By Heidi Cohen published March 30, 2011

7 Reasons to Add QR Codes to Content Marketing

QR codes
(or Quick Response codes) condense information into two dimensional op-art squares that connect offline media to online content via a smartphone. Also known as mobile tagging, QR codes act like URL references on offline media and other flat surfaces.

Why Bother With QR Codes Now?

The growing use of smartphones  is driving the increased use of QR codes. While smartphone penetration is only about 30 percent of the U.S. market, this number is on the rise.  What’s more, since only 22 percent of Fortune 50 use QR codes, according to research from Burson Marsteller, the adoption of QR codes is just beginning. This opens the opportunity for your business to capitalize on this growing trend and impress your clients.

As a content marketer, why should you be interested in QR codes? Here are seven justifications you can provide to your management team.

Engage users

Not only can you use QR codes to attract new prospects, but they can also encourage users to spend more time with your content. Whether you’re representing a museum, a transit map or a company-run scavenger hunt, QR codes can provide additional information despite space limitations.


Connect offline and online content easily

With QR codes, readers don’t need to type in a complex URL. They can just snap a photo and are taken to the appropriate page. For example, QR codes are great in printed magazines where you want to direct a user to a specific page or a video without requiring users to enter a long URL.


Make mass media responsive

Attract prospects in locations that you might not consider marketing your products and services. You can place QR codes on a broad range of materials such as business cards, conference materials, store signage and windows, product packages and flyers.  Consumers who snap their smartphones over the QR code may become your new customers for your business.


Provide additional product information

This is particularly useful to supplement an ad, or give additional usage information via product packaging. Bear in mind that it can be difficult to use a QR code through plastic wrapping.


Convert shoppers

Give prospects more relevant information when and where they want it. Research shows consumers prefer to get product and sales information via their smartphone when they’re in retail establishments rather than consult store personnel. Retailers can benefit by placing QR codes on products, shelving, circulars and signs to provide information that helps close the sale.

Drive customer action

Get prospects to raise their hands for coupons and other forms of marketing materials via a QR code. To this end, incorporate a call-to-action in your advertising or offline content or surface.


Make media trackable

As with any marketing program, it’s important to track your QR code metrics. Since QR codes are still a relatively new technology requiring a smartphone and a QR code reader, results may be low. Compare QR code usage to the usage of URLs added to content marketing.



If you are new to using QR codes, here are some tips to get started:

  • QR codes should link to a URL that is optimized for mobile viewing
  • QR codes should be at least one inch square and placed in areas that have connectivity
  • Depending on who you are targeting, you may want to provide instructions on how to use QR codes since they are relatively new
  • An incentive may be needed to motivate prospects to scan since they may need to install a QR code reader.


Are you using QR codes? If so, how are you using them, where are you using them and what results are you achieving?

Author: Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is an actionable marketing expert. As president of Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi works with online media companies and e-tailers to increase profitability with innovative marketing programs based on solid analytics. During the course of 20 years, Heidi has obtained deep experience in direct and digital marketing across a broad array of products including soft goods, financial services, entertainment, media entities and crafts-oriented goods. Heidi shares her actionable marketing insights on her blog. Find Heidi Cohen online at Twitter @heidicohen, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Other posts by Heidi Cohen

  • Scott Frangos

    Thanks Heidi. Any numbers you’ve found that show what percentage of smart phone users regularly engage via QR codes?

    • Heidi Cohen

      Scott– Challenge is that older smartphones require users to download a QR coder reader. Therefore it’s important to track new smartphone owners. Further, not all data distinguishes between 1D and 2D (QR codes). Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

      • Anonymous

        Hi Heidi,

        I have an iPhone 4 (not that old), and as far I know, I had to download a QR reader. Seems to me there are still a lot of steps for first-time QR user to connect to content delivered via QR. Do you have demographic data on the types of users most likely to take action on a QR code vs ignore it if they see it (eg. by age, by industry, etc.).

