BACK TO BASICS: 5 Tips for Marketing with QR Codes

QR Code marketing continues to evolve, but for the most part, brands either don’t know about them, don’t know how to use them, or are using them incorrectly. QR codes, the two-dimensional bar code-type images, can be read by a QR code reader and can represent data in different formats that is housed online.

You can find QR Codes on flat surfaces where they’ve been printed or placed including:

  • Posters
  • Product Packaging
  • Brochures
  • Business Cards
  • Signs, posters, flyers
  • Clothing
  • Promotional items (mugs, stickers, etc.)
  • Jewelry

You might also see QR Codes on billboards (What are they thinking? Don’t scan and drive!) or in videos (not really useful – someone would have to pause a video to scan).

You might even encounter a QR Code on a website – and while that may seem counter-intuitive, using them for something relevant such as linking a person quickly to an app store where they can download a mobile app to their smartphone makes sense and can be quite effective.

Common data that can be converted into QR codes include:

  • Web URLs
  • Content (text)
  • Video or audio files
  • Text messages (SMS)
  • Phone numbers
  • Contact information
  • Web-based forms

There are many chances for QR code marketing to go awry or to simply fall flat. Think through what you’re trying to get others to do and keep in mind that they’ll have to do it from their smartphone.

Here are five tips for marketing successfully with QR Codes.

1. Lead to a mobile-friendly destination.

This tip seems like an obvious one, however, most QR codes still lead to websites, and most of those websites are not responsive to mobile devices and smaller screens. Websites built on the WordPress platform can be converted to mobile-friendly sites through plug-ins. But sites built with custom Content Management Systems (CMSs) or proprietary web building tools may not always have a mobile option so you’ll need to research solutions to ensure your website is mobile-ready.

2.  Keep it short.

Whatever you want people to do once they scan your QR code, make it quick and easy. Sign up for something? Don’t ask for a lot of information. Take a survey? A quick poll with a single choice is much better than multiple questions. Read something? Make sure content is in bite-sized pieces and optimized for the small screen.

3. Make it bigger.

You may have thought of adding a QR code to your ad or promotional item at the very last minute and there might not be a lot of room for it. You think reducing the size of the QR code graphic is the way to go, but just say no to that idea. One inch by one inch is really the smallest you should go with a QR code, and even that can distort the code so test it out using several different scanners and phones.

4. Don’t settle for black and white.

You don’t need to stick with the default black and white QR codes. You can use programs online that automatically produce colored QR codes. You can also work with graphic designers who is familiar with QR codes to customize the code even further. You can make a Christmas tree QR code or a heart-shaped one. You can add your logo into the code or other images. The key is to know which three regions of the code are being read by QR code scanners and keeping those areas clear.

xmas tree qr code

5. Plan before printing.

Not all QR codes can be changed after they have been created. The code configuration is static and most codes will always point to or represent the initial data used to create them. Some premium QR code services will give you more flexibility with your codes including changing the destination URL (Kaywa) or changing the content at that destination via modular mobile sites (Paperlinks). Don’t print 10,000 copies of something until you are certain it is the code you want, it works the way you want it to, and you have flexibility to change the backend if you need.

In the case of QR codes, you’re blending “real world” marketing and “mobile marketing” with the scan of a code. QR codes, like any marketing tool, need to be part of an overall marketing strategy.

Get the Wine Sisterhood QR Code Reader for iPhone for free. Another good QR code reader is Scan.

What interesting QR Code integrations have you seen lately?


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