My Marketing Thing

De-mystifying QR codes

QR code cartoon

QR code examplesWhat is a QR code?

We're starting to see a lot these strange-looking square graphics appearing on business cards, advertising, on wine bottles, even on walls in art museums.

In July 2011 a crazy guy called Marco was the first to have a QR code tattooed on his chest. See the YouTube video here.


How it works

When you scan the square graphic on your smart phone, your phone's browser takes you to a particular website. It can also take you to a phone number, an SMS message, a vCard (electronic business card) or just plain alphanumeric text.


Yes, it's free

The app on your phone is free – and creating a code can be free too. So this is becoming an attractive addition to the swag of marketing tools available, courtesy of the internet.


The QR code global trend

The best figures seem to be from a study by comScore in Aug-Oct 2011. Only US stats unfortunately. It boiled down to this: 20 million of the US public has scanned a QR code in Aug-Oct 2011, which is an increase from 15 million in June. The trend is increasing in popularity, but slowly.


Who is scanning the QR codes? And where?

comScore discovered that young professional men with a decent income are most enthusiastic about this technology. Interestingly, magazines and newspapers are the most popular spots to scan from.Scanning at home takes first place, though retail and grocery stores are doing alright too.

Wanna scan a QR code?

  1. Just go to the app store on your smart hone and search for 'qr code scanner free'
  2. Once the scanner is on your phone, click on the app and the scanning screen comes up with a red line bouncing up on down.
  3. Hold up your phone to a code (you can use the one on the guy's shield in the cartoon at the top of this article) until you see the QR code on your screen.
  4. When the phone focuses the code properly, it activates and takes you to where the code wants you to go (the cartoon's QR code shamelessly takes you to


How do I get a QR code?

You can generate one for free within seconds. Just Google 'free QR code converter' and a heap of sites come up. Say you want the code to go to your website. Type in the URL in the field provided, click enter. Usually a code in png format is automatically downloaded on your computer. Voila! QRstuff seems to be a popular one – reliable and good quality codes for easy scanning.

Be safe about your choice of converter: If the data goes to an untrusted third-party site before serving up your QR code, then I recommend leaving immediately. Just look for another QR code converter.


Easy-to-scan QR codes

People are busy. If it takes too long to scan your QR code then they'll stop trying and move on. 3 points to consider:

  • The physical size
    If your QR code is the size of your thumbnail (literally), it takes much longer for the scanner to pick up the code as opposed to one four times the size.
  • The quality of the graphic
    If your QR code graphic appears a little blurry on your flyer, for example, it can be harder to scan.
  • The complexity of your link
    The more complex your link, the more complex the code, the harder it is to scan. Here is an article on LunaMetrics on shortening your URL that also assists with tracking your QR code activity on Google Analytics.

Which leads me to the next point…


Who is scanning your QR code?

Market research is a beautiful thing. You can hook up with a service to receive analytics on how many people have scanned your QR code and when it was scanned. As Christina Keffer from LunaMetrics discovered, Google Analytics is one way of tracking your code's activity – for free.

Daniel Bianchini wrote a nice step-by-step article on how to do this for yourself: Tracking Your QR Codes to Bring Offline Marketing Online.

But if you like videos Optimization Tutor has a nice one on YouTube: Advanced QR Code Tracking – How To Track Offline Marketing In Google Analytics.

That's enough from me. How about you?

Leave a comment on how you are going with scanning, creating and distributing QR codes.


This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer, cartoonist and marketing consultant who wonders if QR code graphics could be turned into pictures of faces to make them more visually engaging. Find out more about Megan.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Comment

 Related Posts