Are you familiar with QR codes?

My tip this year is to keep your eye on the increasingly widespread use of Quick Response (QR) codes which will be driven by consumers’ increasing expectation for immediate access to content.

A QR code can be a great way to deliver information to people via a smartphone wherever they are, and at the exact moment they are interested—on the beach, at a sporting event, or in a theatre.

QR codes are two-dimensional (2D) matrix barcodes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. Consumers using their iPhone, Android or other camera-enabled smartphones can scan or read a QR code which then triggers a variety of marketing oriented actions such as:

  • Linking to digital content on the web
  • Activating a number of phone functions including email, IM and SMS
  • Connecting the mobile device to a web browser.

These functions are easily achieved by creating a QR code through a simple process of entering the appropriate data into the QR code generators available on the web.
This ability for QR codes to connect people with companies, brands and multimedia digital content is very useful for businesses and consumers alike.

Here are two great examples;

QR codes on cookies – now that’s an idea!! Consumers bake the cookies and decorate them with the enclosed QR codes, printed on edible paper. The recipient of the cookies scans the QR code and is directed to either a video on YouTube, a photo on Flickr or a personalized web page containing a specific message, as dictated by the sender.

QR codes

Qkies Cookies

QR codes on t-shirt labels for accessing music! US company BadDETT make T shirts for bands with an inside label containing a QR code which facilitates an albums MP3 download!

badDETT T's let the buyer download MP3s

How do QR codes work?
There are a number of sites for generating QR codes on the web and the good news is they’re all free. A Google search for “QR code generator” will turn up many choices.

I recommend Kaywa, a site you can use to make QR codes that link to a web page, text, phone numbers, or SMS.  Another with even greater capabilities, including customising the colour and format of your codes is Kerem Erkan.

QR code readers
To get QR code functions working on your phone you need a QR code reader app. For my iPhone I prefer i-nigma, pretty much the most widely used reader in the world, which can be used on just about every camera phone in the world. Android users can also try Barcode Scanner.

Applications for QR codes
QR codes are fantastic for realtime marketing. At precisely the moment a buyer is interested, you can deliver more information to them.

  1. Sharing – There’s no limit to how much you can share with QR codes. Think about sharing a video or landing page, an eBook or even multiple pieces of content with a common link.
  2. Calls to action – Create a strategy where you alternate special offers by simply linking your QR codes to new landing pages and combining them with email opt-ins to build your list.
  3. SEO and SMO – QR codes enhance both your search engine and social media optimisation. By encouraging more sharing of content through the use of QR codes, you increase traffic and further optimise them by encouraging more sharing.
  4. Analytics – Commonly, QR codes link to URLs, and consequently link shortening services and now automatically generate a QR code for sharing your shortened links. Have a look at where you simply click on the “more” link after you have created your shortened link.
    You are taken to a page that not only gives you the QR code, but useful analytics. is another valuable resource that provides the ability to customise the colour of your QR codes as well as analytics.

Creative ways to use QR codes

Here are a few ideas for using QR codes, but I’m sure that if you’re creative you will be able to think of more.

Where to use QR codes:

  • Print them on the back (or front and back) of your business card.
  • Print them on your brochures and other marketing materials.
  • Print them on posters.
  • Product tags and packaging
  • Convention and event name tags
  • Restaurant menus
  • Event ticket stubs
  • Point-of-sale receipts

What to link to QR codes:

  • Installation instructions
  • Your website
  • Directions to your business
  • Your promotional landing page
  • Valuable coupons and special offers
  • Your blog
  • Free mp3 downloads

Yes, the potential for QR codes is limitless. They complement social media well, by bringing people together with technology and extending it to enhance the experience.

In the near future barcodes will be able to hold so much information that an Internet connection will not even be necessary.  The content will be effectively embedded in the code. It begs the question: will your website become redundant? I hope you’re ready for the future.