Name: Quick Response (QR) Code

Born: 1996 – Japan

Died: 2011 – U.S.

Cause of Death: Gross Abuse and Neglect 

The QR code, that technological wonder that marketing folks have been all agog over, is officially dead. Let’s give it a decent burial, and move on.  QR codes first appeared on the scene a couple of years ago, and have been touted by marketing folks around the country as the next big thing since then.

The problem is that few marketers understood, or understand, how to use these codes; they were a novelty at best, but one that in practice offered little real value to consumers. It was this lack of value that contributed to the codes’ demise.

I just finished paging through a well-known food industry publication; within this magazine are 16 advertisements containing QR codes. Out of that 16 only one – just one—had a site optimized for mobile viewing. The rest were either direct links to the standard website, or took so long to load I gave up waiting.

Even the site that was optimized was still just a website. It offered me no incremental value for my time. I absolutely expect incremental value if I have to grab my phone, open a scanner app, scan the code, and wait for it to load. This is especially maddening when I’m sitting at my desk reading, and it would a lot easier to just type in the URL to my computer’s browser—the very same URL that the QR code linked me to more often than not.

Youth marketing agency Archrival recently performed a study of college students and their interest in QR codes. The net result of the study was 75% of those students surveyed said they most likely would not scan a code in the future. Imagine how many busy shoppers want to scan a code at the shelf edge in the store. I suspect that’s a single-digit number.

To be clear, I am a fan of what the QR code offers. I have seen some successful uses, where the user is linked to a mobile-optimized site that offers unique value. But use of QR codes at this level of quality is a rarity on the level of finding a four-leaf clover. Most of the time it’s easier to just open Safari on my iPhone and type in a URL. Even better, just put the info on a sign and let me leave my phone in my pocket.

Somehow as marketers we’ve all been sucked into a kind of mass hysteria over QR codes, and while in the throes of our hysterics we forgot basic marketing principles. We relied on the novelty of QR codes to keep people coming back, but the novelty has worn off. If college students are over QR codes, then we need to take them off life support. I can only hope we’ll do a better job with the “next big thing.”

This post originally appeared on The Shelf Edge and has been reposted with permission.