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The Five Rules of QR Codes

December 13 2011

Guest Contributor John Lim from Mobile Card Cast Says:

When used correctly, QR, or Quick Response codes are exactly that- instant, direct, and an extremely efficient means of delivering content to a potential consumer.  QR codes definitely have the “cool” factor.  A scan, followed by a familiar beep of your device can bring new life to a once two dimensional print ad or promotion. Unfortunately for many companies the use of QR Codes ends with this cool factor, never allowing them to fulfill their potential as a valuable marketing tool.  Here are some basic good practice measures that can take your QR campaign to the next level, harnessing the power to put your content in the hands of a consumer.

Rule #1:  Your QR Code Must Lead to a Mobile Landing Page.

This is the most important rule regarding the use of QR codes, yet it is often ignored by companies who are attempting QR campaigns.  If you do not have a mobilized landing destination, the instant nature of the scan is voided by slow load times, poor formatting, and cumbersome browsing.  You know they are scanning the code from a phone, so give them content that they can browse freely from their device.

Breaking the Rule:                                    Photo Source: Neustar.com5 qr code rules1

Neustar, who ironically produced an ad campaign regarding (and using) QR codes, violated the most important rule of this mobile technology.  When scanned, this QR code leads to a non-mobilized website that is nearly impossible to navigate.  While the content on the site may be valuable, its presentation on a mobile device offers an extremely poor mobile experience.  Even users who had a strong interest in the product would be likely to take one glance at the webpage on their phone and press the “back” button on their browser.

Keeping the Rule:
Ketchum did an excellent job with their print advertisement that contained a QR code (the full ad can be seen on the mobile site).  The QR code led to a fully branded, functional mobile website, complete with relevant articles and even social links.  This is an excellent example of how to serve users with a great mobile experience that will be sure to leave them with positive brand recognition.

Source: Full-page Ketchum ad in Advertising Age, June 2011

Rule #2:  Have a Clear Call to Action

QR codes are beginning to penetrate many traditional forms of media. As QR codes become more visible to the general public, it is important to give users a reason to scan rather than leave it to chance.  A strong call to action, such as “Scan Here for an Exclusive Discount”, is a surefire way to get people to scan your QR code.  With a clear call to action, you are more likely to have consumers scan, and will work as a powerful marketing tool rather than a fleeting novelty.

5 qr code rules2Breaking the Rule:
This QR code brings you to a mobile webpage with property information and pictures.  Although the code below is fully functional and leads to a formatted page, it lacks a call to action.  There is nothing prompting a potential customer to scan the code, and the position of the code makes it unlikely that anyone will scan it.  When presenting a QR code, it is important to offer an incentive to scan, rather than just rely on the novel quality of this emerging technology.

Photo Source: Lighthouse Realty



5 qr code rules3Keeping the Rule:
This Patterson Schwartz print advertisement has an excellent call to action.  From the catchy tagline, to the simple instructions, this use of the QR code ensures that people will have a reason to scan the code, and have a positive experience on the mobile website thereafter.  Additionally, this QR code leads to a fully branded mobile website- and ideal landing page for those looking for real estate information on the go.

Photo Source: Patterson Schwartz print advertisement, QR technology powered by Mobile Card Cast

Rule #3:  Offer Value through Your QR Campaign
Once again, this rule pertains to what happens after the scan, and what ultimately leads people to a purchase or participation.  The mobile landing page (Rule #1) is the first impression, but appearance isn’t everything.  Your QR code must offer value in some way, whether it is an exclusive offer, content, or information.

Breaking the Rule:5 qr code broke a few major rules when they implemented a QR campaign encouraging New Yorkers to “be fit”.  The QR code, which was published in various papers throughout NYC, led to a non-mobilized webpage of the NYC Parks & Gov page.  Although the non-mobilized page is a major flaw, this campaign goes further by offering no value to the user.  The homepage that it resolves to is cluttered, and offers no advantages to a specifically mobile user looking to get some quick information or an exclusive offer.

Photo Source: New York Post and

5 qr code rules5Keeping the Rule:

Dynamite offered excellent value through their QR campaign by giving users the chance to win $50 just for scanning the code.  The already strong value of the campaign was amplified by a functional, well-designed mobile landing page.  Even if you were not a winner, the mobile site offered 20% off your next purchase. The campaign had all the qualities that a good QR offer should, most notably the incentive it gave customers to walk into the store.

Photo Source: Dynamite and DailyBoom















Rule #4:  Do Not Use Free QR Codes…

…without proper reporting.  Reporting the results of your QR campaign is essential to improving the success of your effort.  By having the tools and insight to see trends and patterns, you can better tailor your campaign.  Additionally, free QR codes are static, meaning that they can only lead to one destination once they are created.  This means that should you want to change the content that you put in your QR campaign, you must create an entirely new QR code to replace existing ones.  Printing, additional costs, and logistics can make this process extremely difficult.  With a medium as direct as QR codes, it is essential to stay on top of current trends in your campaign to continue to deliver relevant, valuable content.

Breaking the Rule: 5 qr code rules6 is one of the many sites that offer simple, quick, and free QR codes that can lead to any URL.  Despite the user friendly nature of the service, their QR code technology ends once the code is generated.  After the code is produced, a user has no means of tracking scans and activity.  Missing out on this valuable data is detrimental to the campaign, and can leave many opportunities untapped.  While these QR code services are convenient, they are not ideal to implement a well thought out QR campaign.

Keeping the Rule:
The Life in Mobile™ IntelliCodes Platform has a built-in tool to monitor and report scans for any QR campaign.  These detailed reports, combined with the flexibility of the IntelliCodes platform give any QR campaign the ability to adjust on the fly and pick of on valuable user data and patterns.  QR codes are inherently instant and working in real time, so it is essential to record results and reflect trends in the next phases of your campaign.

5 qr code rules7


Rule #5:  Keep the URL Short

While this may seem like a minor point, having a long URL can harm your campaign by making it difficult for some to accurately scan the QR code.  When dealing with QR codes, the clear advantage is their inherently instant nature.  Having a long URL may inhibit this quality, and it is extremely easy to generate a short URL.  Keep the QR code simple, and the content rich.

5 qr code rules8Breaking the Rule:
Ralph Lauren ran several QR code print advertisements that prompted users to shop online.  Although the mobile website, call to action, and value were well executed, the mobile URL was left relatively long.  This long URL created a more complex QR code, that could have possibly alienated scans from less advanced devices.  The long URL would also be difficult to include in an SMS campaign that would require a character limit.  Though this aspect did not make or break the campaign, an easy fix to this long URL could have made it a more complete effort.

Source: Polo Ralph Lauren

Keeping the Rule:5 qr code rules9Recently, The New York Daily News and P.C. Richard & Son teamed up with Mobile Card Cast to create a print advertisement featuring a QR code.  The sweepstakes prompted users to scan, text, or enter the short URL, to enter for their chance to win prizes.  Although there were several long URLs that could have been used, the QR code resolved to, a shortened URL.  This makes for a small, easily scalable QR code, and also gives the flexibility to include the link in a text message with limited characters.





                                                                                 Photo Source: New York Daily News