The Resident Connection, Written Posts

The Good and Bad of QR Codes

14 Comments 27 March 2011

On last week’s Podcast episode of Apartment Marketing Gone Digital one of the topics brought up was QR codes.  I think we all agreed that QR codes have the potential to be REALLY cool.  So many things are making themselves mobile friendly today that QR codes actually make some sense.  As smartphones get faster, have more memory, and more applications come about, it’s clear that our internet experiences are evolving more and more to mobile devices.

That said, I still question the use of QR codes for a couple reasons.

1. Where is that code pointing to?

What treasure is at the end of that QR code rainbow?  Is it just a website homepage or a Facebook page?  Or … does it lead to something that truly is unique to the code?  Is there something special?  A pot of gold, so to speak.  If there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow then is the customer going to tell their friend about it?  Are they going to share it further?  I think these are all critical things a marketer should consider before heading down the QR code path.  If nobody is talking about it then it’s crap advertising that’s being ignored and forgotten.

2. People’s time is important

I commented on a QR code post our good friend Mike Brewer had a couple weeks ago with this point.  This really ties into point number 1 as well.  From my experience, I haven’t found myself saving any time scanning a QR code compared to just typing in a URL.  If I, or any potential customer, is going to take the time to scan a QR code I sure don’t want to just be led to the homepage of a website.  I would feel as if I was being fooled.  In my mind this crazy code should lead to something unique or special, and if I’m just taken to a website homepage I’ll be disappointed.  That’s something I’ve seen before and could have just typed in or Googled in less time.  And while your Facebook wall or Twitter page may be great, I’ve seen that before too so don’t waste my time there either.

It’s kind of like “checking in” on Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook, etc.  After awhile a badge or mayorship really isn’t worth the time it takes for your GPS to figure out where you are.  Those services are only as powerful as the content  other people leave or the coupon the business offers.  The “coolness” of checking in, getting a badge, or being a mayor fades away, and I see the same thing happening to QR codes unless marketers start to get creative.

Bottom line, if you’re going to use a QR code for some of your marketing I believe the code is only as good (or cool) as what’s at the other end.  Just send me to your website and the “coolness” factor of using a QR code is completely washed away from my mind.  There is WAY too much potential for using these QR codes to just turn around and ruin the user’s experience with a lackluster treasures at the end of the QR code rainbow.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire format gets ruined because poor marketing becomes associated with them.

Go ahead, scan the QR code in this post (please don’t print this, it can be done by scanning it right on your computer screen) and let me know if you think it’s a good or bad use of the technology.  I especially want to know if you think it’s a bad use so we can all keep challenging each other to do better.  Thanks so much!

  • Hi Mark,

    I like your use of QR. It’s fun and swag-ilicious, great combo.

    I think it’s all about finding our niche, kind of like with social media. How can we use the QR that actually gives something other than novelty? I like how Home Depot is using them. When you scan, it brings you directly to their nursery tips. In this case, you get all the details needed to have the best begonias in the neighborhood. The interest is there. In the short time I was scanning flowers, I spoke with about a dozen curious gardeners about QR. Macy’s & Bobbi Brown are using QR to give consumers makeup tips.

    We can apply this same idea to multifamily. When designing a brochure, feature a different QR code next to each floorplan that links the potential resident directly to that floorplan on your website…especially if you offer 3D or show furniture dimension, etc.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Renee Caron

    • Thanks Renee! We already have to deal with so much crap marketing pushed at us that if we’re going to use something new and hip we have to raise the bar. Thanks for sharing on FB as well!


  • Hey Mark – Nice post. 100% agree that if using a QR code in your marketing efforts then the content at the end of the scan needs to be “cool” and not merely a link to your website. We are actually working on some outreach campaigns in Maine right now involving partnership marketing using QR codes, we are producing video content for the QR scan part of the equation. Optimistically this will be original and creative enough to capture the attention of the scanning crowd. As you know code scanning is nothing new, but we need to give it a “new hook” if it’s going to add value to our marketing efforts. Nice look into the code rainbow Mark……you’re on to something.

    • Thanks Sarah! Would love to hear more about your campaign as you start to collect some feedback. Sounds great!!!

  • Hey Mark-
    Wanted to drop you a line about what we’ve seen with QR codes. Several of our Sprout Marketing clients are experimenting with QR codes. They are using them in a variety of ways. Some are directing them to the Facebook landing page which then offers additional promo’s if the “like” their page. After that, they can stay in the loop with that community.
    Others are creating fun contests with their current residents. Example: Scan the QR tag (in the newsletter) to find out who won the early bird drawing. This is the start of engaging their residents with QR codes. We are excited to monitor the results!

    • Good to hear people are being creative. I think QR codes can get out of control if we’re not careful. Keeping it unique and having an element of scarcity with the treasure at the end seems to make sense to me. Thanks for sharing!

  • QR

    • Thanks Colin! Definitely an opportunity to be creative.

  • QR

  • Appreciate your post, Mark. The industry needs to read up on items such as QR codes and other disruptive technology to know what is good to use and why. QR codes, just like Facebook, just like YouTube and LinkedIn are just not fads and they just shouldnt be ignored. Are they a must? Well, if you make great use of them, then yes as the stats on mobile use, FB consumer use and the two other social network uses clearly show that a groundswell has occurred in these areas. (i.e. the internet is going to be accessed more by mobile phone than by desktops/laptops). The shift is here. There is a reason that four digital companies combined total value is more than $70Billion. We need to take that into account when we work our marketing programs and look to reach and engage with our customers.

    As for QR codes, here is a good and free site to build as many QR codes as you want: Plus, they have a great go-to guide you can download to learn more about QR codes.

    Also, for your readers… learn from others outside of the industry. Go and research QR code use in Japan. They’ve been used for years in this market with tons of insight.


    • Yes! Great point about learning from others outside the industry!!!

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  • Lilian Moreno

    These codes are used a lot better in other countries than they are used in the U.S. When I was working in marketing over 4 years ago, I met a marketing company from the Philippines at a digital signage seminar, and they were using QR codes in their digital signage advertising in the mall. If you walked by the sign and snapped the code at the moment their clients ads came up you got special deals and discounts not available to regular customers. But you had to be next to the sign when the ad came up. Things like buy one get one free or free drink at this restaurant, or other special premium offers. It generated a huge amount of interest once the customers in the mall figured out what was going on. There would be people waiting in groups next to the screens waiting for their favorite store in the mall to come up so they could grab the codes. Now that was effective use! As an alternative coupons by text were available to those who did not have phones that could scan QR codes.

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