Just a year ago, I couldn’t have told you what a QR code is, what it does, or why ads were telling me to scan it with my phone; but what was once used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing is now being used by mainstream American companies to merge print and web advertising efforts. While the barcode itself doesn’t appear to be anything special, how the barcode works is reshaping the way we drive traffic to websites.

This two dimensional, matrix barcode is readable by a majority of smartphones (iPhone, Android, etc.) through a native device application or a third-party scanner—many of these can be downloaded for free in your phone’s app store. Consisting of a white background and black modules in a square pattern, QR codes encode URLs, among other information. When held up to a print piece, your smartphone will scan the code, open the device’s web browser, and send you to the webpage linked to the code.

The trouble with QR codes is that most companies are using them blindly and not utilizing them to their full potential. When you decide to use a QR code in your advertising mix, there are a few things to consider:

1. Does your QR code work?
This may sound like a silly question, but even one error in the web address that the code is connected to or a distorted code graphic can render it useless. How embarrassing would it be to send out a mailer with a code and when scanned does nothing? Test your code!!

2. Are you sending consumers to a mobile site?
Virtually all QR codes are scanned by phones. If a consumer scans your code and is taken to a standard site, chances are they will not be able to view the content of your site properly.

3. Is there any incentive to scanning your QR code?
We live in a world where rewards often sway behavior, so create buzz with your code by offering consumers an incentive for scanning. Whether it’s a special offer or gift, download, discount, or exclusive media content—a clear call-to-action, paired with an enticing offer leads to results!

So the next time you decide to put that little black and white box on your print piece, think about whether or not you are getting the full use out of your QR code? If you’re unsure or haven’t even tried it yet, but want to use it on your next mailer or advertisement….just give us a call!