8 Ways To Use QR Codes For Marketing

By Neil Harrison LL.B. (Hons)

What are QR codes?

QR or Quick Response codes are a fantastic mobile marketing tool, and they are now being used everywhere. Some of the methods of using QR codes today make an awful lot of sense, like on a business card, so people can scan your valuable contact information rather than having to type it all in.

And then the placement of some QR codes make no sense at all, like on a street billboard where traffic moves fast. Think about it, how is someone supposed to drive and scan your QR code at the same time (and not have an accident)?

I’ve also seen QR codes on websites that brought you back to the exact same website when used. Just on your phone. If you’re seeing the QR code, you’re already on your computer. Please, don’t do that.

QR codes can give a variety of different types of information. The most common uses are internet links, links to apps, and text.

How to Make a QR Code

Making a QR code is easy. Googling “Make QR Code for free” yields sites like Kaywa and Qurify, both of which work.

Be sure to download the QR Code image to your computer and then upload it to your website, if desired, rather than depending upon the QR Code maker sites to host it for you. That way, if the site stops working, your QR code isn’t affected.

Bad Uses of QR Code

Unfortunately, there is so much bad QR code use out there that it’s hard to know how to use QR codes effectively.

To give you some examples, I’ll let you see Scott Stratten’s take on bad QR code use:

  • QR codes that don’t lead to mobile-friendly content.
  • Sending a QR code by email. (You have to see the video to appreciate the folly of this fully.)
  • QR codes on Billboards (as mentioned above).
  • Subway platforms where there is no signal.
  • Airline magazines – you’re in a plane and can’t use the internet to follow them.


Scott Stratten is perhaps, a little forceful in his explanation, but he’s right. It’s clear that not every QR code campaign is well thought out.

A QR Code Checklist

Here are the keys to a well thought-out campaign using QR codes.

Give people something useful on mobile with your QR code. (Don’t send people to a website that isn’t optimized for mobile with a QR code!)

Use QR codes only in locations where they can easily and safely be scanned.
If the code is in a digital format (email or website), it must also be a link to the same content.

Make sure there is WiFi or 3G access in the place where the code is placed.
The QR code needs to be big enough and clear enough that even the lower-quality phones can scan it.

There should be a clear indication of which types of mobile devices can use the QR code. If it’s for Android only, iPhone users will be irritated if they try to scan it and get poor results.

Some Ideas For Using QR Codes

With that said, here are some great ways to use QR codes.

At a conference or meetup, put a QR code on your name tag or shirt, and people can scan it rather than taking your business card, which will inevitably be lost in a pile of received papers. Be sure to have business cards too, though. Some people like having something tangible.

For local businesses, put a QR code on the door that gives people a file with your opening times, phone numbers, and website. A PDF hosted on a website is good for this. If your business has an app, of course, that’s even better, but be sure to include your hours and phone numbers in a tab in your app!

If you’re having a t-shirt giveaway, you might want to put your QR code on the shirt, so that anyone with questions about your business can just scan a code and get answers. My favorite place for these codes is in the upper area of the back, between the shoulder blades. Putting the code on the front makes the t-shirt unattractive.

T-shirts are more effective than key chains, because they are more visible, but if you’re giving out key chains or other trinkets, put your QR code on them. Just be sure to do it in a way that doesn’t make the item ugly. I was recently at a conference where one of the speakers gave out key chains with a QR code. You could scan the QR code for a chance to win a prize, too. This will, of course, dramatically increase the number of people who scan the code.

Banners – at convention tables, in public spaces, anywhere someone might be interested in your app or product, have a banner with your QR code. (Use banners in places with pedestrian traffic.)

For businesses that service cars, put a QR code sticker on the sun-visor, and have it lead to an app where you can both track regular car service and schedule your next maintenance online. To make it even better, offer coupons!

For a restaurant, give a QR code with the receipt or on the menu. Have it lead to a place to sign up for an email newsletter that includes coupons or freebies.

In emails and on web pages, I have to disagree with Scott Stratten – often people are reading an email or web page on their computer and want to move the information to their mobile device. Just make sure it’s also a link to the information, in case they’re reading the site or email from their phone.

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