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9 creative uses of QR Codes for your business

With the exponential rise in mobile internet access there is no doubt in my mind that 2D codes (also known as Quick Response, or QR Codes) will become a trusty tool for “tagging” real-world objects with virtual information.

Stickybits is an innovative example of how to add digital content to real world objects. However, I’m not a big fan of proprietary apps and coding. For instance, Cell C recently launched the Bee-Tag powered PhotoCode in South Africa, while Microsoft is trying to push their “creatively” named Tag system too.

All of these competing standards, apps and readers are prohibitive to the mass uptake of this technology. It confuses and frustrates consumers. This is why I’m betting on the more open QR Code standard to become the benchmark. The majority of downloadable readers will scan QR Codes, no matter whether you’re using an iPhone, Nokia, Android or any other smartphone. I use UpCode on my phone.

It’s one thing getting it to work, but quite another to use it effectively. There have been some pathetic attempts at using QR. Take, for example, the bank that put a QR Code in a newspaper advert. Firstly, the QR Code pointed not to their mobile banking site but to their website which is not optimised for mobile. Secondly, the market is totally wrong.

People who currently know about and use QR Codes are geeks or tech-savvy under-50s (apologies to those over 50, but I’ll then lump you in the geek category… admit it). These people tend to stay away from print newspapers. This ignorant and sterile use of QR Codes in marketing has damaged the concept for creative agencies trying to push clients to use it.

However, critical mass and uptake for this technology is rumoured to round the tipping point in the next two years. In technophilic Japan, QR Codes are already pervasive and innate.


So how do you use QR Codes properly? There are literally thousands of creative uses for QR Codes, but here are some of the best:

Business Cards: A QR code on your business card could point to your website/mobisite or it could even have your vCard info on it. Simply sign up at Viscards or check out the MECARD standard, then enter your contact information and download the QR Code which points to your vCard .vcf file (Viscards) or that contains the specified contact details (MECARD). Once that is done, all you have to do is print the QR Code on your business card.

Here are some kinds of information that work well on a QR code:
1. Mobisite
2. Contact info
3. Company Facebook Fan Page
4. Personal Facebook page
5. Twitter account
6. YouTube account or video
7. Blog
8. LinkedIn profile
9. Skype details
10. CV or Bio

If you’re wondering about 2D encoding standards then check out this great link to figure out how to code different information. Here’s another cool site called ShareSquare which gets a “+1” for being able to host all sorts of information. For all the Crackberry addicts out there, point your browser here.

Coupons: Create a coupon featuring specials for your business, which is then hosted online (but still mobile-friendly) and then create a QR code pointing to the coupon. Print the QR code on flyers, ads, billboards, product labels etc. and now your loyal customers have a quick and easy way to get discounts, specials, rewards and savings.

Product Labels and Shelf Talkers: Want people to find out more about your product? Simply put a QR Code on the label or on the shelf. This can point to the product’s mobisite, for example.

In this instance, the information on a mobisite should include:

1. Product and company information
2. Ingredients
3. Allergy warnings
4. Recipes – cross-sell other products in the recipes
4. Complementary products – cross-sell your brand/s
6. Dietary information – This can be great for fitness fanatics and people who are dieting
7. Reviews
8. Online sales
9. Informative video
10. Discounts and Loyalty Rewards

Scavenger Hunts: QR Codes are begging for a scavenger hunt application. Customers can scan a code with directions, find another code at that location… etc. Check out location-based service SCVNGR for an interesting look at treasure hunt 2.0. Add QR codes into the mix and you’ve hit upon a very interesting concept.

Promotions and Events: Print QR Codes on T-shirts, pamphlets and flyers or get your “promo girls” to sport temporary QR code tattoos.

Signage & Advertising: Put QR Codes on all your signage and advertising. Particularly effective would be delivery vans and motorbikes. In traffic, people don’t have the time to take down numbers or type in details. A QR code is as simple as snapping a picture. It could immediately save your vCard details on to someone’s phone: “Bright Spark Electricians. +27725551234. www.brightsparx.co.za” for example.

