it:

Clever marketing, however, considers the design, positioning, size, and ultimate goal of the QR Code. QR Codes are the tools that bridge offline and online material. So it’s all the more important that marketers make sure the Code serves a purpose and provides something useful to the scanner.

As Rogers points out in the interview, many marketers blame the tool if their QR Code marketing campaign didn’t perform well. But tools are only useful if they are used correctly.

Mistake #2: Thinking of a QR Code as a static image

It’s not just an image, or a link, or a barcode—it’s a digital button, says Engelking. And thinking of it in this way makes a big difference in how you design it.

Imagine seeing a button standing completely alone on a webpage, with no context or indication of what people should do with it. How many would click on it? Not many.

That might be the biggest mistake people make when it comes to designing QR Code marketing campaigns—forgetting that a QR Code is more than just a picture or a link to somewhere, it is a scannable button that allows you to present complex information.

How to fix it:

Think carefully about the specific function or problem you want to solve. Try asking yourself: What physical experience could I augment with a digital button?

For example, marketers often need a way to frictionlessly direct leads to a certain channel, such as to their social media profiles. A Social Media Code lets them present all the available profiles on an optimized landing page so scanners can choose their favorite.

The next step is to read up on the various applications for QR Codes that are available and how to implement them.

Besides linking to a URL, QR Codes today can also be used for:

Mistake #3: Not answering the scanner’s question, “What’s in it for me?”

Just as you probably wouldn’t click on a random button without any indication of what it does or why it’s worth the time it takes to push it, you should provide clues about what scanners can expect when they scan your Code. You want to give enough context that it appears worthwhile and allow enough mystery to make them curious.

The most effective QR Codes include a clear call-to-action or CTA. These might be something as simple as “Scan Me!” if you are convinced you have provided enough context to pique the scanner’s curiosity. Or it might be a custom message, such as “Scan for a special message from the founders.” 

How to fix it:

There are a ton of design options and ways to make the QR Code more visually appealing than the standard black-and-white version. By changing the colors, shapes, and patterns of the Code, users can create a unified message and send a signal that the Code itself is worth scanning.

Mistake #4: Choosing form over function

Once you’ve caught the scanner’s eye with a beautifully designed QR Code, you need to deliver on your promise to make it worthwhile. Don’t make the mistake of linking to a generic, boring, or unresponsive website.

How to fix it:

Think carefully about what your customers could benefit from the most when choosing the purpose of the QR Code. Nothing is more anti-climactic than an eye-catching Code that makes big promises but leads to a dead-end. Make sure your digital button offers something of real value to the scanner.

For example: When you want to be sure your customers can find your app quickly and accurately, one quick scan and voila! You can direct the scanner to a custom landing page displaying multiple app stores, all ready to download the correct app.

Mistake #5: Ignoring design completely

Though marketers should create QR Codes with a specific function in mind, you don’t want to go to the other extreme either and neglect the aesthetic form entirely. It definitely doesn’t hurt to experiment with style elements or CTAs to monitor your campaign and make adjustments.

How to fix it:

This is where a professional software comes in handy—the ability to customize the Codes and landing pages and monitor scans anywhere gives you the power to change it up a bit to see what works best.

Try tweaking your message, colors, frames or positioning and conduct A/B tests to see which Codes perform better. With scan tracking, you can see on the dashboard how many people are scanning, where they are scanning, and what they are scanning with. So consider all of these elements when it comes to identifying and reaching your target audience.

Once you figure out which technique works best, using Dynamic Codes means you can update and reuse the Codes on printed materials as often as you like.

The possibilities are endless and unique to every business

Because the QR Code as a tool is so fundamental and versatile, there are countless examples of ways to leverage them in a digital marketing strategy. Each business is unique and may want to communicate or offer something different to their customers. Essentially, marketers are always trying to find ways to connect with their audience using all of the available channels: print, digital, social media, personal contact. Adding a QR Code lets you bridge the gap between these channels.

Here are just a few of the examples Rogers and Engelking discuss in the podcast:

  • Realtors using a Code to present image galleries of houses on the market and keep updating as often as needed (think about it: the typical real estate ad on a bench becomes a complete visual listing).
  • Retailers offering a virtual shopping element in-store to scan a Code and see what the clothes look like on models, with accessories, or in combination with other clothing items. 
  • Restaurants providing coupons, advertising the menu, or collecting feedback from customers by updating the same Code.

If you’re looking for further inspiration on how to revamp your digital marketing strategy with QR Codes, check out some of our Best Practice examples for various industries.

Krysta Brown-Ippach

Originally from the U.S. and still a Midwestern girl at heart, she now lives with her family in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, Germany. Armed with an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Leipzig, her professional background combines her main interests of journalism and communications. Whenever she can, she likes to spend her free time either with family or doing one of the four “Rs”: reading, ‘riting, running, or riding.

Become a QR Code pro

Variety of QR Code solutions with full customization, tracking and more