QR Codes 101 – What is It? How Can I Use It?

QR Codes 101 – What is It? How Can I Use It?


Over the past few months we have been approached about QR codes and how they can be used to promote products and services. Through our work with these marketing tools over the past few weeks, we have learned a lot and wanted to share some of our experiences with you.

What is a QR Code?

Let’s start from the beginning.  QR or Quick Response code is a matrix bar code that can be scanned using the camera on a smartphone and will directly link visitors to specific mobile content of your choice. Visitors can be directed to a website, YouTube video, Google Maps location, social media page, iTunes content, telephone number, SMS message, email address, or even a PayPal Buy It Now link.

QR codes were originally invented by a Toyota engineer for use in their auto manufacturing processes, but they do not enforce their patents making QR codes free to setup and use to promote your business or hobby.

How Does a Customer Use My QR Code?

Customers with smart phones like the iPhone, Android or Blackberry can download QR free scanner apps from their respective “app stores”. On our iPhones we use “Scan” which is a free download from the iTunes App Store. To scan a QR code you just open up the app and hold the camera up to the code you want to scan. When you scan the code it will immediately link you to the digital marketing content associated with the scanned code.

If customers take the time to scan your QR code, they are interested enough to interact with the content of your link. You can use the opportunity to get them to “Like” your company on Facebook, “Follow” you on Twitter, or see your latest YouTube promotional video.

How Do I Setup a QR Code?

QR Codes are free and easy to setup. The easiest way to get started is by visiting one of the free QR code generators available on the web. QRStuff.com offers a free and easy to use solution.

QR Stuff makes it a 1-2-3 process:

  1. Select your link type
  2. Enter your link
  3. Choose a color

Once you do that, you just download your QR code and you are ready to go! Scan the QR code at the top of this post and go directly to the Branding Arc website.

Once you download your QR code, you can use that image and put it on anything you want people to scan including marketing materials, product packaging or anywhere else you choose.

QR Codes in the Sunday Paper.

After implementing some QR code, promotions for one of our clients, we started to notice that there were scan codes all over the fliers in the local Sunday paper. We started scanning all of them just to see what kind of user experience and marketing content companies were providing with these codes. Most of the codes we scanned didn’t have anything special to offer, just some additional information the product. But, there were a few we found that really impressed us.

Boston Market – A+ for Material

One of the best user experiences we saw was from Boston Market. The website their code directed us to was simple and allowed you to scroll through a couple of holiday specials before prompting you to sign up for their mailing list.

They used this QR code to promote a specific holiday special and then followed up the advertisement with good information on an impressive mobile web page. (Scan the red  QR code on the left to see for yourself!)

Toys R’ Us – A+ for Promotional Information

Toys R’ Us did a great job of integrating the QR codes in their ad book linking visitors directly to promotional videos explaining some of the toys.

As we grow older we lose touch with new toys and don’t really know what “cool” anymore, especially if you don’t have children. During our trip through the Sunday paper, we started scouting Christmas toys for our nieces and nephews. Realizing how out of touch we are with toys, we used the QR codes provided on the pages of “The Great Big Toys R’ Us Book” to help us find creative toys that look fun!

Under the flying clown fish in this picture you can see they have a QR code. This code leads to a video demonstration of the toy and makes the radio controlled flying fish or shark look like a lot of fun! The flier picture has limited how exciting this toy looks, but after scanning the code and watching the video you can see how much fun a R/C balloon fish can really be! (Check it out, scan the QR code under the fish!)

QR Codes for Local Businesses

QR codes can be a great promotional tool for smaller businesses too. We recently implemented some QR codes for our local paintball field Hot Shots Paintball that have boosted their mobile and social traffic significantly in just the first 2 weeks!

1. 4ft Sign on Street – We prepared a 4ft QR code to hang right on the fence on the main road next to the field. This code leads visitors directly to the fields new mobile enabled website with videos of the different fields at Hot Shots.

2. Facebook Sign-In & Deals – We prepared some fliers to hang on the bulletin boards and other places around the field that links visitors directly to the Hot Shots Facebook Fan Page. Visitors are encouraged to “Check-In” with their friends on Facebook in order to get a 20% discount on their field fee. Once implemented, the Hot Shots Fan Page has exploded with activity from our customers posting pictures and commenting on their paintball experience.

3. Treasure Hunt – As another promotion for players, special QR codes were created for each field at the facility. Customers are encouraged to scan the QR code at each field and collect the pass code displayed to earn a special prize or discount.

In the first 30 days after launching their new QR codes the number of Facebook “Likes” has increased by 400% and the number of mobile website visitors has doubled.

If you need help creating QR codes or finding creative ways to use them with your customers, give us a call at 561-463-2725 and our team can help.

Added 12.19.2011: 20 Million Americans Scanned a QR Code in October