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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. 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 the consumer.

Rule No. 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.

Breaking the Rule: Neustar, who ironically produced an ad campaign regarding (and using) QR codes, violated the most important rule of this mobile technology. When scanned, the QR code (above left) 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 those who had a strong interest in the product would likely 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 contains a QR code (the full ad can be seen on the mobile site). The QR code (above right) leads 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.

Rule No. 2: Have a Clear Call to Action
QR codes are beginning to penetrate many traditional forms of media. As they 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.

Breaking the Rule: A recent Lighthouse Realty QR campaign directs individuals to a mobile webpage with property information and pictures. Although the code 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. When presenting a QR code, it is important to offer an incentive to scan, rather than just rely on the novel quality of the technology.

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

Rule No. 3: Offer Value through Your QR Campaign
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 be an exclusive offer, content or information.

Breaking the Rule: 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 Department of Parks and Recreation page. In addition to leading to a non-mobilized page, the campaign doesn’t offer any value to the user. The homepage is cluttered and offers no advantage to a mobile user looking to get some quick information or an exclusive offer.

Keeping the Rule: Dynamite offered excellent value through its 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 weren’t 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.

Rule No. 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 spot trends and patterns, you can better tailor your campaign. Additionally, free QR codes are static, meaning 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. 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: is one of the many sites that offers 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 when implementing 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, enable companies to adjust QR campaigns on the fly and pick up on valuable user data and patterns. QR codes are inherently instant and work in real-time, so it is essential to record results and reflect trends in the next phases of your campaign.

Rule No. 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 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.

Breaking the Rule: Ralph Lauren recently 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.

Keeping the Rule: Recently, 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 for a 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.

John Lim is the CEO of Mobile Card Cast. For more information, please visit