What’s a QR code, you ask? QR codes (the QR stands for “Quick Response”) are those funny-looking little black diagrams that look like Rorschach tests, and they’re springing up everywhere, from direct mail pieces to billboards to product packaging. They’re easy to use, once you know what they are, provided you have a smartphone – you need to be able to snap a photo of the code, using special software (search your app store for “code reader app”) which you install on your phone. QR codes have been in use for years in Asia, where they’re used for everything from purchasing sodas from a vending machine to getting the nutritional information on a sandwich.How Marketers Can Use QR Codes

And they’re making their way here. In the past few months (though they’ve been here for a couple of years), QR codes are gaining popularity on packaging, outdoor advertising, and in magazines. You probably can’t open a copy of People, Time or Fortune without encountering a QR code in an advertisement, and possibly within an article as well.

If you’re one of those advertisers, or you have other places to put a QR code, what’s a smart marketer to do?

Content Plays

You can use QR codes to make consumers aware of other content you’ve created, like a blog post, recipe, or video. This is a terrific way to get consumers to pay attention to all that great stuff you’ve already got socked away.

Tips and Tricks

Don’t use valuable advertising or product packaging space for copy, place a QR code instead, and send your buyers to a page where they can learn the ins and outs of your product. Or give them a landing page with a bunch of recipes. Or the “Top 10 Things To Do With Your New [insert product name].”


You can use the QR code to bring users directly to a signup page where you can collect their info for an email list, register them for a promotion, or RSVP them for an event. Just be sure that the form is not too complex, because people will be typing on their tiny mobile keyboards.


If your product sells at retail or online, use QR codes to offer coupons. When users scan a QR in a magazine, on a product package, or even in an image on Facebook, take them to a page with a barcode coupon they can use in the store. All they have to do is bookmark that page in their mobile browser and they’re ready to go. Even better: collect their email address before you send them the coupon via email.

Two important thoughts on how to implement QR codes:

  • Remember that people scan QR codes with their mobile phones. Therefore, whatever page you land them on MUST be mobile-optimized. Don’t take them to a huge page with tiny text that they have to scroll down to get to your content.
  • A good QR-content match is one where a user, after scanning the QR code, lands on a website or video which helps you further their insight or involvement in your product. Ideally, you’re not taking them to a different version of the ad; you’re bringing them somewhere enhanced or special – they should feel like they’re getting to see something that others don’t.

Are you currently using QR codes to market your business? Have you thought about using them? We’d love to hear about your examples and ideas in the comments.