QR Code Marketing

What's all this  QR Code stuff I keep hearing about?

Is this one of the questions you are asking yourself lately?


QR Codes have been around since the early ’90s, but only with the widespread adoption of smartphones and barcode-scanning apps have customers been able to easily access QR codes in significant numbers.

According to comScore, 20.1 million mobile phone owners in the U.S. used their devices to scan a QR code in the three-month average period ending October 2011. In the big scheme of things, this isn’t a large number. However, the number of people using QR codes is expected to grow.

Will QR codes reach widespread public consciousness, or are they destined to be a quirky aside for mainstream promotional campaigns? The trend towards increasingly complex personal technology suggests that the potential is there, but the question remains whether marketers will fully exploit the opportunities QR codes have to offer.

So, what can marketers do to take customers out of their comfort zones and try something new? The ability to access information won’t drive customers to a product’s site unless there’s a reason for them to do so. Below are some of the most creative, fun and interesting examples of QR code marketing that show QR codes have the potential to enrich the product experience and offer the customer real value.

QR (Quick Response) codes are an awesome mobile marketing tool, and are now popping up literally everywhere. Some of the methods of using QR codes today make great sense, like on a business card, so people can scan your info instead of having to type it all in.

And then the placement of some QR codes make no sense at all, like on a street billboard where traffic moves fast. Think about it, how is someone supposed to drive and scan your QR code at the same time (and not have an accident)?

I’ve also seen QR codes on websites that brought you back to the exact same website when used. Just on your phone. If you’re seeing the QR code, you’re already on your computer. Please, don’t do that.

QR codes can give a variety of different types of information. The most common uses are internet links, links to apps, and text.

How To Make A QR Code

Making a QR code is easy. Googling “Make QR Code for free” yields sites like Kaywa and Qurify, both of which work.

Be sure to download the QR Code image to your computer and then upload it to your website, if desired, rather than depending upon the QR Code maker sites to host it for you. That way, if the site stops working, your QR code isn’t affected.

A QR Code Checklist

Here are the keys to a well thought-out campaign using QR codes:

  1. Give people something useful on mobile with your QR code. (Don’t send people to a website that isn’t optimized for mobile with a QR code!)
  2. Use QR codes only in locations where they can easily and safely be scanned.
  3. If the code is in a digital format (email or website), it must also be a link to the same content.
  4. Make sure there is WiFi or 3G access in the place where the code is placed.
  5. The QR code needs to be big enough and clear enough that even the lower-quality phones can scan it.
  6. There should be a clear indication of which types of mobile devices can use the QR code. If it’s for Android only, iPhone users will be irritated if they try to scan it and get poor results.

Some Ideas For Using QR Codes

With that said, here are some great ways to use QR codes:

  1. At a conference or meetup, put a QR code on your name tag or shirt, and people can scan it rather than taking your business card, which will inevitably be lost in a pile of received papers. Be sure to have business cards too, though. Some people like having something tangible.
  2. For local businesses, put a QR code on the door that gives people a file with your opening times, phone numbers, and website. A PDF hosted on a website is good for this. If your business has an app, of course, that’s even better, but be sure to include your hours and phone numbers in a tab in your app!
  3. If you’re having a t-shirt giveaway, you might want to put your QR code on the shirt, so that anyone with questions about your business can just scan a code and get answers. My favorite place for these codes is in the upper area of the back, between the shoulder blades. Putting the code on the front makes the t-shirt unattractive.
  4. T-shirts are more effective than keychains, because they are more visible, but if you’re giving out keychains or other trinkets, put your QR code on them. Just be sure to do it in a way that doesn’t make the item ugly. I was recently at a conference where one of the speakers gave out keychains with a QR code. You could scan the QR code for a chance to win a prize, too. This will, of course, dramatically increase the number of people who scan the code.
  5. Banners – at convention tables, in public spaces, anywhere someone might be interested in your app or product, have a banner with your QR code. (Use banners in places with pedestrian traffic.)
  6. For businesses that service cars, put a QR code sticker on the sun-visor, and have it lead to an app where you can both track regular car service and schedule your next maintenance online. To make it even better, offer coupons!
  7. For a restaurant, give a QR code with the receipt or on the menu. Have it lead to a place to sign up for an email newsletter that includes coupons or freebies.
  8. In emails and on webpages, I have to disagree with Scott Stratten – often people are reading an email or webpage on their computer and want to move the information to their mobile device. Just make sure it’s also a link to the information, in case they’re reading the site or email from their phone.

Be sure to let us know in what ways you’ve used QR codes to power your mobile marketing!