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.