I’m Not Sold On Using A QR Code. Are You?

Kenny Jahng —  2011/03/19 — 5 Comments

QR codes are those 2D square black and white bar codes that are popping up in different places.  First they were used in manufacturing and UPS started using them for tracking of packages before they were embraced by the retail & marketing community.

Now you’ll find them on posters, brochures, and stickers. . . These days, they are popping up in printed materials of various church communications.  You probably have seen one — since over 50% of the population supposedly has seen or knows what a QR code is at this point.

The big question is are we at the tipping point yet for QR code adoption? Or is this just a passing fad?

Are the ones using QR codes right now trying to force geeky hipness into daily routines while there is still some notable friction in using them?

Well, according to a couple of recent studies, it isn’t so clear.  Here’s two specific data points that might make you think again about QR codes:

Less than 1/3 of people have actually scanned in a QR code.  28%.  Yup, that’s it.  That’s not a huge percentage of people.


And if you look at the actual usage patterns of people who do scan QR codes, the data is not in favor of this hip tech trend amongst communicators to use it.  After all the native cell phone camera applications don’t recognize QR codes yet.  You have to proactively download a QR code reader, launch it and then scan the code.  This can take a couple of minutes and in all that time, you have no idea what you’ll find once the QR code is decoded by your app.  Is it a promo code?  A website?  A call to action?  Just another big fat advertisement?

The other practical downside is that you have to remember — while QR codes are small, they are usually placed in what is typically considered valuable real estate on the actual marketing collateral piece.  Is it worth utilizing such precious space for something that most people who see it won’t actually use?

That said, it really depends on the audience whether or not it is useful.  In a way, the church community is one place where adoption could be successful if you are intentional about both promotion of QR codes as well as what is delivered to the audience once it is scanned.   Because the church assembles on a regular basis, and there’s recurring publications (like the bulletin!) that are published, QR codes do lend itself to this type of environment where once you expose and train people to use it once, the chances of long-term adoption are high.

Paul Steinbrueck over at OurChurch.com suggestions 10 different ways for ministries to integrate QR codes into their communications practices.  One of my favorites from the list is #3 – where you use QR codes to link to media offerings that delve deeper into the subject of the sermon, or offer sermon notes or recordings for on-demand playback.  The other one worth considering is integrating them into event invitations so that they are easily passed along and the landing page has details, maps, directions for the event you are promoting.

QUESTION: Have you EVER scanned a QR code?  When was the last time you actually spotted one?

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5 responses to I’m Not Sold On Using A QR Code. Are You?

  1. rich@killerchurch.com 2011/03/19 at 5:15 PM

    I’m not convinced that it’s going to catch on or go anywhere. Google goggles on my phone can just scan and search any image no need to make a special graphic to do that.

  2. We use them weekly in our bulletins at church to link content in the bulletin to online content. We've had great response to them and they get used frequently.

    While Google Goggles is awesome, it only works well with images. If you want to link to a specific page on a site, you need something more specific than an image and QR codes work great.

    I use bit.ly to shorten the links and create the QR codes – they allow you to track their usage and measure whether they're actually being used.

  3. Thanks Rich & Matthew for chiming in.

    @Matthew – Great to hear your church is using it – and more importantly getting a good response. The very few QR codes I've produced was done via http://www.goo.gle – Google's answer to bit.ly – and it provides tracking too.

    I think that QR codes will probably have more value if there is a standardized layout that allows textual info to accompany it – a URL, tweet-like tag, etc so that the person can get more info before investing the time to scan and decode the QR.

  4. PaulSteinbrueck 2011/03/20 at 8:37 AM

    Kenny, thanks for your post and the link back to my post. I don't think it matters if QR codes go mainstream or not. There's no cost or downside to them other than the little bit of time it takes to get them and the little bit of space they take up. If they can provide additional content to some people or bring some more people to a web page, why not?

    Less than 10% of adults in the US use Twitter, yet a lot of organizations find it worthwhile to use Twitter to connect with them.

  5. heat paint block 2011/03/21 at 8:24 PM

    Honestly before I read your post I had no idea that what those black and white boxes were called. I'm not sure they are going to catch on but I guess only time will tell if they actually will or not. Just think when Facebook, Myspace or Twitter first started out not everyone had heard of them or even knew what they were for and now you can't really go anywhere without someone talking about them.

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