Crosstown Digital Communications

In Defense of QR Codes and Infographics

A few bad apples spoil the barrel, and the same is true of infographics and QR codes. These tools have become the laughing stocks of web marketing, considered to be superfluous, shiny, ineffective communications tools.

This reputation is almost deserved. There are a lot of crappy infographics out there, loaded with gaudy graphics and context-less statistics. Likewise, there are lots of silly uses of QR codes, like this one.

But I don’t think either tool is getting a fair shake, and there are smart ways to use them in our communications efforts. I wrote about the value of well-crafted infographics for Meet Content last year. And Seth Odell blogged last summer about his change of heart on QR codes, which when done well can make our lives easier — or, as Tim Nekritz says, they should achieve goals and solve problems.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was taking the Capitol Metro bus to the Austin airport (because I’d rather pay $2 for buses than $30+ for cabs), this is what my bus stop looked like:

This is a great use of a QR code. I have multiple options for getting my desired info (the time of the next bus). In truth, scanning the QR code was the quickest way for me to get this info, which loaded on a mobile-optimized web page.

This is what I love about QR codes — they function as a bridge between physical world needs and digital world information. However, they are a transitional technology. They are our first stab at building that bridge. The methods of creating access points to online information in the physical space will evolve and become more intuitive and sophisticated, to be sure. In the meantime, QR codes are the easiest way to do this.

The same is true for infographics. I love this example by UNC’s Patric Lane, who used an infographic (designed in the same vein as pro football commentary on team advantages) to communicate a research news story succinctly, creatively and not weighed down by jargon. A potentially dry topic about collaboration (groan) and innovation (oy) is instead fresh and engaging (yay).

There are many cases where a QR code or an infographic would be a valuable marketing tool. We just need to think through our needs before throwing tools at them. But in addition, we can’t discount tools like QR codes and infographics just because they get bad press due to others’ sloppy marketing efforts. Don’t let popular opinion (on either side of the fence) drive your decisions. Let your needs and your goals take the wheel.

And just to conclude this post by making your head explode, here’s an infographic about QR codes :-)

2 Responses

  1. Katy says:

    Most of my thinking and reading about QR codes has been about their use in a library environment. Here, I think we face a different set of challenges, but the reasons to use QR codes are also different (it’s less about marketing, although that can be a way to use them in libraries). I’ve been telling people that what’s most important about QR codes is that they connect patrons with information where they are RIGHT NOW, shortening to path to finding answers. Worrying about whether QR codes are supplanted by something else is not as important as providing smoother and more direct access to information, especially using mobile technology. I’ve been trying to make the case that we need to be thinking about the overall process and not the specific technology that’s available to us now. QR codes represent something we’ll be doing more of in the future.

    • Georgy Cohen says:

      I agree that QR codes aren’t really a marketing tool, per se. They’re an information/research/customer service tool. (Providing good info or customer service, incidentally, can function as a type of marketing, in that it can instill the warm fuzzies in people.) I like the way you put it, “shortening the path to finding answers.” Right now, QR codes are one of the best ways to do that, but the focus should always be on shortening that path, no matter the medium.

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