Top Business QR Code Failures

Previously, we wrote about the advertising potentiality of QR codes and its use for online marketers. In this discussion, we will talk about QR code failures.

When QR codes are not able to manage all the encrypted data, when there is no web accessibility while scanning QR codes or when there is a lack of compatibility with the scanning devices, your QR code marketing plan could fail drastically.

Ever since its inception in the digital marketing industry, the responses towards QR codes have been slow.  “Corporate marketing failure with QR codes” was the most discussed topic of 2011.

Initially, they were considered as the best marketing tool to promote business online, but with certain campaigns, it could not achieve a high success ratio. This resulted in failure of the marketing base of those corporations who used QR codes as a part of their online marketing strategy.

Following can be classified as the top QR code failures

Red Bull QR Code Failure:

Red Bull is an Austrian born corporation. Red Bull started using QR codes in 2010. According to Forrester Research reports, only 1% of U.S. adults used to scan 2D bar codes and QR codes with their Smartphone’s in 2010. This caused big-time losses for Red Bull who paid huge money for adopting the QR codes marketing strategy.

Continental Airlines QR Code Failure:

Continental Airlines used QR code on its in-flight magazine. When a passenger scanned these codes, the scanner was directed to a webpage with a pop-up window and two buttons. This webpage was mostly offline and the passenger wouldn’t be able to access the information on that page.

Continental Airlines also used QR codes for its campaign program on the subway ads, on its flight magazine and on its website. But due to low accessibility of QR codes, it could not generate effective marketing results.

FedEx Ships QR Code Failure:

FedEx Ships started placing QR codes on its van and other heavy vehicles. Whenever one of these vans stopped on the road, Smartphone users started scanning this code. Due to this, various traffic problems arose. This proved to be an inappropriate QR code marketing strategy.

The Washington Redskins QR Code Failure:

Proprietary scanner is needed when a user scans any QR codes on any social networking sites. This made The Washington Redskins a big failure with QR codes. In 2010, they started placing QR codes on their official Facebook page. Since the users did not have proprietary scanner or scanner authentication to active the QR codes on the Facebook Page, the marketing strategy failed.

Esquire Magazine QR Code Failure:

Esquire’s use of QR codes was good until the magazines were packaged for mailing. After packaging, people realized that the mailing label or the address label was totally hidden due to QR codes.

The actual concept to launch QR codes on the address detail was to force customer to scan the QR codes to know the mailing address. However, the strategy could not prove to be an effective one and thus, it became another QR codes failure.

Nirvana’s Nevermind 20th Anniversary Edition QR Code Failure:

Nirvana’s album cover of its Nevermind 20th Anniversary Edition looked cool with QR codes. However, it became difficult to scan the codes because they were placed on the left hand side of the footer and due to less margin on the cover, scanning was impossible.

Ralph Lauren QR Code Failure:

Ralph Lauren placed its designer QR codes as part of its new advertisement layout. It failed for many reasons: A QR code was placed at the lower right corner of the advertisement page. This made the code difficult to spot. No description or information of QR codes was available on the advertisement cover. Instead of opening a contest registration form, users were directly linked to the company’s Facebook page. Ralph Lauren adopted branded marketing with the QR code and placed the brand name on the QR code. This was considered a bad marketing strategy by industry experts.

Jet Blue QR Code Failure:

Jet Blue adopted business marketing with QR code in 2011. The ads were teased with images of beaches along with an offer of a free vacation by scanning QR codes on it. These pictures were used on subway trains but due to low network coverage of Smartphone’s towers, the QR codes marketing concept failed.

Common mistakes In Top QR codes failures

While writing this post, I tried to find out what the basic or the most common reason for QR codes failure was for all these companies. I think in all the cases, the QR code was not placed properly. To remedy this, the following practices should be adopted to provide a better scanning facility to QR codes.

  1. Place QR codes where the web accessibility is easy. The code should not be placed in underground locations like subway tunnels, in-flight locations and in underground hospitals.
  2. Do not place QR codes on mailing labels or where the code gets obscured.

Besides, if the online marketers provide an easy approach to scan QR codes, for example, provide some free scanning applications, it would be an effective marketing tool. If QR code scanning is made possible universally without the use of Internet connection, it will be beneficial for both the marketers and the consumers.

Initially, Smartphones were less used and all Smartphones were not capable to retrieve text behind QR codes directly if they didn’t have proper or a compatible scanned device. Since the Smartphone market is growing, hope is still there for marketers to use this tool effectively.

However, as we saw above, the placement of QR codes is essential for its success. In online marketing, understanding the audience and providing the best source of information is vital.

What Are QR Codes and Should Marketers Use Them?

