Please, Don’t Put a QR Code There!

A recent report from ScanLife points to the fact that more people are scanning QR codes this year than they were last year, at least QR codes that were created by ScanLife. This can be explained by the increased usage of QR codes by advertisers and by the fact that more people own smartphones now than they did last year.

It is noteworthy that according to ScanLife, 60% of people who scan QR codes do so at home. This might indicate that QR codes are less effective when people are asked to scan them while they are on the go.

However, I need to point out that these findings are probably biased based on what brands hire ScanLife and how they use QR codes in their advertising campaigns.

Not Everyone Is in Favor of QR Codes in Advertising

In general, using QR codes to market a product or service is a very polarizing topic among marketers. Either they love them or they hate them.

As Margie Clayman points out in a recent blog post, “Truthfully, there is some bad feeling about QR codes, but the main reason for those bad feelings is that many marketers have not used QR codes in the most effective way possible. In fact, a lot of people have used QR codes in a way that creates annoyance and frustration versus happiness and joy.”

In the post, Clayman gives some good advice about what not to do when using QR codes in your marketing campaigns.

Where the Ad Is Placed Makes a Difference

There is a lot of advice out there about how to use QR codes in your marketing campaigns if you do a Google search.

However, sometimes, a brand can do everything correct when creating the campaign, only to have it fail when a employee at the store level puts the sign in a location that might not be appropriate.

For example, earlier this week I stopped in a local gas station to use the restroom and noticed a QR code on a sign on the wall. The sign was for a good cause, and the QR code was big enough to be scanned.

As I waited, I thought about taking out my smartphone and scanning the ad. But then, I looked over just a few feet to the left at the urinal and realized that I might look a little perverted pulling out a smartphone and using the camera in the men’s room.

Remember, not everyone knows how to scan a QR code. In fact, some people might not know what they are. Therefore, in this instance, scanning the QR code might be more trouble than it’s worth.

In this case, the negative feelings that I had were more powerful than the good intention of the ad. (I know that I am only one person, but I’d bet others have felt the same way.)

If the sign with the QR code was placed in the bathroom stall where people would scan behind a closed door, then I think that would be acceptable. If the bathroom had a separate area for washing your hands in another room, that might be an okay place also. However, if it is placed right by the urinals, it could cause problems for both the business and its customers.

Just to see if I was overreacting, I Googled the topic and found out that Dave Delaney wrote a similar blog post last year.


There are a lot of marketers who think QR codes are ineffective. Others disagree.

Both might be correct, depending on the situation.

If your business does choose to use QR codes in their marketing campaigns, there is a lot of good advice out there if you do a Google search.

However, no matter how well you plan your marketing campaign, if the advertisement is placed in an inappropriate location at the store level, all your efforts could be wasted.

Therefore, it might be appropriate for chain stores to have guidelines as to where to put certain types of advertisements within the store.

Furthermore, if not that many people are scanning QR codes that are placed in your advertisements, you might want to check to see if there are other factors that might be discouraging people from scanning the QR code—including the location of the advertisement.

So, what do you think… would you scan a QR code in the restroom?

Chad Thiele

Chad Thiele

I am a marketing analyst and strategist. I earned my master's degree from West Virginia University in Integrated Marketing Communications in 2023. I also hold a bachelor's degree from UW-Madison in Sociology with a Concentration in Analysis and Research, and I completed the Mobile Marketing Professional Certificate Program from Auburn University in 2015.