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Many of our clients have begun to include QR bar codes in their marketing literature, but there are still many people who ask “QR what?” when the subject comes up. I was surprised to learn that QR (Quick Response) codes were created almost twenty years ago. A subsdiary of Toyota, Denso Wave Inc., created the codes to track vehicles as they were manufactured. Now they’ve been hijacked by the internet to provide information to consumers.

QR codes are simply a two-dimensional bar code that is encoded with information. They are a lot like the traditional bar codes you see on the sides of cans and other products but they contain 100 times more information. A user can scan the code with a smart phone and access a tremendous amount of information, either directly from the code or by being linked to an information source like a website.

In today’s smart phone environment, they’re used to educate customers and potential customers, and to provide instant promotions. To educate, QR codes are being used to direct customers and potential customers to product benefits, information about purchasing, or to pages on your website that provide installation instructions or warranty information. A QR code can be created for any web page – which means don’t let any discussion of QR codes limit your thinking about how to use them. But that’s not all they can do.

The two-dimensional nature of QR codes means that they have a greater surface area allowing them to hold thousands of alphanumeric characters that can accommodate web URLs, text or other information like photos, videos, graphics and more. QR codes can even dial a number or generate text messages! It’s like having the ability to control your prospective customer’s smart phone almost anywhere in the world!!

QR codes are surprisingly simple to implement and use. You can generate a QR code using any of a number of code generators. Most are free. Google “QR code generator.” We’ve already done that to make your life even easier. Here are three easy to use code generators:

We’ve used the code generator at To generate a code that will take the reader to a web page, you simply enter the URL in the QR code creator and hit enter. In seconds you have both an image of the QR bar code and the HTML code to add the QR bar code to a web page. We generated the code used in the upper right of this blog.

QR codes are read by code readers – again, there are many free apps available for whatever smartphone device you own. Download the app and scan the code. Scan the above code and it’ll take you to our InDesign Basics & Beyond training page.

For you techies, here’s the HTML code provided by Kaywa’s site for the above QR bar code.

<img src=”” alt=”QRCode”/>

(We modified the HTML to place the QR code into the blog so that it would be right aligned and properly sized.)

QR codes are a good choice for the business marketers:

  • They work! Consumers are responding to the scan codes they see and taking action to get more information about products/services promoted by these codes. According to the CIA World FactBook, as of 2011 there were 290.3 million mobile phones in use in the US. Two-thirds of that group are scanning QR codes to learn more about a product.
  • The future is bright for QR codes. 290.3 million potential users is a respectable number, and experts agree that the number of QR code users will continue to grow, in keeping with the aggressive growth trend in QR code usage over the last few years. Scanlife (a provider of QR code services) reports that from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012 the number of unique users scanning codes through its system tripled. NOTE: While usage is up, how QR codes are being used is changing…significantly. You’ll need to be on top of that information to succeed.
  • Low cost! Unlike a printed brochure or poster, the QR code is one marketing tactic that you can create for free! And even though it’s free, it doesn’t fall into the category of “you get what you pay for.” Rather, it falls into the category called “if it’s for free, it’s for me!”

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