QR in the ER

Many of you probably already know what a QR Code is – and if you haven’t, I’m sure you’ll recognize it when you see one.



Ring a bell? Yes? No? Doesn’t matter – here’s a little summary:

The QR Code stands for Quick Response Code, and is used to store information in a visually displeasing arrangement of bricks (are they black bricks on a white background or white on black?) Using an appropriate app on your tablet or smartphone, you can scan this wonderful image (using the device’s camera) and it presents you with a surprisingly wide variety of information such as details on the business, a redirection to a URL or even a coupon you can use for your next purchase – at the brand that placed their QR code somewhere visually effective and got through to you.

That’s where the purpose of this post kicks in – QR codes suddenly lost their spark in the last couple of years, soon after creating a breakthrough in the way we interact with brands. One of the primary reasons for this sudden downturn in what could have been a powerful marketing tool is that they weren’t used correctly, often being placed in ineffective positions within the brand’s touch points.

I was in Bali over this past weekend only to be diagnosed with food poisoning and an overnight stay at the paradisiacal BIMC Hospital. Yay. Anyway, as I got off the bed to relieve myself of one of food poisoning’s treacherous symptoms, I saw this:

2014-08-20 10.28.16

A QR code on the base of the IV drip hanger. The person who came up with this idea is both a genius as well as…not so much one. He did foresee that hospital patients only look at two things whilst sick: the ceiling when they’re lying down, and the floor when they get up (therefore achieving 50% exposure success). But would any patient in their right mind (and body) put their pain and suffering aside to take out their phone and scan the QR code for more information on the last thing they want to see, an IV drip hanger?


For some fail examples of QR code placement, click here.


So what makes a good QR code then?

  • Location. They must be in a location that does not inconvenience the customer – not too high, not too far. Sometimes when they are large enough it can compensate for the distance but then this may drown the supporting stimuli that appears alongside the code. 
  • Incentive. The customer must be offered an incentive that makes it worthwhile for them to scan the code. Despite the simplicity in scanning a QR code, no one would carry out the action without purpose. Why should they?
  • Relevance. Many brands decide to throw in a QR code where they can, just for the heck of it or because it became a fast-growing digital trend. Marketers must learn to keep them when relevant and ditch them when not.
  • Mobile-site. The importance of leading to an mobile-optimized site is underrated. No one wants to be directed to a page where they have to scroll horizontally to read text, and where half the links are unclickable – it ruins the experience!

For some great examples of QR Code placement and marketing integration, click here.



  • What do you think is important for brands to consider when implementing a QR Code?
  • Do you think QR codes still have a chance at digital marketing?
  • What great/failed examples have you seen of QR Codes in your everyday lives?

6 thoughts on “QR in the ER

  1. Great blog post, Avi! You know, you say that the marketers with that QR code smartly placed on the bottom of the IV drip wasn’t really thinking about the patients who probably wouldn’t be well enough to whip out their phone to scan it, however, you’re a great example of someone who was intrigued enough by the placement of the QR code that you got out your phone, took a photo and wrote a blog post about it! Maybe it actually was extremely well thought out… Did you manage to scan it and find out what the QR code was for?


    • You’re right, it could be very well thought out. But then again, I am a digital marketing student with a subconscious search mechanism for anything digital marketing related. I’m not so sure that many other people in my [painful] position would have put as much effort into it. Oh the things I do for this unit.. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to scan it because – as Chris says below – a QR code scanner was not built into my phone’s camera, which brings up a whole other issue.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do agree, with the emergence of QR codes, the inventors should have tried to form a partnership or something with smart phone companies or something in order to make it a default app on phones and other devices perhaps. Maybe they did, though this would undoubtedly be a big feat to achieve.

        I think I’ve probably scanned one QR code since they came about. Nothing that made me want to keep an app for it really..

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I did a post on QR codes a couple of weeks ago and came to the conclusion that you did. Marketers don’t use the codes effectively. The problem also is that the major smart phones don’t have a stock app for reading the codes so it makes the experience rather disjointed when having to download an app first. Until they are stock then I won’t consider scanning any. nice post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Chris! First off thanks for the compliment! It’s a weird thing isn’t it that our default cameras can do all sorts of fancy things including adding effects, and adjusting a plethora of settings. They even recognize FACES and have features such as auto-capture when a smile is detected. Why then, aren’t pixelated assortments of black and white squares recognized?!


  3. Pingback: Social Coins | The Turing Ticker

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