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QR codes can be useful, and there are some great examples of QR campaigns that worked well.

However, there are many more examples of dubious uses as marketers fail to consider the placement of QR codes. 

Here are ten examples of QR codes that are either impossible, very difficult or even dangerous to scan...

For a QR campaign to have a chance of being effective, it should match the following criteria: 

  1. The code should be easy to scan. I.e. somewhere where people can reach, and have the time and an internet connection. 
  2. It should give people a reason to scan it. Curiousity is not enough. Let people know what they can expect when they scan, or even offer a reward.  
  3. It should lead to a mobile-optimised landing page. People are scanning QR codes on mobile, so they need to view the web page, video or voucher on mobile. Sounds simple enough, but it's a common mistake. 

On a side note, did you know that QR codes were originally developed by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994 to track automobile parts? You do now. 

The following ten examples fail at the first hurdle....

QR madness on the motorway

Not only it is dangerous to scan, but it doesn't really give you any reason to. Rather than wasting this space on  giant QR code, the company could have just put a URL there.. 

(HT:@rhodri)

Please don't try to scan this one

Crazy... 

(via Grapple blog)

Towed by airplane

Tricky... 

(via WTFQRcodes)

On a billboard, high above the freeway

Impossible, and dangerous. 

(via Antony Juliano)

Spinning QR code

Only scannable by giants...

(via creativeguerillamarketing)

Urinals

Not the kind of place you want to get your camera phone out... 

(via Tnooz

How is anyone going to scan this? 

Try to put QR codes where someone can scan them without breaking their neck...

(via themobilisits)

On a coach

At least the lorry had a code big enough to scan.

(via jlwatsonconsulting)

On the inside of a beer bottle

It might have worked on the outside.. 

(via bopuc on Flickr)

On airport luggage coneyor belt

Bonkers. 

(via copyranter)

QR codes aren't all bad though. Here are eight creative and useful QR campaigns, while we discuss ther pros and cons of QR here. 

Graham Charlton

Published 5 October, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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David Coombes, Marketing exec at BerghausEnterprise

I never understood it on TV adverts - you'd never get your phone out in time! However, I'd be pretty tempted by the beer bottle one - it's a bit more secretive. if it had some enticing CTA then I'd give it a go.

almost 4 years ago

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Scott

surely QR codes have become a 'thing' unto themselves, that we expect them to be put in stupid places to have a geeky chuckle at?

Unless it's printed clearly and not going to move (ie newspaper, shop window, back of cinema stub) what advantage does a QR have over a 'friendly' short URL you could recite to your mum over the phone?

my $0.02

almost 4 years ago

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Nicole

@David - While the beer bottle one might be enticing, it's impossible to scan. It is VERY tricky to scan a QR Code that is on a curved surface to begin with, add in the reflection from the glass, and the added distortion of the code being behind 2 layers of glass = completely impossible.

@David - You are 100% correct. When companies don't think the campaign through to the very end, the result is these collections of "fails". QR Codes have gained popularity for all the right reasons - easy for consumers to adapt to, cheap to produce. But they are going to fail if marketers don't smarten up. Not only does the placement of the code matter - a flat, non-shiny surface that isn't moving, but the destination is just as important! When you present something to someone with the sole purpose of connecting with them on their mobile device, the content your deliver NEEDS to be mobile friendly!

almost 4 years ago

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Nicole

Sorry - the 2nd one is @Scott

almost 4 years ago

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Tommy

I wonder who will drive and scan the code on the billboards and cars. Hrmmm GREAT IDEA!

almost 4 years ago

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Hannah Norman, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Believe it or not the one on the tube line actually works! I tried it when I saw it (albeit sceptically) but it worked! If I recall, it didn't take me to a mobile optimised site though....Bounce!

almost 4 years ago

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Andrew

@Nicole
I think the logic behind the code on the back of the label, is to peel the label off and scan, not scan it though the glass....

almost 4 years ago

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Nicole Aguilar, Marketing Communications at Immediatag, LLC

@Andrew - If it's your first beer, you may have enough logic to think that through, but it does not mean you'll have the skill to accomplish it :)

almost 4 years ago

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Amy Nicholson, Head of Editorial Client Services at Sticky Content

A QR code actually has quite a narrow window of opportunity - ie where it's genuinely the most effective way to share content. And Matt above is absolutely spot-on - too many of them lead to a homepage or some other irrelevant content cul-de-sac. In practice, they've too often been a real usability damp squib.

The most ill-thought-out QR usage I ever saw was when I received an unsolicited marketing email from someone who was so keen for readers to visit their site, they'd helpfully included the QR to it in their email signature.

almost 4 years ago

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Hannah Norman, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Rather than the actual link to the site they wanted you to visit? That's mad!

almost 4 years ago

Simon West

Simon West, Chairman at Nett Sales LLP

@Chris - I'm impressed you got the tube one to work. Tube is not known for it's great web availability!!

almost 4 years ago

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Hannah Norman, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Well, I saved the URL rather than expected it to load down there. The point is that I got it to read which I was impressed with!

almost 4 years ago

Simon West

Simon West, Chairman at Nett Sales LLP

True - but I guess you are the exception rather than the rule Chris.

almost 4 years ago

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Hannah Norman, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Always! Haha

almost 4 years ago

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Amy Nicholson, Head of Editorial Client Services at Sticky Content

@Chris. Yep. To be frank, my mind is still boggling at the logic.

almost 4 years ago

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Emily Nicholls, Field Marketing Manager at bemoko

excellent post cheered my monday up , I will make sure that all these elements are covered in our next marketing meeting on where not to use QR codes! I agree with the comment if you are pushed to a non mobile site then it was a waste of a possible lead. However if you are struggling to scan it from the ground or on a moving lorry then you need to sack your agency or marketing team #epicfail

almost 4 years ago

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Álvaro

The QR in the toilet is useful, some pubs in my country have ads in the restrooms and probably is the only place that you have pay your attention in a wall more than 5 seconds.

almost 4 years ago

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Amanda Porrelli

I'm very surprised to not see the "booth babe" spokesmodels from last weekend's Eurogamer Expo on here - they had QR codes temporarily tattooed onto their backsides. Not only impractical (and a bit weird looking) to read, but also entirely creepy if the girl wearing the code didn't know what QR codes do!

