Mobile Marketing Isn’t a QR Code

Angry BirdsI’ve had an interesting experience repeat itself lately, and then repeat again, and again. In several occasions lately, I’ve bothered to click a QR code (one of those nifty 3D barcodes like the one you see above), and this effort has redirected me to a non-mobile-formatted web page. This is a missed opportunity.

Mobile Marketing Isn’t a QR Code

While working with Tim Hayden, I’ve come to learn just how powerful mobile marketing can be. He and I have spoken a bunch over the last many years, and more formally (in a business capacity) in recent years, and there’s so much more that could be done for your business when it comes to how people interact with you via their mobile devices. The nuances and opportunities are vast, and the ability to drive off the path and crash your would-be customer into the bushes of a loss are almost equally big.

First, if you have a QR code pointing to a non-mobile-friendly URL, what’s your hope? If you deliver someone to a page that requires they squint, scroll, and otherwise manipulate content in an uncomfortable way, that’s the first experience that person will have with your company. Second, if you are simply using QR codes to redirect people to a URL, you’re missing a lot of opportunities for prospecting, for data delivery, for better service of the customer.

Tim has worked on projects like a QR code that delivers different recipes or food suggestions to go with a certain wine, broken down by region, such that folks in Boston might see a New England Clam Chowder recommendation and people in San Antonio might see a Firehouse Chili recipe. Depending on the systems you have in place, you can do a lot of really interesting work for your prospect that goes well beyond sending someone to your site.

And That’s Just the Start

Ask the person responsible for web sites at your company how much of your traffic is coming from mobile browsers. (If they can’t answer that question, reconsider your web management technology, and/or the person in charge of telling you that answer). If you’re like most companies, that number is up significantly and climbing. What do people want for holiday gifts this year? Smart phones, tablet computers, and thinner laptops. Where do you want them to point those devices? Towards your business.

If you’ve not built out your mobile marketing, that’s something to consider budgeting for in 2012, and now would be the time to start working on it. Tim and I and the team at Human Business Works would be happy to talk with you about that, to see what you could be doing to convert more sales via your mobile channel.

Oh, and if you’re reading this post via a smart phone or a tablet, I’m happy to see you, too. Thanks for reading. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Rick Manelius

    Hey Chris. What’s your opinion on going beyond just a mobile website and directing to a URL to download a mobile app? I know it’s not for everyone, but if mobile/tablets are the future… are apps the way to best connect? Or do you think websites will still win out for the next 5 years?

    • Jeff Korhan

      Funny you should mention this. Recently I noticed Marriott hotels is doing this.  They have a QR code on room keys that leads to a download of their app.

      • Rick Manelius

        That’s a pretty smart idea. Everyone (obviously) has a room key… and looks at it every time they take it out to go to their room. And downloading the app is huge, particularly if it gives benefits such as daily specials and/or other functionality that is difficult through a web interface.

        Did you download the app? Did it provide anything beneficial to your stay?

        • Jeff Korhan

          Actually, I had already downloaded it.  It is a pretty good app – make a reservation, global reservation numbers, pull up existing res, check rewards points … even city guides and things like that.

  • John Thomas

    I was discussing the security of QR codes with a security expert. Great for marketing until someone exploits your QR code and it causes a virus to wipe out your phone. I wont be scanning any in the future.

    • deancollins

      hey John…theres viruses on the internet that can attack your desktop computer, quick please unplug the power cord and run away right now – oh my god the tragedy think of the children NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

      • John Thomas


        Hey deancollins,  Indeed there are viruses that can attack your computer, but I am talking about your smart phone. Imagine you download my game, during the game I tell you to come to my website, scan my QR code to unlock additional content, but what really happens is you activate a keylogger hidden in my game. Now when you login to your webmail, twitter, bank, etc. your phone is sending me your credentials. I log into your bank change the email, phone number, etc. I logging to your email, and retrieve the they “yes I want this change” email from your bank. You are none the wiser while I drain your account, spam the internet with your email, twitter account, and get your crappy website blocked on Google, all because you trusted my QR code. 

        By the way, being a troll is not good for your business image. 

        • deancollins

          John, you can do exactly as described already without the use of a QR code (eg just a downloadable app that you already had the user install). You can also do everything above on a PC….whats your point?

          As for my business image, i talk this way with clients all the time and they pay me well because i cut through the chaff to the heart of the matter and dont BS them.

    • Rick Manelius

      Is that any different than any other internet exploit? I’m not saying it’s not a concern… but is it any worse than any other means of compromising a phone?

      • John Thomas

        Not really. The fact that most smart phones have no security, and QR codes are entirely trust based, makes them an easy target. People trust anyone giving them the QR code promising free stuff. 

  • Anonymous

    Great post.  Too many marketers throw strategy out the window and just want to play with the next shiny toy. This is especially true with mobile.  Marketers think their audience will be so enamored with the technology they’ll ignore the fact that it isn’t providing any value to the customer.

    I’m curious, what do you think of text messaging as a call-to-action over QR codes?

  • Raul Colon


    A few days ago I saw a website with a QR Code on it. So if you where reading the website on your desktop you could point and scan with your mobile phone where it would take you a non mobile friendly site. 

    It would have been easier to add a link but these individuals obviously no more than most of us so they put up the QR code on the website to show how savvy they are. 

