Using QR codes for mobile marketing

2 minute read

The quick version: Don’t do it.

The longer version:

You’ve no doubt seen them cropping up on adverts and labels all over the place. The little square blocks of static that look like a barcode that’s been put through a blender.

In a marketing context, they’re commonly used as a call to action –  to direct a user to a URL.

This is, in my opinion, a terrible idea.


To use a QR code, a user needs to first understand what one is (only 19% of UK users have ever used one), then have a QR code reader app installed on their smartphone. Then open the app, take a photo of the QR code and wait for the web page to load.

Or you could just put a short URL on your advert, and let anyone use it.

One process is considerably simpler than the other, doesn’t require a custom app, and will work on any internet capable device.

I’ve also seen some really terrible implementations of QR codes. Why on earth would you make your call to action a QR code on a poster above a urinal in a gents toilets. In a pub. Not exactly a place you want to be seen getting your camera out (trust me, it was awkward taking that example photo…) – apparently no one told Surrey County Council that.

Don’t get me wrong, in the right context, for the right audience they can be a good way to drive engagement, but for most applications, I implore you to think twice about using QR codes for a marketing call to action. Use a short URL, or even a text-in shortcode service that texts back a link someone can look at later.