There are some very good examples of QR code use, but many of them seem to be used without enough consideration of factors such as location and optimising landing pages.

Here are some dodgy uses of QR codes, some bizarre, some in ridiculous locations, others just plain stupid… 

On the underground

Yes, that great Tesco Korea QR campaign was in the subway, but they are forward-thinking enough to have wi-fi down there. 

This is not the case in the UK, so this QR code on this British Library poster is a waste of time. 

It may be that the same poster was produced for a campaign covering a variety of locations, not just on the Tube, but it does make brands look a bit stupid. 

(Thanks to @SEOsherlock for the image)

Where phones cannot scan

This example (thanks to Webster Lewin) is too high up to reach without a crane. 

Webster had to blow it up on his computer at home to scan it. Most people just wouldn’t bother. 

In-flight magazines

A bit tricky to scan and load up the intended landing page when you’re 30,000 feet up in the air. Unless you take the magazine with you (and who does that?) it’s useless…

According to Mobile Marketing Fail, this error was compounded by the fact that, when scanned on terra firma, the code led to a site not optimised for mobile. 

On the side of buses

Inside a bus, when people have time to spare, is a good place to use QR codes. On the outside isn’t. 

Unless the bus is stuck in traffic, waiting for ages at the stop, or broken down, firing up a code reader and scanning it isn’t going to be easy… 

(Image credit: blech via Flickr)

On the back of footballer’s heads

Footballers from Bromley Town had QR codes shaved into their heads for sponsors Betfair. Why? 

OK, this may work in terms of publicity generated by reading about the campaign, but I can’t see many people scanning these QR codes. I tried, but couldn’t scan the code from the image. 

On the roof of a building

This is obviously intended for Google Earth (or passing balloonists perhaps) but it seems to be a lot of effort for the slight chance that someone will scan it. 

Perhaps, like the Betfair example, the aim is to generate publicity rather than scans. 

According to brandchannel, the fees for this service start of $8,500. Perhaps I’m missing the point, but there must be more cost-effective ways to spend your marketing budget. 

In CVs

We’ve had a few CVs with QR codes in them. I can see the thinking behind it, and there are probably some good examples, but if a potential employer is receiving high numbers of applications, then it just means more work for them. 

For five seconds on a TV show

I spotted this on Simon Hopkinson’s ‘The Good Cook’ show on BBC1 last year. I do think it’s a convenient way to grab the recipe, but you have to give people time to fire up a code reader and scan it. 

This probably takes at least 15-20 seconds, so showing it for just a few seconds won’t work. It’s fine if you can pause it, but not everyone can. 

In emails

Without wanting to name names, we’ve seen QR codes used in email signatures. Why would you scan a QR code with your mobile when you’re already online? 

QR codes don’t really belong in emails, unless you are promoting a mobile site or app download, as in this example from ASOS promoting its mobile site: 

Without any explanation at all

QR codes are by no means mainstream, so educate people about them, and explain why they should take the time to scan it.

Tell them there’s a great video to watch, useful information, a game to play, or a voucher code if they make the effort. Just plonking it on the ad isn’t enough. 

This was spotted in an estate agency window. No direction, no explanation and covering the only info about the house that matters!

Codes that lead to non-mobile sites

Possibly the worst mistake of all. You’ve persuaded the viewer of the ad to get their phone and scan the code, then you send them to a page that hasn’t been optimised for mobile. 

This ad from MI5 is a prime example of this. There’s nothing wrong with the ad itself, but the landing page is terrible to view on a mobile screen…