What The Heck a QR Code Is & How To Use It Right

Check this out. I am just completely freaking amazed at this technology.

The image above is from a post on an ad agency blog (Mobile Behavior, Tribal DDB) that has tons of posts on how to use QR (Quick Response Code) technology for advertising.

In this case the occasion was Arbor Day. How neat and fun is this idea?

<<On Arbor Day Weekend, QR codes were seeded across NYC's Central Park, transforming it into a mobile interactive experience. With web-enabled smartphones and QR code readers, users could explore "The World Park" in a new way. Upon scanning a code, users were presented with educational trivia about the park. Friends could compete for the most correct answers across categories like Science, Pop Culture, Art, and History.">>

Ogilvy PR (disclaimer: not an endorsement and I work with some Ogilvy-ites on volunteer projects for Washington Women in PR) posted a blog on QR codes for government offering key best practices.

It's a good primer: have a strategy; make them visible; optimize website for mobile devices (you shouldn't link to the regular format of your webpage if possible); consider accessibility issues; etc.

I know that QR codes aren't exactly common vocabulary for everyone - yet. I have been seeing them in the Metro stations and going, "What the heck is this? How do you use it? I don't get it!" for about a month now.

I even held up my phone to one and took a picture of it. I had no idea what to do.

However once I figured it out, it was unbelievable.

The basic idea is that you are creating a short link to a certain page that you want to promote traffic to. 

For example if you want to promote your shoe brand, you create the QR code and put it on your billboard ads and magazine ads. You say, "Scan the code for access to special discounts." Then people use their smartphones to download an app (often free) that combines with their camera phone to get them to the page in question.

Once they scan the code (I have a Droid and use QR Droid) here is what they can do:

1) Visit the webpage

2) Email the webpage to themselves or someone else

3) Share the webpage via Twitter, Facebook, etc.

...and probably quite a bit more. I just haven't figured it all out yet.

This is obviously a lot easier than trying to write down or remember a web page. And not everyone takes advantage of promotional and outreach offers through texting.

For government communicators it is an unbelievable technology. How many ways can you spell F-R-E-E???

To create your QR code all you have to do is have the URL ready and use a free code creator. 

There are many of them online. I used this one successfully: http://createqrcode.appspot.com/

Once you have the code you simply insert it into your marketing materials.

I haven't figured everything out yet. Like how do you get the code to blow up to a huge size for a bus stop? And how does the smart phone scan it if it's very big?

But what I do know so far is enough to make me dangerous.

Have fun and good luck!

(P.S. Next up: The Google Chart Wizard which helps you create QR codes and lots of other cool visuals: http://code.google.com/apis/chart/docs/chart_wizard.html)


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, www.AllThingsBrand.com and www.DannielleBlumenthal.com, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.