QR Codes: Love or Hate?

by | Aug 9, 2022 | good business, marketing

I don’t know about you, but lately, I’ve been seeing QR codes EVERYWHERE. They’re like a digital disease – flaring up one square lesion at a time. And they’re spreading quickly!

QR codes have been around for a while, but according to Forbes, their use went up 11% in the United States post-pandemic. It’s no wonder, back before we knew Covid was airborne (remember washing our hands to flatten the curve?), QR codes kept us from touching everything from germ-infested restaurant menus to, well, basically anything someone else touched at all. Overnight QR codes were ubiquitous, linking us to websites, order forms, and coupons. Fast forward to now, you find them on signage, business cards, flyers, car wraps – heck – even billboards. But there’s just one problem … 

They’re ugly.

Many graphic designers hate them

I’m a member of a graphic designer community and was recently surprised to learn QR codes are actually quite controversial. In fact, many designers hate them. I polled my community and here’s what a few of my fellow designers had to say: 

“I hate that the COVID pandemic has made QR Codes popular. Everyone wants one. I even had a client request one on their vehicle decal.”

  • “I hate QRs too, but they are so convenient. Plus, my last creative director hated them and would fight me every time I suggested it. He’d say, ‘These things suck and no one will ever use them.’. So now that they’re mainstream, I have a bit of an ‘I told you so’ laugh whenever I see one.” – Keith G.
  • “These things suck and no one will ever use them.” – Keith G’s last Creative Director
  • “QR codes are a huge security risk because you don’t know what link you are pulling up until you do. It’s possible to install a malicious app to your phone by scanning a QR code.” – Brian M.
  • “Don’t put a QR code on your yard sign sitting on the side of the highway. No one can scan that thing!” – Kat M.
  • “Sometimes they look plain ugly in a design.” – Lyz T

You got that right, Lyz.

How to use QR codes effectively

Early on, I was strongly in the QR code hater club. They were hideous and impractical in their early days. But, because the iPhone has made them easier to scan, I’ve come around. They are a great solution – in certain situations. So even if we graphic designers don’t love the look, QR codes are here to stay. 

On a humorous note, there does seem to be confusion among the masses about how to properly use them. For example, let’s go back to one of the designers quoted above. 

“I actually received a QR code via text message to save me typing a link. How do I scan a QR code that is on my phone? ”

– Myck

Best practices

My biggest advice is to use them sparingly (don’t overdo it!) and follow best practices for QR codes. This article has some great suggestions for QR code success, including: 

  • Use color in your code. 
  • Add your company logo. 
  • Include a strong call to action that entices people to scan.
  • Test your code to make sure it works properly. 

And don’t limit QR codes to restaurant menus. Think about different ways QR codes make sense for your specific business and marketing efforts. Check out this article for 50 creative ways to use QR codes. And this one offers 30 suggestions for using QR codes

Some of my favorite ideas: 

  • Mobile payments 
  • E-commerce 
  • Event posters 
  • On coffee cups and beer glasses
  • At trade shows 
  • Real estate promotions 
  • Event invites 
  • Customer surveys
  • Business cards 

How about you? Have you given much thought to QR codes? Do you use them in your marketing? It’s worth looking into, even if your designer hates them.

Have a great week,