QR Codes Kill Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground

QR Codes Kill Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground by Scott Stratten is a small book outlining pitfalls of information technology in modern marketing. Its title is based on the QR (quick response) code that seems to be applied, more often than not thoughtlessly, to every advertisement–or even to individual bananas, as Stratten shows. The author maintains by the title that QR codes do not work. The enhanced features QR codes supposedly provide are rarely exploited. One should not link a QR code back to a company’s website, for example. Stratten regularly tested codes to discover that far too many of them led to dead links. Stratten wrote this book to tell us “what not to do–with advice that’s easy to digest on mistakes that are easy to avoid” and QR codes are the number one marketing mistake.

The book was formatted to feature a screen capture or photo on each page, illustrating a marketing ploy that went horribly wrong, often to the company’s ignorance or late discovery. I nodded in recognition of the “kiosk circle of shun”, so named to describe kiosks shaped like squares, often found in the middle of walking corridors in malls. These are ostensibly four-sided counters, where customers can be greeted in all directions. The “kiosk circle of shun” however describes the unfortunate situation customers encounter when all of the kiosk’s employees have their backs to the public, and they are engaged in a conversation among themselves. Nothing has sent a clearer message to me that a company doesn’t want my business than the “kiosk circle of shun”.

Stratten also offers advice to presenters, who risk losing their audience by what they put on screen. Who hasn’t sat through a slide show and nodded off because the slide presentation is only text? And too much of it? The author advises in “A Kitten Has Died During Your Presentation If…” the following kitten-killer points:

  • Everything you say is on the screen
  • You need two hands to count the number of bullet points on a slide
  • You bring in all your bullet points at once and pretend people don’t read ahead

When I read those points I laughed, and then I cried in memory of all the kittens who had died at presentations I had attended.

Stratten filled his 196-page book with many other marketing disasters, such as: those who schedule E-mails and then never think to cancel them (especially if the E-mail followed a national tragedy); disgruntled employees blogging about their company dissatisfaction (and later firing); QR codes posted in subways or on the sides of trucks or being towed on banners by airplanes; and snickery Twitter announcements such as the one announcing the newest album by Susan Boyle #susanalbumparty.

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