In short: NO.

You know, in Hungary we have tons of ruin pubs. And it always annoyed me when people plastered ruin pub toilets with disgusting QR-coded stickers, so I printed and stuck out 240 of these kind of stickers which link back to my page, and I measured their effectiveness. Part of the preparation was using 8 types of stickers in both male and female toilets, in case different topics and genders show a variance in behavior. (They did.)

qr code stickers test sex money party

I put these on the walls: 1. Empty 2. “Money” 3. The activity starts with “S” 4. “Party”

I disclosed the results last year at TedXYouth (video below), but I always wanted to publish the outcome in an article, where I can further elucidate the professional (“data-filled”) results as well.

Costs: $30 (240 stickers)
Time spent on placing the stickers: 4 hours by 2 people = 8 hours
Total number of readings within 1 month: 171 (yes only 171)

So I paid 17.5 cents and spent 84.21 seconds for 1 reading.

What I didn’t mention at TedXYouth is that there was an email address on the webpage. I explained that this is just an experiment and whoever is interested in the results can contact me via email, or if they’re not, they can just browse through my page. After all, this is the point of QR-code readings: the user enters the site and looks around or gets in touch.

In total, I received 3 emails after 1 month. What’s even more nuts is that of the 171 people, 8 (that is ONLY 8) went on to browse the site. This means I spent around 4 bucks and ten minutes multifold for 1 conversion ,  aka. 1 „satisfied” user.

Overall, I would have been better off if I sit down to talk with 8 people in the ruin pubs, buy them a beer and speak to them for half an hour about why they should do business with me.

So no, QR-codes are not effective marketing tools – they’re simply not meant for this kind of use. (At least based on the results of this experiment). Not many people read it anyway – and whoever does only does so for the fun of it, they don’t mean anything by it. QR-codes can always work to provide supplementary information, as a guide, things like that, but not for marketing. (Oh, and they’re not much to look at either).

(Of course there were limitations to this experiment.
1. It was only tested in ruin bars
2. The sampling was low in number (240  stickers)
But I think it’s a good direction to draw further conclusions for different scenarios.)

For me, the biggest learning from this experiment is again that each marketing channel has to be measured.

If you don’t measure it, you don’t know when you are throwing money out the window, and what actually brings the most „clients” to  you.

+ 1 thought: my two favourite segmented data: the clicking preferences of guys and girls. It is worthy to note that after s*x, girls ranked money as a second, but boys ranked “nothing”. ☺) (Okay, the sample-size really was small for the girls…)

girls ctr

Female CTR: S*x, nothing, party, money

boys clickthrough

Male CTR: S*x, nothing, party, money

If you are interested in the detailed results, here’s my TedXY presentation from last year:

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Tomi Mester