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Amanda Perhaps it should have been 11 examples, that is bad.

almost 4 years ago

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Sarbjit

Even if they are not easy to scan but they are still able to advertise them either way.
Anyway good collection...

almost 4 years ago

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Peter Davies

Some great examples there of how NOT to do it. On the subject of QR codes - I can't believe people still think it is stylish to have one on their business card. Yuk!

almost 4 years ago

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Jon

I think some companies can get carried away with the latest fads just to look cool and cutting edge.

It sometime's quicker to type a url into your phone than scan a QR code.

almost 4 years ago

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Ari

Every time I see one of these posts I am not sure whether to laugh or grab the person responsible for such thoughtless uses of QR Codes and strangle them.

The QR Code is the easiest way to bridge the offline and online worlds and lead users and potential customers to an interactive experience. When we in the QR business say interactive we do not mean breaking your neck trying to scan a code or waving our hands in frustration when a code leads us to a site that is not mobile enabled.

Enjoyed this post and it should be read by all businesses in order to teach what NOT to do with a QR Code.
Of course I would love to see a post on 10 examples of QR Code genius.

almost 4 years ago

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Alexander Sandstrom

Hilarious examples! Always interesting with companies who doesn't even take 2 seconds to think about how their customers will interact with their message. Which in this case happened to be QR codes, something that makes the mistake very obvious.

I find it common that the same mistake is applied in many situations, QR codes or not.

almost 4 years ago

Jonathan Mallia

Jonathan Mallia, Lead Management & Marketing Automation Consultant at GFI Software

The worst is when you scan a QR code takes you to a youtube video which is great but then you get a message that this video is not available for a mobile phone.... why i ask? do people carry other devices to scan QR codes???

almost 4 years ago

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SEO Sydney

Although QR code gets the message done, the target is missed bit...There need to be done more if the impact is to be felt again...

almost 4 years ago

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B.A Crawford

I even saw M&S get in on the act a couple of months ago with a huge QR code in a flagship store window with no call to action. even the biggest brands are getting it wrong.

almost 4 years ago

Laura Phillips

Laura Phillips, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

Some of these are crazy! I have never understood a QR code without a CTA, let alone one that puts you in danger of you try to scan it!

almost 4 years ago

Peter  Bradley

Peter Bradley, Head of Digital at Digital Media Managers

QR Codes after seeing these some are Plane crazy, others could give you a headache and some are just taking the p.. Well some are very clever.

almost 4 years ago

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QR8ive

Getting it right really is important so that's why we publish the Do's and Don't's for using QR codes. Check out our GetQR8ive Page at QR8it.net. We try to educate our business partners so they can get the best from their mobile marketing and our system provides full analytics so you can see how your QR code is performing. Also pointing the device to a mobile friendly page is ranked no.1 on the list when using QR codes.
The good news is, smartphones are on the increase so QR codes will be around for a long time. We just need to be QR8ive :)

over 3 years ago

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Alicia

I want to add a QR code to a t-shirt and have it link to campaign landing page. (This is my first attempt with utilizing this technology, so please forgive a dumb question.) We had created the code last year, but couldn't follow through. I'm just now picking the project up again, but the code doesn't work any more. Do QR codes only last so long? We plan to add the URL as well for people who don't have smart phones, but since a t-shirt can last quite a while, I don't want to bother with adding a QR code if it only works for 6 months.

over 3 years ago

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Bill

I build mobile websites for a living and I often have to explain to new clients what QR codes are and how they could be useful. Thanks for this article. I'm going to send them here to see these QR codes and how to NOT use them as much as how and when to use them.

over 3 years ago

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Diana

Then we are asking our selves why QR codes wouldn't be able to make it.
Problem are not QR codes, but communication agencies that really don't understand how to use them.
I've seen many of these examples around the world.. QRs in subways (with no internet signal there) is another good subject.
We must help Ad guys to learn the best practices for a successful QR campaign.

Thanks so much for this article. Now this is a good starting point!

over 3 years ago

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Creating QR codes

The content is good and very informative and I personally thank you for sharing the QR codes articles with us..

over 3 years ago

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Kitty

This blog was... how do you say it? Relevant!

! Finally I have found something that helped
me. Kudos!

over 3 years ago

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Colin

I think some of these examples are just places where they didn't want to pay for the alternate design to remove the QR code then the extra logistics of ensuring none QR code content got to the right billboards and vice versa. Easier to send out the same ad to all billboards ...

some poor examples of poor QR codes !

over 3 years ago

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Simon Dunn, Creative Director at Seismik

Check out our experiment with QR codes by projecting one on the side of building for 3 months..

https://www.seismik.co.uk/design-projects/art-installations/qr-code-experiment

4 months ago

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