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School for Bloggers: QR Codes: Like a Bar Code, but Better! (#BWENY)

Have you noticed these black and white boxes showing up everywhere these days?
From magazine advertisements, to business cards and even on massive outdoor signage, these boxes are called “QR Codes,” which is short for Quick Response code. Like a bar code, but with the ability to hold up to double the number of alphanumeric characters, QR codes are rapidly becoming the latest marketing darling. I recently had a chance to learn more about these at BlogWorld NY’s Social Media Summit for Business (#BWENY) and I have to admit I am quite captivated by their potential.
How do they work?
If you see a QR code on any kind of printed material, you can scan it with a smart phone and in doing so, have access to detailed information.
So, in a highly practical example, a sealed container in a manufacturing facility could have a QR code label on it which could be easily scanned to provide employees with instant access to the MSDS sheet for how to safely handle and dispose of the material.


QR Code Example:
QR Codes Used to Help Clean Up the Gulf
Here, a QR Code is used to gather signatures for a petition to clean up the Gulf.
How are marketers using QR codes?
There’s been a massive explosion in the use of QR codes by marketers. And rightly so … these little boxes can be so handy in so many ways when it comes to keeping a sales lead’s interest.
Just imagine you’re driving down the street and see a “for sale” sign on a house that looks interesting. The real estate agent can satisfy your immediate interest by letting you scan a QR code that leads you right to a dedicated site with photographs and information.


QR Code Example:
Here, this retailer lets you check out reviews of the product while you’re standing in the aisle trying to decide.  


You’re doing it wrong!
But like many new fads with large bandwagons, some folks are so excited to use a new tool that they haven’t thought about how or why it should be used.
Like any kind of marketing or communications, the audience and end-objective need to be considered at the outset. In the example above with the real estate agent, the audience is a person in his/her car (perfect!), who wants detailed information right now (perfect!), so that they can decide if this is a house he/she might want to buy (perfect!).
But what about an automobile advertisement in an airline magazine that links you to their website’s homepage? The audience probably can’t access their cell phone in the air (boo!), is going to lose interest as soon as they click through to land on a generic homepage instead of something specific to the car in the ad (boo!), and has no clear call to action (yep, boo!).
Above all else, mobile is a must
One thing that Jason Pinto of interlinkONE, the leader of a session on QR codes at BlogWorld (you can download his presentation here), stressed was that whatever or whereever your QR code takes a user to, it MUST be optimized for a mobile phone.
And this is where most companies fall down … forgetting the critical importance of bringing a cell phone user to a mobile-optimized page. This means that it’s just not enough to slap your company’s website address on a QR code and hope for the best. It’s your brand and when you bring someone to a site that doesn’t work, you are associating your brand with frustration.

How about you? Interested in trying out QR codes, then check out these step-by-step instructions by clicking this link. Have you already scanned QR codes before —  how was your experience with them? (Hey … I’m doing a poll on facebook, via a reader suggestion).



  1. Julie,
    Awesome job on this post! You absolutely did a great job of helping to spread reasons on while so many people are excited about QR Codes. But you also absolutely nailed it with the importance of driving people to a mobile website.

    Thank you very much for including me in your post. I greatly appreciate it.


  2. Hi Julie: I stumbled on your post on QR codes from your comment on Lara Wellman’s Facebook page.  Great information on QR codes.  I’ve thought of a really useful application for QR codes.  But, it will suffer from the mobile-optimization problem.  I want to use QR codes on gravesites to link to genealogical information.  eg.  A QR code on my grandfather, Gustav Kull’s grave linking to this history on –  . I’d welcome any suggestions for working around the mobile-optimized constraints. There’s a lot of data on the CanadianRoots files.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I once scanned a code at a trade show for a contest that led to a tiny corner of a huge non-mobile optimized site. OOPS!  I didn`t enter.
    Mobile optimized I think is really important – that’s how we’re accessing the information. The other key too is that we keep the info in our devices for later use and we could, theoretically, move over to a big screen, but that’s doubtful. Def def mobile optimize any page you’re sending people to w a QR.  I have a special page that my QR code goes to :)

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