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Does QR stand for Quasi-Ridiculous? (an analysis)

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Digital Marketing
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QR Code Crowne Plaza Hotels

I understand QR codes are the new “it” thing, the Taylor Lautner of calls-to-action. And indeed, given the increasing ubiquity of smart phones (41% in the U.S. according to new research by my client ExactTarget), many of your potential customers have the capacity to interact with your QR code.

But whether they will or not isn’t about technology adoption, it’s about design, relevance, ease-of-use, and suitability of purpose.

The example above is a bit of mixed bag in this regard.


You certainly know that this ad features a QR code. In fact, the QR code itself is substantially larger than the logo of the company (Crowne Plaza Hotels). If you want to run an expensive national print ad campaign to make sure people think your hotel is all post-modern and zeitgeisty, then I guess this qualifies as killer graphic design. From a branding and behavior likelihood perspective (the QR code dwarfs the URL, which is more likely to be used), this is misplaced design priorities, Exhibit A.


Once I get out my magnifying glass to realize this is a promotion for Crowne Plaza hotels, I’m more interested in the overall premise. It took me quite a while to figure out the mechanics of this offer, however. The ginormous headline doesn’t explain anything, and the body copy talks about $75, $300 and includes an asterisk, a URL, two font colors and capitalization on Vacation Pay. Whaaa?

Reading the mouse type at the bottom of the ad tells me the opportunity window for this promotion is until August 31, but it still never explains the $300 reference. After a bit of pondering, I’ve come to believe it means that you can only use this promotion 4 times. Why they wouldn’t say it that way – and why it needs to be said at all in the body copy – is a mystery to me.

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Scanning the QR code with your smartphone takes you to a simple form where you ostensibly add your first name, last name, zip, and email address (twice). I tried to submit this form five times, and got an error message every time. Ultimately, I had to go to the website and register there, which negates the advantage of QR in every possible way.

Suitability of Purpose

The only field required on the form is email address. That’s commendable, as we all know that EVERY data point you request has a negative impact on your conversion rate. But if Crowne Plaza only needs email address to register you for this promotion, why use QR at all?

It would be substantially easier – and you’d have a much larger potential audience – if you asked people to simply text message in their email address to sign up. 89% of Americans 15 or older have a phone capable of this action, it would take a lot less of their time to participate, and they wouldn’t get a broken sign-up form.

In fact, I wrote a post years ago about US Airways using SMS to allow passengers to sign up for their frequent flyer program. But that’s when SMS was still cool. QR gets all the love now, and stole the hype from text messaging seemingly overnight.

And marketers are buying it in bulk. I’m as guilty (probably more so) than you, as we included 22 Microsoft Tags (QR’s urbane, proprietary cousin) in our book The NOW Revolution.

I like QR. I like it’s interactivity and tracking and multi-media capabilities. But I don’t like it just to be able to check off “Put a Huge QR Code in Our Print Ad” in a Powerpoint presentation of marketing “wins”. So before you take your mobile efforts to QR-ville, make sure you understand when, why, and how it makes sense.


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