TV Ads: Imagine if I told you that I could turn a 30 second slot into a 5 minute multimedia experience. Put a QR Code at the tail of your TV ad and you can direct customers to a 5 minute video for your product. Remember, though, that you MUST give the customer value. Simply pushing them to more advertising won’t work. Think of exclusive content, discounts and rewards.

Directions: QR Codes can point to Google Maps or GPS co-ordinates, or you can simply give text directions. It’s very frustrating to type out or print out lengthy directions. A QR Code allows a user to scan and follow the directions on their phone… straight to your door.

Supercharge your print campaigns and content: Print simply can’t keep up with society’s addiction to multimedia content. Print is just too one dimensional. By adding QR Codes to your print campaigns and content you can immediately augment it with multimedia. For example, an advert or article on the latest up-and-coming band can include a QR Code directing people to a free ringtone download, or an exclusive look at the latest music video.

I’ll be following up this article with some real world examples of effective use of QR Code marketing campaigns. Stay tuned. In the meantime, why not download a QR Reader to your phone and practice with this QR Code?


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  2. Walter Pike

    November 8, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Was rick rolled

  3. Maritza vd Heuvel

    November 8, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I love new technology and although I see some of the good use, I currently see too much bad practice that is putting me off QR codes. For example, as a techie, I know that I can’t use my Microsoft Tag Reader to read the tag you have here. But what poor sod on the street is going to know that? How many QR apps must I try before I find one that will read this tag?

  4. Rob Dickens

    November 8, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Hi Maritza, this isn’t a Microsoft Tag. It’s a plain old QR Code. There are tons of QR readers that will read this code. Download any QR Code Reader. What phone are you using?

  5. Rob Dickens

    November 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    hehe ;)

  6. Marc Forrest

    November 8, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Great article Rob. I am a big fan of QR Codes. They offer loads of potential.

    Also came across this great list today of other uses for QR Codes – http://www.synapse3di.com/2010.11.08.29-12-ideas-for-qr-codes-and-microsoft-tags-in-your-business/

  7. Rob Dickens

    November 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Good list :) I love this idea: QR Code on dog tag taking you to a video sharing dog’s contact info. This could totally work. You keen to do it with me Marc? :)

  8. Dirk Singer

    November 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    We’ve recently used codes for a campaign for (London) Gatwick Airport, where they are being put on construction hoardings to bring to life the airport’s £1 billion investment programme. But, we deliberately stayed away from QR codes, going for standard barcodes with stickybits.

    Two reasons for that, personally I think aesthetically they work better and also consumers instantly know what a barcode is upon seeing it (http://therabbitagency.com/2010/11/gatwicks-barcode-discovery-tour/)

  9. Rob Dickens

    November 8, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Great campaign and use of codes. Well done. I think Museums and sight-seeing tours could really get into this. I was thinking about putting a QR Code on an info board near some Bushmen Rock Paintings here in SA, pointing to a video or descriptions and explanations of the paintings. Would be quite a juxtaposition of ancient rock paintings and modern technology. As for Stickybits and QR Codes. I LOVE Stickybits, but the app is limited to Android or iPhone at the moment. These would be exclusive top-end phones in SA, whereas any smartphone can scan a QR Code and thus the uptake, specifically in South Africa, would be faster and more accessible to the masses.

  10. DD

    November 9, 2010 at 5:10 am

    I am a freelance TV and Radio producer in the advertising industry and have recently become aware of how important is to move into the mobile arena using tools such as QR. Any suggestions on how to brush up my knowledge on this type of thing? Really very green when it comes to MOBI, QR and anything mobile related. Enjoying your articles a lot. Thanks.

  11. LPR

    November 9, 2010 at 6:04 am

    rick-rolled in the morning, yikes! Other than that – great article!

  12. Rob Dickens

    November 9, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I’ve found this site: http://2d-code.co.uk/ to be the most informative in the QR Code arena.

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  14. Olympia

    December 6, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks for a good article – have been suggesting to clients to use QR codes for a while now; glad this nifty approach is catching on. Just one question – how would you add the code to the end of a TV ad? Surely the viewer do not have enough time to retrieve a device, activate QR reader and snap??

  15. Pingback: The "Connecting Offline Marketing with the Web" Edition | Matt About Business

  16. Pingback: Using QR Codes at a Tradeshow | Tradeshow Guy Blog

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