You might wonder if this post is a couple of years too late, with other mobile technologies (such as Augmented Reality and NFC) usurping QR codes. But in the spirit of this Bad Marketing blog, there are plenty of lessons to take away that will still apply.

QR codes in themselves are not bad marketing. Used well, they can be great – but not considering the placement of the codes, or where they link to, is definitely bad marketing. Sometimes a little common sense is all that is needed…

Top 5 examples of bad QR code marketing – and what good looks like

1. Bringing a whole new meaning to mobile scanning 

QR code on the motorway | Bad Marketing

Make sure your QR code (or AR poster, or NFC tag) is easy to scan – and won’t cause any harm to the person scanning it, or others around them.

2. Call to inaction

QR code on the Underground | Bad Marketing


Not only could this be dangerous to the scanner of the code, this cross-track poster is in an underground station – a place without mobile signal or Internet access. Consider the call to action you want the reader to make and whether they can complete it there and then.

3. Spend a penny, scan a code?

Spend a penny, scan a code? | Bad Marketing


Of course, there are times and places when people would rather not get their phones out at all! QR code placement should be a top priority.

4. Mobile scanner, desktop content

Mobile scanner, desktop content | Bad Marketing

A few years ago, Grant Thornton ran a campaign with a QR code that, when scanned, took the reader to a mobile web page (although it could be worse, I have seen desktop sites used!) but the video on the page wasn’t optimised for mobile. It’s not exactly slick asking a reader to use a mobile device and then displaying desktop content.

5. QR codes on email

QR codes on email (and LinkedIn) | Bad Marketing


As more people view their email on their phone, scanning QR codes becomes, well, impossible. If you wish to use QR codes, make sure the call to action can be followed no matter how people consume your content. Providing a hyperlink would have prevented this problem.

In the same way, as you adopt new mobile technologies, make sure those without an NFC enabled device, for example, can also access your carefully crafted content.

Moving forward

What’s the moral of these Bad Marketing stories for you? What should they have done differently? What will you do differently in future?

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