How many times have you scanned a QR code in the last month? If I were a betting woman, I’d guess at least once a week.
QR codes date back to 1994 when a Japanese automotive company invented the black and white square grids to help track vehicles during manufacturing. Quick Response (QR) codes were then used in place of UPC barcodes because they stored more data and were faster to load. Over the years, you may have noticed the codes scanned on plane and train tickets to identify the passenger. Handheld scanners allowed the QR codes to be read at airports and train stations. Today, smartphone cameras have the ability to recognize QR code and link to online properties.
QR codes became popular again recently when restaurants and consumer brands needed a touch-free way to peruse a menu. Today, marketers are using QR codes everywhere and customizing the graphic to include color, images and logos.
Here’s a guide for the most effective ways to use QR codes in your marketing efforts.
How to use QR Codes
Link to website
The most common use of a QR code today is to create a code that links to your website. Google has a QR code generator built into Chrome. The app provides a super simple way to generate QR codes from URLs, text messages, phone numbers, and cards.
Best practice: Be intentional with the QR code placement on the material and make sure it’s large enough to get noticed. Include a call-to-action like “Scan to Win” or “Scan to learn more” to let your audience know what to do with the QR code.
Link to contact info
Business cards have gotten an upgrade with QR codes.
Link a QR to your vCard or digital contact info that includes your name, title, company, phone number, email, website, and social media channels.
You’ll never have to worry about a new contact mistyping your name or phone number into their phone or losing your info because they can simply download your contact info from the vCard.
This Vcard Plus even allows for sharing info.
Best practice: The QR code should be at least one inch in diameter to be visible. If you’re customizing the look of the QR code in the QR code generation tool, make sure to not alter it afterwards or it may not link. And just like your logo, don’t warp, skew, or rotate the QR code or it won’t link properly.
Link to a contact form
Running a sweepstakes, contest, or giveaway at an event or trade show? Lose the paper forms when collecting contact info. Place a QR code on a trade show banner, flyer, or branded tablecloth that links to a contact form on a website, Google Form, or other secure contact form. Allowing your audience to complete the form themselves will solidify their intent to engage with your company and ensure you get more accurate contact info.
Best practice tip: Test out the placement of QR codes on various materials, color and backgrounds before printing to ensure scan ability.
QR Code Generators
There are tons of free QR code generators that can create customized, branded codes. Here are a few that we like:
Canva QR code generator
Canva has a built-in QR code generator. It’s easy to use but not super customizable.
Google has a QR code generator built into Chrome. The app provides a super simple way to generate QR codes from URLs, text messages, phone numbers, and cards.
Flowcode enables quick QR code generation with a logo or graphic. The website also features templates to place the QR code and a print store to order business cards, flyers, posters and more.
QR Code Generator
QR Code Generator is my fav because the Pro version allows us to customize the color, logo, and call-to-action and download a PNG of the code. A negative is that vector files (EPS) won’t maintain the customized color.
Each of these tools provides analytics of the QR codes. They track the number of scans for each code and additional metrics such as time on page or conversions with the Pro versions.
We love QR codes because they enable analytics of print material pieces. In addition to trackable phone numbers or custom URLs, QR codes are an excellent way to enable campaign attribution for marketing material.
Need a kick-ass design for your next event or campaign? Contact us for creative assistance.
About the Author
Stacey Harrison is the lead brand strategist and designer at Heart & Hustle Brands and has provided creative direction for healthcare, industrial, and financial services brands for 20 years. She started Harrison Creative Group in 2017 to serve businesses that need a professional brand image on a budget. In 2021, the company rebranded to Heart & Hustle Brands to walk in the shoes of clients that experience a change of name or brand refresh.