QR Codes follow-up (haters continue to hate)

A while back I wrote a post about QR codes. It’s not a pet topic of mine, but I do have one on my business card. I have one on a self-inking rubber stamp. And of course there’s one on this site, if you happen to want to continue reading this on your iPhone.

The reason I ended up writing the QR code haters gonna hate QR codes article had more to do with what passes for commentary in the marketing community. Some of my colleagues had been passing around a link to an article announcing the impending death of QR codes. I thought the article was largely fallacious and poorly argued. And it kind of annoyed me that professionals in my industry, even those intimately familiar with the digital channel, will see an article on the web covering some aspect of the business, and then just pass it along as though it were fact. So I wrote a rebuttal.

Then an interesting thing happened; Fast Company posted an article online that linked to my rebuttal. Traffic here shot way up, which I found pleasantly amusing, and I briefly wondered if there were some way to monetize the trend. More pingbacks followed as the Fast Company article was republished on content farms and autoblogs. But hundreds of real people seemed to be reading too. A reader emailed to ask if I was available to speak to his team on the subject.

So it seems that the topic of QR codes is a popular one. People want to talk about them. People are searching for information about them. I’m reading that there are people who absolutely love them, and people who hate them – which I find pretty odd. I’m reminded of what self-described “engineer in recovery” Jim Reekes, creator of the System 7 Sound Manager and the Mac startup sound, had to say on the topic of rabid Mac fandom: “I’ve got a lawnmower, but I don’t sit around talking about it. I cut my grass. Whatever.”

Taking a position, as someone in the marketing industry, that you hate QR codes is like saying you hate the colour orange. It’s simply not relevant to the discussion. I hate billboards. I can think of no situation in which I would rather be looking at a billboard than the tree, sky, or even featureless brick wall behind it. But someone owns and operates that billboard legally (we hope), and someone in media can show you figures that prove how effective it is to have your big old ad plastered up there. And so I’m going to write you a lovely headline for your billboard and I’m going to keep my opinions to myself.

Likewise, if you expect to find a consumer of products, services, or even just information out in the wild staring at some communication you have devised, a QR code is the fastest, easiest way to continue that communication on your target’s smartphone. How you convince your audience or client of that is your own business (or mine, if I happen to be working for you). The QR code is not an engagement device. It is not a strategy. It is not a tactic.

It’s a lawnmower.