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RIP QR codes. You will be missed.

But wait, don’t play the funeral march just yet on this would-be marketing barcode. Maybe it’s not a question of whether or not QR codes are dead but how they lived their life. 

With all of the debate out there on if QR codes are a thing of the past or still (if ever) an effective marketing tool, it’s hard to know what’s true. In this post, we’ll attempt to answer that question by breaking down the reasons why they haven’t been used effectively, campaigns that have worked well, and marketing alternatives to QR codes.

The Birth of the QR Code

First, let’s start at the beginning. QR Codes (short for quick-response codes) were created in 1994 by the automotive industry in Japan. Then they began showing up in a slew of other places: magazine ads, beer coasters, menus, t-shirts, business cards, posters, and more.

The idea behind QR codes was simple—with a quick scan from a smartphone, you could now establish an easy connection between the offline and online worlds. And, with over 50% of people in the U.S. with a smartphone, the logical conclusion was that QR codes would be the wave of the future. Marketers rejoiced.

Until they stopped.

So, why is there such a disconnect on whether or not these little barcodes are worth the effort? First, let’s look at some of their limitations.

Four Reasons Why QR Codes Aren’t Effective

While there are reasons why QR codes may not be effective, there are a few companies that have gotten it right.

QR Codes Done Right

QR codes may not be the panacea of marketing campaigns, so is there an alternative? While a clear leader has failed to emerge, there are some new and existing technologies that can provide a simpler experience to connecting the online and offline worlds.

Alternatives to QR Codes

So, to return to the initial question—are QR codes dead? Well, it depends. When done right, QR codes still have their place in effective marketing efforts. But using QR codes simply for the sake of using them won’t necessarily provide results. The key is understanding your audience, the goal of your marketing campaign, and ensuring the experience not only makes sense to the user but is worthwhile.

If QR codes sound right for your customers, adding one to your product labels or other marketing materials with a custom label may be the first step to an effective campaign.


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