Welcome to Idea Exchange, where we share our latest thinking about how marketers of highly engineered products and services can design better interactions along the Buyer Experience Value Chain


Welcome to Idea Exchange, where we share our latest thinking about how marketers of highly engineered products and services can design better interactions along the Buyer Experience Value Chain®. At Quarry, we believe a strong brand is just the beginning — which is why we focus on converting branding to buying.

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2D Code, or Not 2D Code, That Is the QR Question

QR codes (aka 2D Barcodes) aren’t new, and yet they remain shrouded in uncertainty. Most marketers understand the theory behind QR code technology, but many are unsure of how exactly it works, or when to use it – and why. This uncertainty raises questions around whether or not a QR campaign is really worth its risk.

With no definitive answer to the use/don’t use question, and with fail blog style sites like WTF QR CODES.com immortalizing a QR campaign Hall of Shame, it’s no wonder marketers often shy away from QR technology.

To try and clear the waters, I’ve done a quick scan (pun intended) of available data and combined them with experience gained from relevant campaigns we’ve managed. What follows is a Never/Maybe/Always guide, a tool you can look to (or click here to download) when deciding whether QR code integration is a do or don’t for your next campaign.

When it’s “2Dumb” to use a 2D/QR code

  • Your market has low smartphone adoption rates
    • Most scanning software is for mobile phones, so if your market doesn’t use them, they won’t be scanning.
  • Your QR code will be in areas with questionable data service or lighting conditions
    • Scans rely on clear images; motion and lighting can affect scan quality.
    • Internet access is required. No coverage means no scan.
  • You haven’t optimized your landing pages for mobile
    • If your assets are hard to read on the viewing device being used, then they won’t be read.

When it’s “Questionable & Risky” to use a 2D/QR code

  • Your QR code resolves on a URL
    • A scan can be as much work – or more – than typing in a URL, especially if your audience needs to download software.
  • Your offer isn’t AWESOME
    • Scanning takes effort. If your page appears low-value, you’re actually doing more harm than good.

When it’s “Quite Right” to use a 2D/QR code

  • You’re 100% sure your audience has QR code scanners
    • QR codes are widely used in certain markets and can help engage with that audience.
  • Your process, and by extension your service, is improved
    • If the code you provide helps you reference information or streamline an administrative task that improves your service with no additional action from the recipient, code away.

For more resources to help get you started on your journey to successful QR code use, I recommend checking out Hubspot’s QRchive. It houses some excellent tools to help you evaluate the specifics of your campaign.

Deciphering the code for QR success comes down to one obvious question: “Is this experience as good as or better than what I already provide for my prospect?” If the answer is “no,” or even “maybe,” you should make sure you’ve considered and fully understand the risk of an underperforming campaign. After all, no one wants to see their work end up on WTF QR CODES, complete with the soul-crushing #fail hash tag.

If, after weighing the risk and reward, you still think QR codes could help in managing your campaigns, then check back next week for my new post where I will outline how our team utilized QR codes to help drive booth traffic for a client’s tradeshow.

Mike Griebenow


Mike is a Quarry alumni.


  • Greg Lehman Greg Lehman says:

    Excellent post Mike!

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. QR codes are great, but they’re just a tool. You need to really consider who will be scanning the QR code and more importantly what you be giving them in return.

    My golden rule for mobile marketing is value. If someone is giving you permission to reach them in their pocket, you need to return that gesture by making it worth their time.

    I’m so glad you also pointed out to optimize your content for mobile. The biggest and most common fail I see is a business using a QR code to direct someone to their non-mobile site.

  • Mike Griebenow Mike Griebenow says:

    Thanks for the comment Greg, I totally agree that the focus needs to be on providing value to the end user, a lack of valuable content only trains users to not scan anything and end up hurting all marketers as a result.

    Having timely and relevant content is extremely important, but marketers need to be acutely aware that bad content and experiences are often worse than none at all.

    Have you run across any examples of a QR code enabled campaign you thought were an excellent use case that would be worth sharing potential readers?

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