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.

Bad QR Code Use

Unfortunately, there is so much bad QR code use out there that it’s hard to know how to use QR codes effectively.

To give you some examples, I’ll let you see Scott Stratten’s take on bad QR code use:

YouTube Preview Image

Here are some bad uses that he mentions:

  • QR codes that don’t lead to mobile-friendly content.
  • Sending a QR code by email. (You have to see the video to appreciate the folly of this fully.)
  • QR codes on Billboards (as mentioned above).
  • Subway platforms where there is no signal.
  • Airline magazines – you’re in a plane and can’t use the internet to follow them.

Scott Stratten is perhaps, a little forceful in his explanation, but he’s right. It’s clear that not every QR code campaign is well thought out.

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.

*And for Heaven’s sake, please don’t put a QR code on your belt buckle! Do you really want people photographing down there?

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

Photo by Fluid Forms on Flickr

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column

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About The Author: works at Hunter & Bard, where she is the Content & Community Manager for AppsGeyser.com. She has been working in SEO, content, and social media since 2004.



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  • http://www.twitter.com/unmarketing unmarketing

    Forceful is a good word for it :) thanks for sharing my rant!

  • http://www.onqmarketing.com.au Quentin Aisbett

    Good post Leah..I would like to share a bad use of a QR code which I noticed just yesterday. How about this – An advertisement in the newspaper with a code and the message ‘scan to call’…As if we’re going to use our phone to scan to call when the phone actually calls. 

  • http://twitter.com/tomhindleyseo Tom Hindley

    Totally agree with the freeway biilboard idea as silly. Same with in-flight magazines.
    The ones I’ve created incorporate Analytics tracking that give an approximated location report – that way success in printed publications can measured. But location tracking would be useless on a single billboard or stationary sign like a shop window…

  • Leah Goodman

    Scott, I’m honored to have you comment. I love your rant, especially the bit you do where you’re trying to scan your phone with your phone. You mime it so well. After I posted it on my Facebook wall, several of my friends informed me of kitten deaths. I’m wondering if you agree that it’s ok to put a QR code in an email if clicking on the QR code takes you to the same place you’d get to by scanning it? And, btw, how did the whole belt buckle thing slip past you? There is no way that it’s ok to encourage people to take pictures of your… belt buckle. 

  • http://www.twitter.com/unmarketing unmarketing

    I’ve never seen the belt buckle!! But now I want to, just to put it in my talks :)
    Qr codes are ok in emails if they need to be printed for an event or something. Otherwise, why not just put the link?

  • http://twitter.com/Mindful_MKTG Mindful Marketing

    awesome article Leah, great suggestions on good usages and bad usages of QR codes.  and thanks for including a humorous video content in your article.  hopefully others will realize articles that are plain text are just that….PLAIN.  looking forward to more of your articles.  Payam @payamtehrani:twitter @mindful_mktg:twitter 

  • Jeff Nix

    Leah… I’ve shared this very good article with our friends at http://www.facebook.com/QuickResponseCode. Please feel free to post any of your QRC related writings with there on that page. Regards,
    Jeff Nix  http://www.facebook.com/QuickResponseCode

  • http://twitter.com/CardSwapp CardSwapp

    Leah….I’d like inform you about the Card Swapp App.  It is a QR code business card and address book.  

    http://cardswapp.com/ 

    Change your info and all of your contacts will receive the changes.
    Better than vCard.
    Better than mobile website.

  • Leah Goodman

    Sounds very cool! 

  • http://twitter.com/MontyLov MontyLov™

    Thank you for the video Scott. My team and I saw your video awhile back and it really helped us form our business and teach companies how to use QR codes properly. It’s amazing how many businesses simply want to use the codes for the wrong reasons, which I believe just discourages people from using QR Codes entirely. Sorry for the long response, but great video.  I would love your feedback on our codes http://Qrezy.com

  • Nor Hatika

    this article is great! i can use start to use QR codes easily generated by the given websites. I’ve seen a bad usage or QR code, it was printed on a newspaper but when scanned it just gave a static website and unclickable :(

  • http://twitter.com/kovlex Kovacs Levente

    Thanks for the insights. I recently read an article about QR codes being on a road to death, but i don’t agree with it. There will be other technologies which will make QR code use cases obsolete, but not the entire existence of QR codes.
    A good usage of QR codes for me is putting it on my biz cards. For one it’s a good conversation starter, and second it expands/enhances my card. I created a mobile friendly page with my profile, linked accounts (twitter, linkedIn, …), quick dial phone number, email, vCard download and my picture. It is presented in a responsive layout and looks good any screen.
    Basically the QR code is URL which points to my public page, so someone who is scanning it doesn’t need a native app for parsing the data. It works out of the box.
    If you’d like, check out http://qrcardmaker.com That’s the service i’m using.

  • mitchell murrow

    When you say, “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.”

    That simply means the image right? in other words, if i make some flyers with this qr code i just made, then Kaywa crashes and i haven’t saved it on my server, the code will still work but i will no longer have access to the image?
    or is it saying that if Kaywa crashes, the code will stop working unless it is saved in my server?

  • http://twitter.com/kovlex Kovacs Levente

    The code holds text. It could be a URL to your website. If you don’t save the image to your hard drive, you might need to re-generate it. If you print it onto the flyers they always gonna “mean” the same thing, the URL you entered when you created it.

  • mitchell murrow

    ok good, that’s what I was thinking. Thanks buddy!

  • http://intronex.pl/ Projektory multimedialne

    It still depends heavily if the client is tech savyy and not many are in my niche unfortunetly. But that way of promotion is very interesting.

  • http://www.appointmentsetting.com/ simonswills

    QR code are a high-class begin with the user. Billboard QR codes in Chinese suppliers are increasing. Whatever the purpose these computer deals or Printable are available and it is legitimate to use them, although it can alter the promotion analysis for which they were designed.

  • myQRad

    If you want to easily create and track QR codes, go to http://www.myQRad.com. It’s a great system for making QR codes with custom messages, photos, videos, social or web links. You get a mobile friendly landing page for your QR ad, making your message and information easy on the scanners eyes. You can also track your QR codes, great for when you want to compare effectiveness and analyze performance. Another valuable feature is the option to prompt the scanner for their name and email address, wonderful for building your contact list. It is free to try out. 

 

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