Introduced by Denso Wave in Japan and ISO standardized, Quick Response code (QR code) is a bi-dimensional bar code initially used for product identification. Today, this bar code is adopted for online marketing in various organizations. This highly used marketing tool is generated via various resources available on the Internet.

Traditional Bar codes v/s QR Codes

What Are QR CodesQuick Response code or QR code is an open standard information storage platform which allows embedding of massive information.  This information could be product information, website URL or links to vouchers embedded with the QR code.

Instead of traditional bar codes, people are now using QR codes for online marketing. This is because other bar codes are single dimensional codes capable to hold a maximum of 20 numerical digits. In contrast, bi-dimensional QR codes can store more than 7000 numeric digits and more than 4000 alpha numeric digits.

How to Create QR Codes?

Numerous websites allow generating QR codes for free.  These free tools create QR codes; allow the user to link web pages, contact details, messages or texts with codes. Additionally, some free tools also offer color customization and background format facilities to integrate in the product’s marketing strategy.

Microsoft tag is a well-known tool to generate QR codes. This tool has various symbols and shapes in multiple colors where the website URL can be added. Moreover, you can also Google for other free resources like Kerem Erkan’s tool and the TEC- IT QR codes generator.

Decrypting QR Codes:

Reading or decrypting QR codes is not really a tough job. Lots of QR codes readers and bar code scanners like SpyderLynk, SnapTag, JagTag and Red Laser help you in tracing the encrypted text or URL.

In most of the mobile devices like Smartphone, QR Codes can be easily scanned and decrypted. Whenever mobile Internet users scans a code in an ad on the webpage on mobile, the camera attached to the mobile device scans that code by using the installed bar code scanner. This takes them to the message associated with the code.

QR Codes for Internet Marketers:

QR codes can be an effective Internet marketing strategy. These codes, represented in black and white dots, can be easily seen on personal mails, posters, window storefronts, billboards and other channels.

These codes provide an indirect, but appropriate way to attract new customers without imposing on the privacy of the web user. QR codes are mostly popular as a means to deliver promotional codes, discount vouchers, free trial options and other marketing strategies.

Few examples of QR codes applications can be:

  • Business card with QR codes can be used to add content to the address list in electronic version.
  • QR codes containing SMS can be used in electronic message passing system.
  • Data encrypted facility in QR codes is highly used as a security tool for passing messages/emails amongst military departments and other defense services.
  • QR codes with configuration settings are now using by android/iPhone applications for automatic installation in devices.

Benefits of Using QR Codes:

  • Online marketers use QR codes to stay ahead of business competitors.
  • Online marketing via QR codes attracts people towards products or services without using any illegal marketing strategies like automatic page ‘likes’ through bots or creating fake Twitter followers.
  • Immediate gratification for customers in the form of instant information and product promotions.
  • It is the most suitable product campaign strategy targeting Smartphone customers with the help of QR codes scanner application in phones.

Disadvantages of Using QR Codes:

  • If the QR codes content is not flexible, it will turn into a bad marketing strategy.
  • QR codes are only effective as long as the encrypted page URL or page location remains the same.
  • Flexibility with updating webpage URL is not an effective one. Updating webpage after QR codes encryption requires the generation of new QR codes to feature the updated webpage. Hence, QR code marketing is a time consuming approach.

Using QR Codes for Business Promotion:

Product/service marketing with QR codes demands lesser effort as compared to other marketing resources. Following are the ways to use QR codes for business promotion.

  • Google has established a separate platform for QR Code. Online marketers can use it as an effective tool to promote business in accordance to SEM and SEO technologies.
  • You can use the product’s QR Code on the business website. When a visitor captures the QR code on Smartphone, the product information will be either emailed or sent in text mode.
  • If you want to start a social media campaign, encrypt the Facebook or Twitter page URL in the QR code. The QR code can then be displayed on the website along with other social media campaign avenues like forums.
  • Attaching QR Codes with flyers, business cards and brochures are also adoptive resources for online business promotion.

QR Codes are a new way to promote online businesses.  Many organizations are now promoting their business by placing video URLs, special offers, product launches and business logos by encrypting them with QR Codes.

For first time QR code marketing, you need to learn how to attract the reader’s / visitor’s attention towards the code. This can be done with some attractive lines like “Grab your discount” or “Scan code to get information”.

QR codes strategy is steadily capturing the online business promotion market than traditional marketing strategies. Beginner users of QR codes should make sure that the codes they are using should be mobile-friendly so that the targeted market can capture the codes easily and read them.


In short, the function of QR codes as a marketing strategy is a new domain. It needs more data and statistics to prove its usability. However, at the moment, online marketers have found this strategy a novel way to generate leads and business sales.

What do you think about it? Leave a comment below…