It has been 10 years since I wrote on the topic of QR codes. Admittedly, at the time I suspected that those two-dimensional barcodes that bear a resemblance to square Rorschach tests may have been the latest “pet rock”. QR, which is an abbreviation for “Quick Response”, was originally invented by Toyota back in 1994 as a means of inventory control during automobile manufacturing. Almost without us realizing it, QR codes have since been widely adapted to a variety of uses. When you board a flight at the airport, only Grandma uses a printed boarding pass these days, while the rest of us place our phones on a scanner for the QR code to be read. In advertising, QR codes generally link to a website or a page on a website that provides either more information or a call to action.
Recently, with an interest in contactless transactions, dynamic QR codes have been embraced by many restaurants as a means for customers to place orders for any specific table using an online menu, then pay their bills and leave a tip at the end of the meal. Entertainment venues, sporting events, and many hotels and RV parks are now using QR codes to speed up the entry or check-in process with nothing more than the beep of a scanner. Quite honestly, the COVID-19 pandemic was the best thing that ever happened to boost acceptance and usage of QR codes. Although usage is steadily increasing from year to year, there was nearly a 25% increase from 2019 to 2020, with nearly 90 million Americans over the age of 18 using QR codes in 2023 according to a report published by Insider Intelligence. Of course, many people balk at this impersonal replacement for functions that have historically been performed by employees, allowing for greater interaction with customers.
When it comes to the use of QR codes, the potential applications are almost limitless, at a time when most smartphone cameras recognize QR codes without requiring the user to install a QR code reader app, which was not the case 10 years ago. A poster on the streets of New York City might advertise a first-run feature film or off-Broadway theatre production and include a QR code that takes users directly to online ticket sales. A transit ad in an airport shuttle might allow users to check the status of arriving and departing flights. Even college admission departments have been using QR codes to launch virtual campus tours.
Most campgrounds have limited advertising budgets and need to spend their dollars wisely. QR codes can be displayed almost anywhere, but QR codes on printed materials such as directory ads, rack cards, direct mail postcards, and business cards are more effective than their use on any other media. For example, QR codes on websites, embedded into e-mail messages and on TV commercials get very low rates of response. (Think about it: If somebody is already on a website, why are they going to click on a QR code to … go to a website?) On the same token, when I see a tiny QR code down in the corner of a TV commercial, I doubt that it can possibly serve any useful purpose or lead to an accurate scan unless a user has a large-screen high-definition television, takes the time to pause the commercial using a DVR, then scans. How many people are willing tp do that? My guess is almost nobody.
Generation and Implementation
There are two types of QR codes: static and dynamic. Dynamic QR codes have been garnering a good deal of attention recently. These are QR codes that link to a third-party service that monitors, directs, and tabulates the content. These are what are used when you scan a code to check out of a hotel or to pay your check at a restaurant. They are useful in certain – but not all – applications. Being run as third-party services, there are going to be monthly fees involved except for very basic or trial programs. For most purposes, a static QR code is generally what you need and want to use. Generating your static QR codes is an easy matter, with many free online tools available. One that I like is the QR Code Generator that you will find at https://www.the-qrcode-generator.com/. You enter the target, and choose whether you will be linking to a URL, text, a PDF file, your contact information, a text message, a phone call, or an email message.
With a bit of planning and analytics, you can easily measure the amount of traffic to any particular page of your website from a static QR code. The key is to have the QR code link to a specific page that is uniquely linked to the code or to a specific URL that redirects to a mobile-friendly call-to-action page or perhaps a virtual tour. If you are using QR codes on your rack cards, directory ads, postcards, your display booth at a camping show, or a poster at a nearby RV dealership, you will want a unique URL – and, consequently, a unique QR code for each venue. Just remember, as with any of your advertising, do not presume that the traffic that is generated directly from a QR code is the sole measure of an advertising campaign’s effectiveness. This exercise will only measure the traffic from the QR code itself. For example, a QR code on a direct mail postcard will only present that portion of the response rate, not quantifying phone calls and people who visit your website by typing the URL directly into their browser. It is only one means for recipients to take the prescribed course of action.
When actually embedding your QR code, it is important to understand how it will be viewed and from what distance. When displayed on various media, here are a few suggestions to take into account.
- Printed materials (including rack cards, brochures and directory ads), generally viewed from a distance of 1.5 to 2.5 feet, the QR code should be at least 0.75 to 1.5 inches in size.
- Large format advertising (including posters, signage and window cling), generally viewed from a distance of 4-12 feet, the QR code should be at least 6 to 8 inches in size.
- Billboards (including signs at your entrance), generally viewed from a driving distance of at least 25 feet or more, the QR code should be at least 12 to 24 inches or larger in size.
Given some careful thought, QR codes might enhance the ability of you to communicate with your customers. As always, you want to allow them to reach out to you in whatever manner best fits their specific comfort zone.
This post was written by Peter Pelland