Avoid 4 Common QR Code Mistakes

As a consumer, you have probably noted a large influx in the use of QR codes on direct mail pieces and magazine ads.  In fact, the US Postal Service is currently offering a discounted postage rate on pieces that include a QR code.

With QR codes popping up everywhere, we couldn’t help but notice that many are just not up to par.  If you are planning to incorporate QR codes into an upcoming campaign,  avoid some of the common pitfalls.

1. No call to action. Avoid including a QR code on a magazine ad, direct mail piece, poster, etc. without providing consumers with a clear direction on what they should do with it or where the QR code will take them. It is important you tell your audience what to expect when they scan the QR code.  For example, Home Depot made excellent use of their QR codes on nursery plants tags.  The tags very clearly instruct consumers to scan the QR code to receive more plant care tips.

2.  Linking to a generic web page.  Just like advertising or campaign web landing pages, QR codes should take the scanner to a relevant destination.  For example, promoting a new product in a magazine ad? The code should take the scanner directly to a page with more information and purchasing options for that product.  Providing a special offer through direct mail? Take the consumer directly to a location to redeem the offer.

Consumers should see an immediate connection between your call to action and the content they reach through the QR code; they should know what the next step is immediately and intuitively.  Guide them to the content they are looking for.

3.  Linking to a non-mobile website. Ensure the location the QR code drives users to can be viewed on a mobile phone.  If it is impossible to navigate, too small to read or missing important visuals, you will lose the chance for a meaningful engagement.

4. Not tracking results.  There are a few ways to track QR codes.  If the QR code links to a page on your website, you can simply add website tracking to that page and use your analytics provider to track activity.

However, if you are driving participants to a site not associated with your company (YouTube, etc.), you can develop and connect a QR code with a unique URL through a shortening service like bit.ly.  Simply go to the bit.ly website, enter the URL and click shorten, click on Info Page+, right click on the QR code and click “Save Image As…” to use in your creative.  Then, simply save and visit the Info Plus+ page to view results. Keep in mind you will only have limited tracking capabilities using a service like bit.ly (e.g. clicks, referrals and location).

Also, consider providing unique codes to different audience segments (based on location, age, gender, etc.) to determine where your QR code achieves the best results.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.