QR Codes: the Future of Marketing

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Recently I was introduced to the unusual concept of QR Codes. As this opened a whole new world to me I started looking for more information on the use and success of these mysterious codes. No matter how much information I find, there are still many questions left unanswered.

What are QR Codes?

QR Codes allow everyday items to become a website (print-to-mobile-to-web messaging) where everything can become a hyperlink, or “physical world hyperlinking”. The “QR” stands for “Quick Response”. These smart codes are similar to the price barcodes found on the packaging of supermarket items, however, QR Codes hold much more information (including website addresses, text and phone numbers). A price barcode can hold only about 20 digits (one direction only) but QR Codes can hold up to 7,000 digits (both vertical and horizontal directions).

“The genius behind QR Codes is that even a hairless chimp can play with them.” – Dana Oshiro, Mashable

How do QR Codes work?

Have you ever had a lot to say and not enough room to say it? You may not be unhappy for too much longer because these QR images can encode up to 7,000 alphanumeric characters.

QR images consolidate data down into a graphic which can be viewed at any size readable by a digital camera. When a QR reader is installed on a mobile phone, the consumer simply points their camera phone at your barcode, and the phone links them directly to your web page in seconds.

How are QR Codes used?

So far, QR Codes are being slapped up on just about everything in Asia. Here are just a few examples of where you can find them:

Anyone with a smartphone can scan and read QR Codes with the click of a camera, and anyone with access to a computer can generate QR Codes themselves. Kaywa’s QR-Code offers a QR barcode generator a link to download their reader.

By scanning the codes, you can access images, websites, place phone calls, play a video and send text messages. By creating the codes, you can produce your own messages. It is pretty exciting if you think of the marketing possibilities of actually living it this type of “web” world.


QR Codes are massive in Japan, appearing in magazines, billboards, business cards, shop windows, T-shirts, and more. McDonalds in Japan are also using this on the side of burgers which directs you to a web page displaying the nutritional information.

So far in the US, Google will be taking another stab at QR Codes by calling its program Favorite Places. They will be providing restaurants and other retailers with stickers for their windows (reviews, Zagat ratings, positive newspaper and magazine features). The UK and Australia are also starting to use QR Codes more in advertising.

Pros of using QR Codes:

With QR barcodes, in one click you’ll be directed to your mobile website. This saves time and avoids the frustrations of typing complicated URLs into a web-browser or dialing a 1-800 number.

Go Green: The codes are also meant to increase efficiency and reduce waste. For example, paperless air travel, electronic tickets for a concert or registering for an event. This type of registration will likely become more popular as camera and scanner technology improves.

These codes are great for advertisers, publishers and brands because they are connecting the physical world to the interactive world and driving traffic to their mobile internet site. This is an effective way to add interactivity to any print media and the possibilities are endless!

Cons of using QR Codes:

Despite being created back in 1994 QR Codes are rarely seen in America, because our phones don’t come equipped with the QR Code readers.  This is the reason for very slow marketing and advertising progress. I do believe that QR Codes will start to pick up soon because smart phones with cameras are becoming more and more common (Android or iPhone). Recently, Blackberry messenger 5.0 was released and this included a barcode reader. Once these readers are pre-installed on cell phones and a major brand brings more attention to the technology (Google), QR barcodes will be the new media wave.

As a graphic and web designer, I’m thinking… “does the 2-D QR Code lack visual dynamism? Could graphic elements be inserted into the code to make it more memorable?”
It’s true that you don’t need a built in barcode reader, but you do need to download a free barcode reader app. Here are two highly recommended iPhone QR Code apps:

QuickMark – $1.99
– Seems to be the fastest reader out there.
– Is the first of the “just wave it around” QR Code readers.

– Pinch and scale how big the barcode is before decoding. Handy since iPhone’s camera can’t focus.

You can also create your own free QR Code for any website or short blurb of text using code generators like this one from Kaywa.


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  • Your article is very informative and helpful for anyone who has doubt about QR codes. Truly hard work ^^

  • Nice article, I want to suggest this QR Code flash game: QR Pacman.

    This is a game similar to pacman but the maze is made with a QR Code, cool!!

    You can find it here:

    A very unique QR Code flash game.

  • We have found a lot more of our customers are incorporating QR codes into their marketing materials. Because of this we have added a free QR code generator to our online print store web site to make it easier for customers to generate QR codes to add to their layouts for their printed products. We see the interest in QR codes growing daily.