    So many people just want to print out those QR Codes without even having a specific need to print them out. 

    Thankfully there are people like Tim Hayden and @houseofbrew who have taught me a bit more about the subject. 

  • Yennivance

    Great post!

  • Desiree Scales

    QR Codes are a trend right now. That’s it. Without a well organized campaign and a thinking person behind it, they fall flat. A QR Code on a website? Really? If you’re going to use a QR, you better have a good strategy in place including a mobile friendly page or site. Great post Chris!

  • Rachel Keslensky – Last Res0rt

    Regardless of what you think about QR codes, mobile web development is key for future design… and with responsive web design, it can even be folded into already-existing sites using CSS3.

    WELL worth any designer’s time to play with this idea. I’ve managed to do all right with it on my own page, after all…

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  • Adam Dukes

    Great article Mr. Brogan. I was actually talking to a guy that owns a vitamin store yesterday about his website not being mobile. He disagreed. He told me that it’s not hard to scan and zoom and everything can be read just fine (after zooming in, of course)

    Just about all the QR Codes I see direct me to a non-mobile site. It seems that business owners see other people doing this (QR Codes) and want to do it themselves with no education on it. 

  • GlendaWH

    Another case of where web accessibility is a must!

    On my way home from LA on Monday and seeing QR Codes EVERYWHERE, it struck me: I need a QR pointing to a landing page on the back of my scooter! Next step: figure out the how. Suggestions welcomed.

  • Henry Louis

    Good points are mentioned. Thanks for sharing this post.

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    I was suggested this website by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my difficulty. 

  • Anonymous

    Yesterday I found the dumbest QR code yet – thought I would share with the group.  Not sure where it would have directed me, or if the site was mobile-friendly, but to scan I would have had to hold my phone out the window of my car while do 70 mph in rush-hour traffic and point it at a billboard 60-70 feet off the ground!!  (Even better, the sign was on the driver’s side so a passenger couldn’t do it for you)

    I’m a big fan of QR, but this one took the cake!

    • Anonymous

      I’ve seen on on a highway billboard too.  Hilarious.  The ones on TV are great too.  Wait, let me rewind my DVR, pause it, and get up off the couch to scan this thing.  Come on.

  • Link Building Services

    It is true point that now it is the major need to make own business accessible on the mobile device and for that one need to build the site that is easy deal with the cell phone.
    But some points that one need to be sure about is that one need to find such mobile service that be so effective for the business. And not even this but the thing is to think that after the presence on the cell , how one can attract that person to visit the shop after getting the details through the cell and to buy their product?

  • Anonymous

    Amen, Chris. QR codes are popping up everywhere, but when I scan one, I fully expect to see an landing page obviously mapped to the information I scanned. If they do that, I usually buy the product. 

    But 9 out of 10 don’t. They take me to some crappy webpage and ask me to search. #FAIL

  • Guest

    QR codes are great in concept but it looks like only first adopters are
    the only ones that get it. As a marketer, I would only use QR codes if I
    was targeting that particular market. 

  • Jason Keath

    The worst is when I see QR codes on adds in the subway. Where there is never a cell signal. I see a new one every month and wonder who is possibly making this decision? It’s like putting a fire escape on a one story building.

  • Adam Dukes

    I was in the gas station yesterday and saw a promotion Monster (the energy drink) was running with a QR Code on it. I grabbed it and took it home. I just scanned it and…

    It takes me to a NON-mobile friendly website! Monster Energy! 

    Even the big boy brands don’t get this stuff.


  • Hank Wasiak

    GReat points Chris…..many times the basics get overlooked when businesses jump in to new technology. Will be lecturing on mobile in my USC class today and we’ll be dicussing your blog post. Thanks for sharing.

  • Luís Lopes

    So damn right, people thinks new technology is marketing. see you at EmpireAvenue :-)


    QR Codes are new so a lot of companies aren’t sure how to market them correctly. QR Codes should be used to entice visitors directly to a product or service, not a general website.

  • Becky McKinnell

    I couldn’t agree more– it is such a let down when you make the extra effort to go to a site and then have to put more effort in to actually read the message. Sometimes people don’t get that just because you can see your website on a phone doesn’t mean it’s a mobile site!

  • Tora Boström

    Good point! If you use a QR code to your website then have an mobile friendly website. I just started to use these codes and think its a great concept for PR and marketing. But the earlier comments about getting virus in your mobile by using QR codes makes me honestly a little bit more careful from now on..

  • Virtual Business Assistant

    Great post and really informative one and most of the small companies are still blissfully ignorant of mobile marketing  influence on customer choice of products/services. This should help them know that you can no longer ignore it any longer..

  • Mj

    Great post Chris and so true. We see it everyday. I know there is a raging battle over QR codes and mobile text but I tend to lean toward mobile text as being more easily adopted by the general public. This because TV shows like American Idol and Survivor have trained people how to use text. “Text 12234 to Survivor” to vote or to win.Also you don’t need a scanner on the phone. Same rules apply send them to a website or link that doesn’t work and game over.

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  • JarrodC

    I use QR codes for one purprose: to enter contact information into my phone. Taking a picture of a QR code is much easier than typing someone’s title, name, address, phone number, and website into my phone. 

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  • RLCrocker

    Every QR Code I ever clicked on went to a non-mobile optimized site.  Unreal.

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