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The Good, The Bad and The Truly Outrageous: The QR code

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The Good, The Bad and The Truly Outrageous: The QR code

With the increase of viral online advertising we decided to look at the impact QR codes are having on the UK marketing scene. As well as discussing if they are being used to their full potential, or if they a complete waste of space.

“Can I ask what a QR code is?” is the reaction I got from my father after telling him I was going to be writing a blog on Quick Response (QR) codes explaining how they should be used (if at all!). What I suddenly realised is that this is the general reaction to QR codes, that they look almost alien to the untrained eye. And so decided that maybe they should be explained first before suggesting how they should be used.


The video shows examples of the aforementioned QR code, the way I described it to my father is “a square boxy thing filled with lots of little blocks”. And he instantly knew that he had seen them before but had no idea what to do with it. If you are one of the millions of people who have a smart phone, then you are able to download a QR reader app, using this you can scan the square box (a bit like you would a products’ barcode) and then it should take you to a link, for example a web page or an app in the app store. Surely this is much easier than typing in a web address or even typing the name of the app in the search bar? Well yes, for those who know what they are, what to do with it and have a QR reader app, they are very simple and effective when used correctly. But those, like my father, who don’t know about them, would just turn the page of the newspaper completely oblivious to what that code could do for them.

Now say every one knows how to use a QR code, and has a reader on their phone, how should the code be used to its best advantage?

The Good

There have been some outstanding examples of how they can and should be used. For example Tesco set up ‘virtual stores’ in subways and metro stations in Korea.

 tesco qr code metro station korea


According to the public are able to “browse life-like images of supermarket shelves with their smartphones and scan the QR codes on products to add them to their shopping carts, all whilst waiting for the metro. Their purchases would then be delivered to them at home, with no need to carry heavy bags.” Another extremely innovative way of using them (which isn’t business related) is in a CV. Many people do video CV’s, especially those in media related jobs, Victor Petit, a French student, shows us how to make your CV stand out.


The Bad

However, even though some companies have had some truly inspirational ideas for QR codes, some companies have come up with completely outrageous ways of how to use them. For example this QR code placed on the back of a lorry – try scanning that one whilst you’re driving!

truck qr code


Most people have seen QR codes in train stations. The great thing about these ones is their placement.

qr code station


The Outrageous

As just mentioned, train stations are prominent places for QR codes, which makes sense due to the traffic of people going through them on a daily basis. However, placement again is key to success…

third rail qr code


And even when they haven’t been placed underground where there is no signal or Wi-Fi, or where a train could hit you while you try to access them, they are still in some very interesting places.

In the end…

Casino Royale


It seems that QR codes do have the potential to be fantastic; it is just the way in which they are used and presented needs to have a bit of a revamp. We have seen in the media lots of innovative ways people have been using them, including at museums and art galleries where users are taken to a link or an app which provides them with more information on whatever they are looking at. As well as for shopping as shown above by Tesco, this is an idea that we think could change the way people shop in the future.

As well as this they can be used to show movie trailers, for example rental shops companies could put them onto DVD covers, so while you browse you can also see the trailer for the film. Or they could be in bus stops on movie posters for the same reason.

For example, check out the Iron Man poster to the left, it looks like it's actually part of the poster artwork rather than an alien item, it's unobtrusive and interesting and something that can spark curiosity to passers by.

So we have established that even though the QR code can be used in a huge amount of fulfilling ways, it hasn’t been to the point that everyone is using them in their marketing campaigns, yet.


Check back for part 2 where we will talk more about how we think QR codes should be used.