Quick Response (QR) Codes were invented by a subsidiary of Toyota in 1994 in order to track vehicles during manufacture. Recently, however, marketers have started including them in advertising campaigns so as to aid the reader in getting them to the respective website (or, a page/section) with more ease.

I, on the other hand, like to use these codes to answer some questions regarding the effectiveness of more traditional advertising and marketing activities. By embedding tracking codes within QR codes, you can track and compare the traffic generated from the different titles being used in the campaign, thus allowing you to get a better understanding of which title works better at generating more traffic to the respective website. It is not an exact science, but in a day and age when customers are more likely to visit a website before picking up a phone (a marketers nightmare as this makes it more difficult to track where potential customers have heard about the product/service), QR codes are one of a very few options available that aid marketers in understanding where customers are coming from.

One of the main issues I face when convincing advertisers to use QR codes is their impact on the overall design of the creative work. I hear all sorts of reasons like “its ugly”, “it will ruin our adverts” or “it will confuse the reader”. Clients who have tried it say, “as long as it helps us know where to invest our money, we’re fine with it”.

For example, we recently used QR codes in a campaign for a property developer in Tuscany. The campaign consisted of a series on pan-regional titles and inflight magazines and the data gained was quite fascinating. This included a real eye-opener in terms the countries/cities that users were scanning from (such an eye opener that the client then decided to run a separate campaign in the USA due to the number of scans they received from this country- a market that they had never even deemed as remotely important). The data also allowed us to compare quality of traffic and conversions from those locations.

Knowing this level of information about your print campaigns is a step forward and offers the opportunity to track campaigns that was previously not possible. Yes, it might not give you specific information about the individual who scanned the code, but, if implemented and analysed properly, one cannot ignore the power of the data that QR codes provide.

QR codes needn’t only be used to drive traffic to websites. There are other creative and fun ways to use them as part of your marketing campaign. A few examples follow:

Scan to text

QR Codes could be programmed to automatically start a new text/SMS message on your phone, ready with the recipient number and the message. Your audience need only to scan and send. Charities have made the best use of it, with messages like “Scan to donate £3 to provide a blanket for the homeless”.

QR Code that sends SMS

Scan this QR Code to send a text/SMS

Scan to call

Another way of programming QR Codes is to dial a pre-programmed number without having to write it down or tap it on your screen.

Scan to Call QR code

Scan this QR code to call an embedded number

Scan to email

Similarly, QR codes can start a new email message with the recipient address automatically entered, even the subject line and the email message.

Scan to email QR code

Scan this code to send an email

 Scan to save contact

If you want your customers to save your business or individuals contact information on their phones, QR codes can be programmed with all contact details, notes and web addresses. When a customer scans the code, smartphones will recognise the virtual business card (vCard) and prompt you the option to save it. This could be great for a leaflet, outdoor advertising or even a business card.

Contact QR Code

Scan to save this code into your mobile

Save to Calendar

If your company is organising and event or a party, or if you want to remind your customers that an offer ends at a certain date and time, you can program your QR code to store a calendar invite to the user’s mobile device.

Event QR Code

Scan this code to create an event in your calendar

Scan a location

If you want your customers to navigate to your location or save your event’s location on their mobile devices, you can program your QR codes with the coordinates of that location or event. The mobile devices will then give your customers the option to navigate or store the coordinates for later use.

Location QR COde

Scan this code to view on the map or start navigating

Scan to connect

If you offer free Wi-Fi in your venue, café, restaurant etc, there is a very smart way of making your customer’s life easier as QR codes can allow you to store the wireless network details (including the password, if there is one). Not only does this avoid you having to print leaflets or posters with lengthy instructions, but it’s also a good way to demonstrate your technical abilities and/or “coolness”. It will also earn you some “green” brownie point too!

Wifi QR Code

Scan this code to connect to a WiFi (This will not actually work as you are far from my network)

As you can see, there are many reasons why you should want to use QR codes. The growing use of smartphones and tablets cannot be ignored- a phenomenon partially due to their ease of use across all generations (my 3 year old son and my 60+ year old father use mobile devices and tablets). And, as each day goes by, new technologies and innovations are introduced (like the eyeball tracking technology by Samsung) which will only further increase the use of such devices. In light of the increased number of smartphone users, the important data they provide and the customized options available (coloured to match your branding or even have your logo embedded), it is definitely wise to consider this tool in your campaigns going forward.

In additions, from what you see from the codes above, QR codes are not ugly (at least not all), they can be customized, coloured to match your branding and even have your logo embedded.

Some facts and figures

Still not convinced? Would statistics and studies convince you? A study conducted by Multichannel Merchant shows that whilst only 8% of businesses have adopted QR codes in 2011, this number had increased to 47% in 2012…

Adoption of QR Code

Source: Multichannel Merchant – 2012

A survey released by Pitney Bowes in January 2013 shows that 19% of American consumers have used a QR code. This was followed by UK (15%), Germany (14%), and France (12%). Whilst, on average, 15% of consumers across these countries report having used a QR code, the percentage rises significantly to 27% in the 18-34-year-old age bracket. (source: Strategy Blog)

QR Usage by Country

Source: Pitney Bowes

See, you have no excuse now. Join the hundreds of businesses that use QR codes and reach thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of your potential customers using smarter, cooler and more interactive marketing tools.

If you have questions or need assistance in creating QR codes, please do not hesitate to contact me. And please don’t forget to share this article with your friends and colleagues.

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