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QR (quick response) codes are all the rage these days. These graphic codes allow users with appropriate smart phone apps to scan and be automatically directed to whatever online content the creator of the QR code specifies.

Be careful
While fun, and in theory a great way to drive more traffic to online content, I find that too often users don’t have time or a quick enough app to make the QR code successful.

In my own experience, with an aging iPhone, which has admittedly been dropped a few too many times, my QR reader takes forever to load.  But if the call to action to click the code is well developed and worth the effort, I’ll do it.  So make sure that your overarching marketing goal is maximized by giving enough of a teaser to entice the user to pull up the scan app and follow your code.

Content Matters
The content that is linked in the QR code is as important as the design and content of the graphic where the user found the QR code.  I do get annoyed when I click a QR code only to be taken to a homepage — just give me the basic URL for that. I expect the code to take me to a page where the address is too cumbersome to type, or where I can get information that is more robust than the info present where I found the code.

Application Matters
QR codes will work when the target users are captive. I think they are wasted on the outside of buses, on billboards or even at the counter at your favorite coffee shop. However, on business cards, packaging or inside a bus can be great places to use a QR code.

Clients have recently asked if they should put a QR code on their business cards, and in their case I advised no. Their cards are custom cut, beautifully designed, and a QR code would have thrown off the design and muddled the image. Plus, the landing page they were interested in was only their home page.

So when would QR on a business card make sense? If you are linking to your LinkedIn profile, for example, or an online portfolio separate from your homepage.

I love QR codes on food — the ones that say “click to track this watermelon’s journey” are especially intriguing, and kids love it.

How to make a code
If you are interested in creating QR codes, check out these sites.
Basic QR creator:
More robust, links to order gear with QR codes:

Its free, fast and easy, but you can consult with your graphic designer and/or marketing specialists if you are unsure of how to maximize use of QR codes.