What you need is a Quick Response

Commonly known as QR Codes, quick response code is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode or two-dimensional code first designed for the automotive industry.  Well we had different plans. Today these little black and white guys are seen everywhere. Not only have they found purpose in different fields of application, but have also settled in comfortably in various form of print. From newspapers and brand identity to apparel and even cupcakes! But the question is,” How does one simply unlock the true potential of a QR code?”

To be able to harness true functionality of this medium, one simply needs to follow a set of rules and principles that form a basis to “effectively using QR Codes.” Most importantly, what one must understand is, regardless of the platform or media it is used on, QR codes have a sole and core purpose of linking from print to web. These tiny little fellas have gone from improving web accessibility from print, to even powering creative and defining mobile marketing campaigns.

How does it work?

To begin with, you need to know what a QR Code is and how it really works. Putting this is simple terms, a QR code has a link or URL within it, which can be read using an appropriate cellphone application commonly known as QR code readers. Using a QR code generator which are easily available online today, a URL is simply converted into a QR code and then downloaded in the form of an image. This image (QR Code )can then be used by printing it and scanning it with a reader from a cellphone. That’s how simple it is to create your QR code.

What exactly is it used for?

Pretty clear, a QR code is a link from the print to the web world. Gone are those days where one has to look and type a long and tricky link into his browser while reading it from a paper. With QR codes all you have to do is simply scan the link and instantly you are directed to the website via your phone browser.

Today QR codes are used for several products. With a common goal or reducing the effort to go to a website, QR codes have found a comfortable spot in the print, magazine, newspaper, business cards brochures and posters. Many have gone big and even used them as vital elements in planning campaigns driven by print media and social media. People have put QR codes on their resumes to even their jackets and other apparel. So if you are going to use QR codes, you need to keep these few tricks in mind. These can be used to design an effective QR  code not only for personal use, but also for your next big mobile campaign!

The 5 quick rules of using QR codes 

-Jonathan Pimento

I have used QR codes in a lot of print projects, and having received a lot of feedback and insight about its effectiveness, its safe to say – ” I goofed up 3 out of 5 times.” Hence I now give you the 5 golden rules in using QR codes. Hopefully you won’t make the same mistakes.

  1. Right media
  2. Target audience
  3. Location
  4. Ease of access
  5. Calculating your reach

  • Right media Firstly remember you are linking print to web. So please I beg of you, DO NOT use QR codes as display pictures for your brand or personal Facebook page or other social media platforms. Strictly print media. Keep in mind, your QR code needs to be printed to a certain resolution. If it is printed too tiny it may not work with the cell scanners and that could cost you a lot. Best way to play safe is print and test several times before you get your final product ready! Check your QR code with a couple of different and common scanners and reader. Preferably try  scanners  from an android device, blackberry, Symbian device and iPhone. Just to be a 100% sure. Also while printing them, be sure your printing process isn’t going to destroy the functionality. For example while printing your business card, using spot UV on the code may make it look really good, but are you sure it won’t cause a problem while trying to scan it ? Again my point – Trial and error. 
  •   Target & audience Decide the purpose of the QR code, the audience you are targeting and please don’t start putting it on everything. Reason being is even though a major part of the population over the world uses a smart phone capable of scanning QR codes, only a small portion of them actually know what it is and how to read it. Majority of its users actually discovered it by scanning these codes out of curiosity. So place you subject, target audience and then decide. If you are targeting the younger generation it would be a good idea to use a QR code, as they are more likely to know what it is. Similarly the most accessible media or visible for that matter could serve as an excellent host for the code. Make sure you don’t base your entire ROI on the QR code if you are not sure of your audience. Very often QR codes are ignored, simply because people don’t know what they are.
  • Location On similar lines location plays a crucial role. It doesn’t make sense putting a QR code on a billboard on a highway or as a display picture. Reason being, how on earth is the person in the vehicle suppose to scan a QR code up there at that speed? Similarly why would someone scan a QR code from the computer screen to view it on the cell? Wouldn’t it make sense to use a hyperlink in this case ? A better place to use a QR code would be a waiting area or lounge where bored passengers or travelers could scan these codes to discover some interesting puzzles or even read the online newspaper. It’s all about target and audience. In this case it was all about engaging and keeping the passengers busy and occupied. Similarly putting QR codes that link to a couple of games or puzzles on the boring looking boarding pass at airports could be a good idea. Many places even have a poster with a map to help tourist find their way around. They simply scan the QR code from the map poster  and their immediately the map opens on their cell indicating their current position. Innovative! 
  • Ease of access –  Similar to what I just mentioned about locations, you must not use QR codes in places that are hard to find or difficult to scan. Many have even had QR codes printed on their jackets and T-shirts. But ask yourself – How easy will it be to read a QR code of a strangers clothes or for that matter how awkward would it be for the person wearing such a T-shirt. Basic principle, stop putting these codes on everything. Think how accessible is it ? Secondly not a supported idea, but yet need. Add the link in words somewhere around the QR code. This point completely destroys the purpose of the QR code being there but, the reason is not everyone knows how to read a QR code yet. Many avoid this for a good reason, but sometimes you may just have to use it. At the end of the day ease of access is also a priority. So depending on the kind of audience you target, a QR code may or may not be the best option. 
  • Calculating your reach  How many people actually scanned your QR code ? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that. Well there is one slight problem. It’s not easy. One would argue and say probably by accessing a websites backend one can easily get a count of mobile views for the site. Agreed. But how would you know which of those views are directed via the QR code and which were directed by manually entering them in a phone’s browser. There is a simple solution to that. While creating your QR code, say for instance for http://www.examplesite.com I use a link shortening application like  bit.ly create an  account and now create a customized link for it – http://bit.ly/2lkCBm Why all this struggle. Well if we use the shortened link in place of the actual link, what happens is, we can track the actual traffic and click rate of this link from the bit.ly dashboard. Hence calculate the effectiveness of the QR code. The only major drawback of this is, most of these scanners or readers display the link before it re-directs the cell browser. In such a case the user is provided with a horrible link like this http://bit.ly/2lkCBm rather than http://www.examplesite.com So whats to be done? Well, its left up to you. My suggestion is depending on the use, choose your options. If it were a  QR code for  business card that’s directs to your personal site, I would say sacrifice the statistics. I would rather have someone look at jonathanpimento.com than  http://bit.ly/2lkCBm It would leave a memory at least. On the other hand say for instance you have a campaign and you want visitors to view the details on the campaign website – http://www.campaign.com/archives/2012/vote-for-me In this case it would be a better option to use a shortened version of the link. Any way, the user would not be interested in memorizing such a long link.

