QR Codes: What, Where and Why

You’ve no doubt seen at least one QR (Quick Response) code — 52 percent of those living in the United States have seen or heard of them and 28 percent have scanned at least one, according to a survey conducted by Austin & Williams. They have been around since 1994 in Japan (invented by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave) and in the past few years have begun to penetrate the U.S. marketplace.

QR code on a music CD

Country & Western singer Ronnie Dunn used a QR code on this CD

The codes are used on everything from audio CDs to posters, business cards and other marketing collateral. Added to a print piece, they create a link from the real world to the online world; the print version of a hyperlink.

So, should you be using them to market your services? It depends on your audience. Are they mobile phone users? Do they regularly access websites on their smart phones? Or are they reluctant to adopt new technology?

Mobile website for a country & western singer

The QR code on Dunn's CD resolves to this mobile site that offers unique content

Here are six tips to help you use QR codes effectively in marketing:

  1. Test your link. A code that resolves to the wrong website or a broken link gives a careless impression and wastes the user’s time. Be sure your link works and goes where you want it to.
  2. Be mobile. Don’t send your user to a website that isn’t mobile-optimized. It’s disappointing to scan the code, reach the destination and have to pinch and scroll to see the content.
  3. Keep it simple. Edit your content. You must be brief. Copy should be minimal and must be easy to read. Most people will simply not read paragraphs of copy.
  4. Build a special landing page. The best QR code campaigns send the user to a specially-created landing page with a strong call to action. Make your call to action button large and prominent so the reader knows exactly what you want them to do.
  5. Make it worth their while. Offer something free, a special deal or other unique content.
  6. Make it easy to share. Incorporate share buttons for Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and any other pertinent social networks. If the user can share with one touch or click, they are much more likely to repost your content.

If you’re still tentative about QR codes, take a baby step and add one to your business card that goes to your company website. Even if it doesn’t get scanned, it will tell those with whom you network that you’re up on the latest technology.

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