What are QR Codes?

Ask any smart phone owner under 35 what a QR code is and they tell you immediately. Ask a small business owner over 40 what they are, and this is the response:

“You mean those little squares that I see everywhere that look like some kind of bar code?”

Yeah. Those.
QR stands for “quick response”. A user scans the code using the back camera on their smart phone and it triggers a quick response that makes your phone do something or go to the experience that they have set up for you.

Also called 2D barcodes, they are the mainstream of recognition technologies used for mobile marketing. QR Codes are for marketing to people with mobile devices. Period.

So let’s review. When you want to interact a QR code, all you need to do is point the camera of your smart phone or tablet at the code, and scan. Your device does the rest. If the marketer has done it correctly, it will take you to a web page, video, map  or whatever…that is optimized for viewing on your smart phone. Most times the marketer will tell you why you should scan so that  it’s not some big mystery what’s on the other end.

So how do you use them?

Its really simple. All you need is a QR Code reader app. I recommend Microsoft’s free app which you can get for most every device at gettag.mobi, or in your app store. It works with ANY QR code, and with their proprietary system called Tags which take 2d bar codes to the next level, offering better metrics and options.

Once you install the app you are now ready to scan QR codes. Personally, I like to set it so that I get a vibrate when a code has been scanned successfully.

Note: This does not work with older phones that may have cameras. Since you need an app to scan the code, you need a phone that allows you to install apps. Android, iPhone, Blackberry and so on.

Now scan a code. Let’s keep it simple. Scan the code at the top of this article. It will take you to this website, which is optimized for mobile devices.

That’s it!

You can set QR Codes or Tags to take users to web pages, contest forms, videos, a map of your store locations, music downloads, to import your contact information, a product’s purchase page or check out. Whatever. You can set up any experience that you wish on the other end.

Just keep in mind, for it to be successful the destination (or Quick Response) HAS to be built or optimized to display well on mobile devices. That’s the whole point! Having users scan your QR code, only to take them to a website that IS NOT optimized for viewing on mobile devices is not only a big let down to your demographic, which will make them leery of trusting you again, but a waste of your time.


Wanna learn more and see some usage examples?

QR codes have been around for years in an unorganized kind of way that lacked standards, which resulted in a lot of marketers just using them haphazardly to send users to every crappy website out there.  But now that mobile device ownership has skyrocketed world wide, and mobile internet usage is overshadowing usage from desktops and laptops, Microsoft has come along and taken the technology to a whole new level and marketers have noticed and gotten really good at implementing them. Consequently, usage has grown significantly worldwide and user interaction with brands has growth tremendously.

Between 2010 and 2011 Mobile Scans of Tags and QR codes grew 390%!

Check out the Microsoft Tag website for all the information that you can handle:

And check out the Tag blog to see some examples of how marketers are using QR Codes and Tags to engage their customers:

I scan QR Codes and Tags all of the time now. Either because I’m interested in the product or because I’m looking for nice usage examples and ideas. Some times I’m disappointed because the business has done nothing but plop down a code. However, most times I am amazed at how companies, both large and small, are using them.

I’m not saying that you have to use them in YOUR marketing, or that a QR Code campaign is right for every business. I just want you to stop saying to people that you don’t know what they are, or what they do.