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What I’ve Learned from Using QR Codes Part II

QR code in a print advertisement.

An example from an ad I created containing a QR code. I feel it is effective because it is intriguing, instructional and easy to scan.

A while back, I wrote an article about my experience in using QR codes at KVSC-FM and how I have used them personally on my business cards. Now almost two months later, I have a few more suggestions for the successful use of QR codes in marketing. QR codes are still quite the craze and I am seeing more and more show up on event flyers, print advertisements and even as profile pictures on Twitter. Many of these examples were flawed in some way and this article is meant to help prevent others from making the same mistakes.

The first advice I might give is to not include a QR code on something just to have a QR code on it. I admit, I have fallen victim to this. In creating a few print advertisements for an upcoming concert sponsored by KVSC, I really wanted to include a QR code to fill some blank space in the ad. However, both kvsc.org and the online ticket site were not easy to use on a mobile device and the only thing I could think of was to have the QR code link to the box office phone number to purchase tickets. We decided to remove the QR code. Why? Although the QR code likely would have raised curiosity, the destination would most likely serve as a disappointment to anyone who scanned it. We were better off just posting the phone number (old fashioned, I know).

Another thing we can learn from the above example is that it’s usually best to link to a mobile site. If the ticket service we were using was a site such as stubhub.com, then the QR code would have been a great addition to the print ad because the user would probably be discovering something new and would be excited about using the mobile site to purchase tickets. Along these same lines, linking to my ePortfolio from my business cards was probably not the best idea as I implied in my previous post on QR codes. Although my ePortfolio looks fine on a mobile device, the text is small and navigation is difficult. When I print new personal business cards, I will link to this blog because WordPress automatically directs users to a mobile version.

Lastly, I would highly recommend using a URL shortener service such as bit.ly to create your QR code. One problem I have seen with some QR codes is that they are too dense and thus, difficult to scan quickly (if at all). I do not completely understand the science behind QR codes, but I do know that dense QR codes are not only more difficult to scan, but are also less attractive. By using a URL shortener (namely bit.ly), you will not only avoid this problem, but you will also be able to track basic analytics of the QR code. With bit.ly, you can track the number of scans, location of the referrer, if the link is being shared on social sites, when the code was scanned and whether the referral came from the QR code or from the link posted elsewhere.

For those of you who watch CSI, here’s a simple definition of a QR code:

I hope these additional tips help you in creating more effective marketing campaigns through the use of QR codes. As always, if you have any tips or questions, please comment below or send me a message on Twitter: @eric_wheeler. And remember, sharing gets you more friends!

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What I’ve Learned from Using QR Codes

Intrigued? Scan this QR code with your mobile device to see where it takes you!

Intrigued? Scan this QR code with your mobile device to see where it takes you!

QR codes are the latest marketing craze. The QR, or Quick-Response, code was invented in 1994 by a Japanese company called DENSO Corp., a subsidy of Toyota and was initially used to track parts in vehicle manufacturing. Though QR codes have been commonplace in Japan for some time, they are only just now becoming popular in the United States. With over 73 million smartphone users in the US, marketers are embracing the technology in some very unique ways. In this post, I will give a few examples of how I have used QR codes at KVSC 88.1FM, at a personal level and what I have learned along the way.

My first venture with QR codes was in promoting “Superheroes of Trivia,” KVSC’s annual Trivia Weekend. The poster I was designing for the event was to resemble a retro comic book with a modern twist. After I had placed a traditional (non-scanable) bar code at the upper left of the poster to make it look more like a comic book, I got the idea to make it interactive by using a QR code.

Superheroes of Trivia Table Tent.

I used a QR code in a table tent for Trivia Weekend.

The idea was simple enough; I would place a QR code on the poster and have it link to an MP3 file that could be changed out with different audio files. This seemed like a great idea because this was for a radio station that was running a three-part promo on air and we could use the poster to bridge a connection to the series. However, it didn’t quite work out. The QR code worked fine, but the audio file would only play on Apple devices. When the audio file was opened on any other device, it would not play due to some type of Apple encryption with MP3 files. So I learned two things:

1. Always test your QR code on multiple devices/operating systems.

2. It’s better to link to an HTML document with an embedded audio file than to link directly to the source.

Also for Trivia Weekend, I placed a QR code on a table tent (shown above) encouraging students to volunteer for the event. The QR code simply linked to our volunteer resource page on the KVSC website. Though not as cool as opening an audio file to be entertained by a three-part trivia epic, the QR code on the table tent raised curiosity and drove traffic to kvsc.org.

QR Codes on Business Cards

On my business card, I used a QR code to link to my online portfolio.

At a personal level, I am in the midst of an aggressive job hunt and have placed a QR code on the back of my business card. Most people use QR codes on business cards to link to contact information. Personally, I have linked it to my online portfolio at eFolioMinnesota.com. I feel this is more appropriate for me since I am advertising myself as a job candidate and not myself as a business. Another tip to keep in mind when creating a QR code is to make sure the link is easy to use on a mobile phone. I initially wanted to link the QR code to my about.me page because it is much more visually appealing. However, it takes too long to download on a mobile device and is simply not sized correctly to be viewed on a 3.5 inch screen.

Another way to avoid compatibility issues with a URL or media file is to simply link to a text file. This can be used to direct the user to take further action or act as a coupon with instruction to the customer and cashier on how to redeem the offer. A good example involving text was with the concert venue First Avenue promoting an upcoming concert. A QR code was posted on its Facebook wall with the caption “We’re going hi-tech with today’s Etix ticket giveaway and it’s a doozy. Decode the QR for your chance to win.” When scanned, the QR code directed users to a text which simply read “Leave a comment with where First Avenue tickets will be available this Friday.” This is a great use of a QR code because it not only integrated social media, but also prompted users to learn about the venue’s new online ticket purchase option (eTix).

Here’s a list of ways I’ve heard of QR codes being used:

What are some ways you can think of to use QR codes? Do you think QR codes will be around for a long time or are they merely a fad? Please comment below, and remember: Sharing is fun!

**UPDATE: Read “What I’ve Learned from Using QR Codes Part II.”


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