Noticing Quick Response (QR) Codes

Why and how to use QR codes PLUS how to integrate them with your world wide  web, particularly the Internet and Social Media, is the subject of this blog.

QR codes were created for use in the automotive industry in Japan.. Originally created by a Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in 1994 to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. In North America, QR codes are seen on books (example: SuperFreakonomics, 2009), business cards and on retail packaging (example: Dole pineapple 2011).  My personal favourite, to date, is the personalized feeling I receive when I use the QR code from Ethical Bean packaging.

So what is a QR Code? According to Wikipedia, a QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code and also known as a 2D Mobile Bar Code) is a type of  matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code). The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data (e.g., binary, alphanumeric, or  Kanji symbols).

In the context of the world wide web, a QR code, when scanned, by a smart phone or ipad, takes the person scanning the code to a web page, web application, etc. that interacts with the content on the page(s) through the features of their smart phone.

Benefits of a QR Code? To the average person with a smart phone, QR codes provide easy access to more information without the need to type in a URL address. It is easy to use! For a business, government or individual QR codes are nice way of making customized information readily available for customers or contacts, in an easy to access manner.

Getting Started. If QR codes peak your interesttry downloading a free universal bar code scanning application for your smart phone. I’ve tried several applications and my favourite is the NEOReader, for iphone.  Once you have the application installed, find your favourite magazine, book, product at the grocery store, poster, website page, etc. and scan its’ QR code. 

I hope the content you encounter from your scan is informative and pleasing so you still have a positive feeling about the company who provided the QR code!  Take some time, over the next few weeks, with your new QR applications, to scan QR codes you notice to see if QR codes are useful for you.  Post your comments on my Facebook wall or the comment section of this blog to share them with others.

Going Deeper If you want to consider creating and using QR codes in your communications materials there are a few other items to consider:

Become familiar with QR codes and some of the proven practices on their best use.  Two sources of information to consider include this article Top 14 Things Marketers Need to Know About QR Codes by Angie Schottmuller and the MMA Neustar Mobile Barcode Marketing webinar.

Understand how to generate a mobile bar code and find a suppliers service that your are comfortable with.  One supplier we have used for QR code generation is QRStuff.  Their website is simple and informative.  They have a good track record at being innovative.

Plan out the content you will present to visitors who scan your QR codes, how it will be presented and how it will be measured.  Ensure the effort you will undertake is strategic to your communications goals and fits into your current strategy.

How the QR codes present in mobile technology is key!   Ensure the QR code Landing Pages are mobile compatible and to provide a rich experience for the visitor.

QR Codes - Insights, Tips and Advice:

  • It takes some time to get used to scanning a QR code.  Trying to scan a QR code in dim lighting is often difficult, particularly if the QR code is “dense” (has a lot of black in it)


  • There are several key differences in these code formats. ScanLife EZcode and Microsoft Tag are proprietary formats only decodable by their tools, while QR and DataMatrix formats are open standard. A Google Trends analysis of these 2D barcodes shows "QR code" dominates by far from a search popularity perspective (source Top 14 Things Marketers Need to Know About QR Codes, 2011, Angie Schottmuller)
  • Privacy - QR code suppliers track activity from visitors through the QR codes including visits and how many times a QR code has been scanned by a phone.  I understand that suppliers do not have access to any of the private information on the phone conducting the scan.  Ensure you read the documentation from the application you download on your phone to ensure your privacy is valued.
  • QR codes can be placed in many locations including websites, printed materials, and signs.  They can even be created as tattoos and printed on to T-Shirts.  For example, Pieter Dorsman (@PeterDorsman) was kind enough to send me a pic of a band using QR codes behind their stage.
  • An interesting video on QR code content and the need for pages to be mobile compliant can be found at (source @unmarketing 2011)
  • if you do not have mobile compliant web pages, have limited ability to do so and want to provide QR codes as part of your communications materials, consider creating QR Landing Pages through a public service, which is already mobile enabled, such as YouTube or Facebook.
  • Some QR code generation suppliers recommend creating a short url for your Landing Page.  This limits the density of the QR code and can make it easier for a QR application to read the QR code.  If you use a supplier provided URL shortener you may also have the ability to gather Landing Page analytics collected by the supplier and the flexibility to change the URL of the Landing Page without having to make another QR code.  Landing Page flexibility might be appropriate in situations where you plan to change content regularly or where your QR code may  not be able to be easily changed (for example on the back of a longer term publication like a book)
  • Services such as bitly URL also allow you to shorten an URL, share it and track usage.  If you have the flexibility to change the content and collect analytics on your own infrastructure, you may not need to use a supplier provided URL shortener

Enjoy your QR coding!

Find out more about Joe @


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