  • QRC’s are going to get really big this summer if I have anything to do with it. As a Creative Caricature Marketing Consultant and visual artist, I immediately saw their potential, made it a part of my marketing strategy, and within days see the results. Marketing is not the only advantage of QRC’s. I see it as a way of revitalizing the print industry, which many, including myself, thought dead. Finally a marriage between print and electronic media! Who would’ve ever guessed. I see a lot of other potential uses for these codes that haven’t been discussed yet. If you’re interested in finding out more, drop me an email so we can talk

  • I think that QR codes are going to be huge this year, many advertisers have realized the potential of adding these small black and white blocks to any of the print advertising, it’s proving a great way to link real world advertising to the online world

  • Nice I love that you did this post back in 2009

    We’ve just launched
    mobile landing pages to go with qr codes

  • I am looking at using a QR code on our packaging. So my question is this!
    Can you change the URL address on a QR code once it is created? Directing people to specific pages on your web site for different products at different times of the year for instance.

  • An interesting QR code campaign in Japan
    Custom QR codes are eye-catching and attractive, so that the code scanning ratio could increase, I guess…Look at the great variation in the design QR code shapes!

  • Take it a step further; RealtyGo – Mobile Real Estate Listings using QR Codes, GPS, SMS/MMS mobile gateway technology.

    For Mobile URL’s – Your mobile real estate listings, and best SEO (search engine optimization) for ALL your real estate listings and professional business information.

    Auto Scheduler from RealtyGo – Preschedule your calendar and enable end users to contact you via Mobile auto scheduling, saving you time and money allowing you to social network, advance your knowledge with continuing education and control your lead generation and how people are trying to get in contact with you.

    RealtyGo – Your Real Estate Listings Best Friend!

  • I downloaded the app SCAN. It is REALLY fast, you don’t even have to take a picture. Their website host the QR Codes. I generated one for my business card for free and it allows me to go in and change the link at any time. WAY convenient.

  • Hi all. We have begun to use these in marketing. I work for a printing and marketing company in York PA. One thing to think about in regards to a post I seen here is that while they do last forever, they don’t have to be the same thing forever. Meaning, you have a code created and use it on a business card. Then something changes, your extension, email address, anything. You don’t need to print new cards, you just have it corrected on the back end. This makes a seemless switch as long as you are generating them in house and controling them. You cannot do this however with free code makers. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me. Happy Coding!

  • QR codes are going to be big this year, I think alot of advertisers have realized the potential of adding these small black and white blocks to any of the print advertising, it’s proving a great way to link real world advertising to the online world

  • I actually wanted to use QR Codes for a few of my clients but didn’t want to leave those with out smart Phones high and dry so I created Durban ( its a image processing app that processes QR codes via email. I have thought about setting it up for free use but that could get pricey over time with little to gain. If any one wants to check it out and give feedback or is interested in partnering let me know. Cool Site btw.

  • Louis,
    thanks so much for this post, it answers a bunch of questions I’ve had about these symbols. Thanks too for sharing some fascinating applications. Very cool!

  • If you want to create vector QR codes beside bitmap QR codes you can do this using free online tool at: You can choose between various data types, we support also geolocation.

  • wow, this is tremendous, i was doing a report on this on my blog, but this is much more thorough, thanks

  • I think that QR is starting to gain some traction. In fact, I going to start to incorporating QR PDF fliers for my commercial real estate listings on my print signs.

  • Jennifer, I don’t see why not… it’s a public generator.

  • Louis,
    Thank you for your response.
    So if I have a small business and wanted to use QR codes on my marketing pieces, like a newspaper ad, would it still be free to use those QR code generators?
    Thanks very much for your help!

  • Hi Jennifer, QR codes last forever and each one is unique. Use this link to create your own: Usually this code will refer you to a website, send a text or make a phone call… I’m pretty sure you can have it give any piece of information.

  • How long does a QR code last? Is each one unique?
    How do companies make QR codes unique to them? And is there rules or charges to use it for marketing purposes?
    If we are a small company, how could we use it?

  • Great post.

    Theres a company I found this app on my iPhone that processes payments using these QRcodes. It’s called Mobio. Have you ever heard of it?

  • So the big question around here is whether QR codes should be accompanied by a modicum of copy–instructions for those with scanners, a URL for those without, or a hint of the enticing whiz-bang people can expect by scanning.

    I say yes. It seems to me that, as they become more ubiquitous, QR codes are merely a convenience to take people to a site without all that typing or is a quick way to induce loyalty by offering great discounts.

    But the ubercool designers say no.

    Admittedly, I’m uncool enough to suppose the QR stands for Quiet Riot. So … is the intrigue of a lone QR code enough to entice a scan? How much longer will they induce curiosity?

    Why aren’t I ubercool?

  • Nice post,

    Whilst we’re more in to the technology of barcoding, it’s always nice to show our customers what the marketeers are doing, especially with 2D barcodes.

    I might re-blog this and link to some of your pictures if thats OK with you, will link back and credit you.


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