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QR Codes: Qritical or Qraze?

by Randall Craig on May 9, 2012

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Media, Social Media

Tagged as: , ,

Check out the latest brochure, advertisement, billboard, or business card, and you’ll see that ubiquitous square:  the QR Code.  For those who don’t know what about them, here is how they work:  a special “app” on your smart phone takes a picture of it, decodes it, and (usually) sends your smart phone’s browser to a specific web page.

To create a code, just Google the words QR Code and you’ll find a number of no-cost web-based QR Code creators.    To read the code, go to your smart phone’s app store and do a similar search, then install what you find.  (My favorite is ScanLife.)  Here’s an example code that takes you to my (no cost) blog course registration page:

Six steps blog course registration: Use a QR code readerFrom a marketer’s perspective, this simple code bridges the real world to the web: it is the stimulus that begins the social conversation.  Here are seven key considerations for using them:

1) Set the goal of your QR code:  why would a person actually scan the code?  Is it an impulsive registration or purchase?  Or is it to provide deeper knowledge beyond the ad or brochure?  If there isn’t a reason to scan, the QR code is merely clutter that detracts from the message.

2) Create a mobile-friendly landing page: since you know the user has a smartphone, why send them to a regular web site?  A special-purpose landing page, optimized for mobile, will result in far greater conversion.

3) The shorter the URL. the less dense the resulting QR code will be.  This means that there will be fewer errors when users scan it.  Use a URL shortener (,, etc) to shorten the URL significantly.

4) Print the QR code in a high contrast area: not black on grey, and not superimposed on a picture.  Black and white, for once, trumps color.

5) Deploy QR codes only in places where there is data access.  It never ceases to amaze me when I see dough-brained Social Media “agencies” creating QR code advertisements that are placed in the subway.  No data access there!

Note to "Social Media" agencies: QR codes don't work underground

6) Test the code before printing it.  And then test it again.

7) For advanced marketers:  QR codes can actually do far more than just send people to a web site.  Depending on the user’s QR reader software and their smartphone, a QR code can send a text message, display a contact record, show a calendar event, and much, much more.

This week’s action plan:  Where might a QR code work for you?  If you haven’t yet, begin experimenting.  Here is an idea: create QR codes within proposals or product brochures that link to product videos, testimonials, and other visual content.  (And if they don’t like this idea, you can always put one on your resume that connects to your LinkedIn profile…)

Web Trivia:  QR stands for Quick Response.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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