Now lets look at a couple of successful and creative QR code powered campaigns and products:

1. Posters at Denver International airport

Posters at Denver International airport makes use of QR codes that on scanning  leads to crosswords, Sudoku puzzles and books for all the travelers out there.

2. LEGO Poster


LEGO created a smart poster using a concept that really clicked.Who doesn’t love Lego?! Mytoys.de launched an intuitive outdoor QR campaign whereby they constructed large QR codes out of Lego, and placed them inside advertising displays. The codes were placed in areas that received high levels of traffic from passing families, and inquisitive consumers who scanned the codes were directed towards the company’s website and their products.

3. TESCO Shopping 

Tesco put up a number of posters on the Seoul subway scanning the code below the item adds it to your online shopping basket. Easy and convenient. Taking shopping to the next level.

4. Menus

Scanning the code on this menu from a Radisson Edwardian Hotel will take you through to a video of the dish being prepared. Interesting  way of engaging your dinner.

5. Resume /CV

A fantastic way to stand out from the crowd, scanning the code takes the user to a video of him giving his resume in his own voice. Innovative but may not be such a versatile idea.

6.  Cleveland Museum of Art

Some savvy museums and art galleries have been quick to realize the potential in QR codes for enhancing user experiences. Art galleries such as The Cleveland Museum of Art place QR codes next to exhibits to direct visitors to online or audio tours, or to provide more in-depth information.

7. Starbucks

Stores like Starbucks are using QR codes to streamline the way they interact with customers. Rather than waiting in a long line to pay, customers can now integrate their pre-loaded card and their phone app to pay more quickly, as well as learn more about the products and stores.

8. Trains in Germany

QR codes can take customers to real-time updates anywhere where there is a constant flow of information, for instance, train stations, bus stops, department store sales, live events, restaurant specials or airline booking. Frankfurt, Germany recently introduced smart posters in train carriages, which provided commuters with travel information, transport connections, special events and points of interest, as well as special offers for travel card holders.

9. Santa Tag

Retailer JCPenney allowed customers to add a personal touch to their gifts. When you purchased a gift from any JCPenney store, you received a “Santa Tag” with an accompanying QR code. By scanning the code, the giver could record a personalized voice message for the recipient. The the giver stuck the code on the package like a gift card.

10. Betfair Football QR Code skydiving bet

In this innovative campaign from Betfair, they combined a giant and inventive QR code, with a viral video campaign. They used 2,000 footballs, 8 glamorous assistants, and 5 hours to make a huge QR code. To prove it worked they also had someone skydive from a plane overhead and scan it on their phone.

12. QR Code art in NY

If this isn’t the most spectacular use of a QR code(s) then I want to see one better! This appeared in New York and is a fantastic combination of art and guerrilla marketing, quite aptly celebrating an artistic pioneer.


this what I meant when I said ” Don’t put it on everything!!!!!!”

Anyways , hope this post did good. Feel free to add your views or suggestions, even corrections below in the comments. Remember, it might just be the next big element in powering your idea or concept. Good luck.