QR codes, though a potentially useful device in the marketer's armoury, have been undermined by overuse and downright bad execution. 

While they can be used effectively, it's generally easier to find bad and terrible examples of QR code marketing, normally the result of poor placement, or landing pages that just don't work on mobile. 

So, it's a mixed bag, as the examples below demonstrate...   

Good QR

Shop windows

This example, from Express, is a good example for two reasons. Firstly, showing QR codes in the shop window allows customers to access the range and see details, prices etc even when the store is closed. 

Express QR

Image credit: Dave Bovenschulte

Secondly, the QR code leads users to a mobile optimised site, with a promo code prominently displayed. 


I like the idea of using QR in museums and art galleries to provide extra information on the exhibits, or complementary audio or video. 

However, for those mobile users without a QR reader, or who don't have the patience to find and download one, why not give them a URL? 

Restaurant menus

Restaurant menus can also be a good place to use QR. After all, people are seated, and with some time to spare. 

Here, Casey's uses QR codes to provide information on nutrition, and for people with allergies: 

Bad QR

Straw wrappers??!!

Unless you expect people to painstakingly unravel the straw wrapper and straighten it to scan the code, this is totally useless: 

Image credit: Jody Raines

Landing page fail

QR codes are designed to be scanned with smartphones, yet so many marketers forget that the landing page needs to work on mobile. 

Here's an example from a Green Festival ad: 

All very well so far, but this is the page it takes you to: 

Food packaging

QR codes on food packaging isn't in itself a bad idea, but it often executed badly. 

Here's an example from Cello cheese, which promises to take the user to its recipe ideas. 

Problem is, it takes you to the landing page shown below. No recipes, and not a mobile optimised page. 

Image credit: georillas

And the ugly...

Across tube train tracks

This one is unscannable. Even if you are at a tube station with wi-fi, then only the foolhardy would attempt to scan it: 

Placement is vital with QR, and this totally fails. To be fair, the posters were probably part if a general campaign, and perhaps the rest were shown where it was possible to scan them without getting yourself killed.


This next one fails on many levels. Even if you set aside the sheer sexism, you're going to look like a pervert bending down to scan these codes: 

Image credit: Ryan Ostertag

Car bonnets

This one, on the bonnet of a plumber's van in Brighton, isn't the best placement. OK, people 'might' attempt to scan it when the van is stationary, but it's quite big, and gives no reason for people to scan it.

This plumber would have been better advised to put his phone number and /or URL on the bonnet instead. 

Image credit: @jonpratty

Graham Charlton

Published 20 September, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (12)

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John Scott Cothill

We are still talking about QR codes in 2013?

Wouldn't agree that example 1 is good in regards to the shop window and "Download the App!" - certain amount of irony with this, because most people would need to download a QR code app before finally downloading an app... but oh wait, it's just a mobile friendly website. That would annoy me - I'm not even being redirected to an app store.

So, in reality, if you'd just given me the damn web address, this would of been MUCH less time consuming, than faffing around with QR codes.

In reality; ALL QR codes fail, because the majority of smart phones to not have QR app installed as standard. NFC technology is finding it's legs and more widely pre-installed and has 101 more uses than any naff QR code.

almost 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

Hi John - we're still taking about them because people are still using them, though they probably shouldn't in many cases.

I think they have a use, but only if the placement, situation and landing page are done well, and if people have a good reason to scan.

Problem is, it's very hard to find good examples of QR use.

almost 5 years ago


Rick Noel

Nice post Graham. The third rail one is a great example of a QR fail. You give some great examples of where QR codes are relevant as well. What is nice about them is that they can provide a bridge between print/mobile/online in a way that utilizes most peoples most popular and beloved accessory, their smartphone. Though a bit played out, there are many great applications and I believe the we have not seen the last of QR codes, not but a long shot. Thanks for sharing.

almost 5 years ago



Isn't the QR Code at the station for users who are in the MUNI cart?

almost 5 years ago



QR Codes in badges at conferences is a great way to allow attendees to share personal information without running out of business cards. A particular advantage for sponsors/exhibitors at an event where the attendee list is not shared and lead retrieval devices are too pricey to be considered. I plan to use them at an upcoming conference and highlight this as an advantage to my sponsors. I will provide recommended QR Reader Apps in the sponsor guide, so booth staff is prepared in advance. Scan those leads!

I plan to use a mat finish on the badges for easier and more accurate scanning.

almost 5 years ago


Justin Lewis, Owner at Yoobik

I'm surprised you missed this spectacular example from Ford's World Rally Championship team, M-Sport.


So that's a QR code on a car designed to go fast and will probably be very dirty most of the time. Genius!

almost 5 years ago


Visakan Veerasamy, Marketing at ReferralCandy

Saw the straw and thought "Wow, how could people be so dense?"

Then I saw the hotpants.

almost 5 years ago


Henry Cazalet

We came across some fantastically silly QR code deployments, including one on the roof of a taxi, the inside of a trainer and on a beer pub.

Proper genius.



almost 5 years ago


Maggie Tolliday

Typical nerdish male response to the hot pants, 'gosh must be a QR code!' Looking closer it seems more like a patterened pocket designed I draw attention to the woman's anatomy. Sexist other way.

almost 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Maggie Rubbish! It's quite clearly a QR code. If you really need convincing, here's a larger image:


almost 5 years ago


carrie camila, manager at piant

Hi! It is Great way to spread personal information . I also use QR codes for the site that i like to share with others. It is very easy to make QR codes of the information that we like to share with others http://qrcodeo.com/

over 4 years ago


Chelsea Potter, digital marketer at http://www.esendex.co.uk/

I think QR codes are a great option. Smartphone use is at an all time high and still increasing so making use of mobile is always a great idea.

over 4 years ago

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