How NOT to Use a QR Code in Your Marketing

Warning: this image may cause involuntary palm-to-forehead action.

Right now, there is a bar in Dallas that has a fresh stack of this most glorious Guinness beer coaster with a QR code on it. Initially it caught my eye because I am researching uses of QR codes, but when I read the fine print to see what I’d get for scanning it, suddenly, it had my full attention—and not in a good way.

Let’s count how many different instructions are included before they mention the correct use of a QR code:

Bad QR Code Marketing Example


FOUR attempts. And when they get around to mentioning that a QR code is scannable, it’s buried in the middle of a block of fine print that most people will never read.

This coaster is the most convoluted example of QR code marketing that I have ever seen—and I’ve seen a lot. Jagtag (the makers of this QR code) has a web site that spins their proprietary photo-taking texting/emailing method as a way for marketers to reach a larger audience of mobile users who can’t download apps. While that may be true, the design focus of this coaster takes a technology that most people already aren’t sure about, and confuses it even more with multi-step instructions that circumvent the use of QR technology. Why? Because the real brilliance of this marketing piece is that non-tech-savvy people are most likely to follow one of the first three instructions and end up sending their phone number or email address to Jagtag and Guinness.

For those who aren’t sure: Taking a photo of a QR code inherently does nothing. However, scanning a QR code with a QR code app (such as i-nigma) will display the code’s embedded text. Typically you will get a phone number, street address, or link to a web page with more info—lots of potential uses!

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