Oh No! “QR Codes Kill Kittens”

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qr codes killYou have to love marketing books that put the proverbial tongue in cheek in eyebrow-raising ways. When I saw the title for QR Codes Kill Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground, I figured I’d grab a copy from the publisher, Wiley, to see if the cool text belied this cool title.

This book was written by Scott Stratten, President of marketing firm UnMarketing (and author of a book, also named UnMarketing) and Alison Kramer, firm Co-Founder and writer.  The book is meant for managers who need examples for marketing missteps.

In my mission to save kittens, let’s look at what QR codes are and the state of their usages.  QR codes are those squares with funny rectangular patterns that you see on brochures, pamphlets and on the price cards at Best Buy.  Their purpose is to hold media that you can scan and view with your smartphone. They have been around now for a few years, but not everyone has adopted the codes well:

“Did you know that 50 percent of people who scan a QR code would never scan one again. Know why? It didn’t work. It didn’t bring value. It made people jump through unnecessary and all-too-often-nonfunctioning hoops. “

I’ve seen QR codes in New York Subway ads — all appearing prior to MTA plans for adding wifi to the subway cars — so I get what the authors are saying.

When you open the book, you’ll certainly get the image the authors were seeking to create.  Pictures of poorly placed QR codes will entertain and inform along the way, like this one:

QR Code Kills Kittens Example Image

The authors also note other issues that disconnects with customers.  They criticize Facebook and captchas, note the miscommunications on Twitter, and how people are increasingly seeking social media shortcuts at the risk of their business:

“Is it really too much for provide a valued service, instead of paying for reviews? … If you do not have time to manage your social media accounts properly, or your product quality control for that matter, you shouldn’t be focusing on new technologies. Your time is better spent elsewhere.”

This book is light on text, and provides a whimsical tone in some of its highlights.  You’ll weigh how much value to get from comments -– I did like its note about open ended questions:

“Be careful crowdsourcing a phrase.  When you ask an open-ended question, people will answer however they want. And the answers you don’t want often travel the farthest.”

There is definitely an anti-QR viewpoint that the authors carefully extended into a broader discussion about the wrong uses of social media and digital marketing. Having said that, the text and image combination may not be for everyone.

If you are seeking to give an employee a more formal example of marketing and social media guidance, look up books like Small Town Rules and Digital Impact, as well as basic social media 101 like, well, Social Media 101.

Combine these suggestions with this book, and you’ll have a solid way of initiating a discussion of social media usage. And thanks to Stratten and Kramer, you’ll save more than kittens. Maybe your own reputation.


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Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.