        • Heidi Cohen


          I appreciate your point. That’s why as a marketer, it’s important to give viewers a call to action that includes instructions for download. Additionally, if the QR code is too small, it can be an issue.

          As for data regarding your specific questions, I don’t have any.

          Happy marketing,
          Heidi Cohen

  • Sediment blog

    One of the issues QR codes need to address is the wariness of the public as to what the code will actually do. Many times they simply appear on a page, and rely upon curiosity or engagement to encourage a viewer to click. However, customers are wary that the code will place the viewer on a mailing list, or take the viewer into a participation they had not anticipated. We have the ability to put QR codes into many of our catalogues and publications, but find that unless customers are very clear about what the code will do, they are nervous about clicking.

    • Heidi Cohen

      Sediment blog– While you make a good point, this argument can be made of any marketing call-to-action. To overcome this hinderance, it’s important to provide a short description so that viewers know what do expect when they click. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Anonymous

    Does a QR code provide anything a short, memorable URL wouldn’t? No.

    They add nothing but complexity for everyone involved. Every smartphone user has to download an app to make it work, and there’s no single app that you can send someone to that works on every possible platform. Lighting, angles, battery life and camera quality are just a few of the problems users can run into when they DO find an appropriate QR app. You spend more time (and valuable ad space) educating people on how to use them, when you could use a short URL — which EVERYONE understands — and save your potential customers the trouble.

    The only way I would consider QR codes is as part of a massive retail deployment with my own branded QR app (or by adding QR code reading to an existing app). Even Google has stopped their HUGE QR code experiment with Places because it was a failure:

    QR codes are nothing but a fad that will disappear just as quickly as they appeared.

  • Avivo

    So many different views on the subject. QR codes are definitly easy way to connect offline with online world to deliver content user wants to get.

    We have created QR code generator and tracking at and trend for generating QR codes is going up. Also people are using tracking feature more. Numbers aren’t so universal big, but you should know it is a start and maybe one year from we can tell if QR Code is going to stay or not. In one year there should be more or less just smart phones around us.

  • Jeff Gaus – Prolifiq Software

    One of the most effective uses of QR Codes is to put one on the back of your business card that allows for the download of your vCard, thus eliminating the need to type in the information or to rely on the highly un-reliable text recognigtion capabilities of a card reader.

    • GTM360

      We actually tried doing this. Using a BlackBerry and a Samsung Android smartphone, we were able to click the QR code of the VCF file and download it successfully to the phones. However, we were not able to find a way to add this contact to our phonebook. It would be great if you could explain this step.

      • Dr Daniel Westfield

        not sure it’s worth using that technique. upload your contact details to a virtual business card like kimtag and then it’s always up to date. makes more sense doesn’t it ?

        • Luke Williams

          you could also just use one of the business card scanner apps

  • Bruce Canales

    I noticed a lot of mixed reactions to QR codes but in my opinion, this type of marketing will get better once A) companies start using it in a more productive manner
    B) feature phones are completely non-existent.

    The most common mistake I have seen in QR Code marketing use is scanning the code on an ad and the url that it’s connected to leads to a digital version of the same ad. Give people incentive to scan. Create a special offer if a person scans the ad and use social media on the landing page for the person to share the offer with their friends and family. That’s just one idea of trying to go viral.

    As smartphones become more and more afordable, feature phones will eventually be ancient history just like the cassette. If everyone has a smartphone, you increase the use of QR code scanning.

  • Susan

    We have received a lot of very positive reviews about the use of QR codes, both for advertising and networking. As said above, it is vital that the QR Code is linked to a URL that is optimised for mobile viewing. A large majority of our users use their QR Codes to connect the people they meet offline with their online Social Media accounts, whether that be Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. 

    It is definitely an evolving marketplace! 

  • Patrick Donnelly

    Check out some of these branded artistic Qr codes from QrArts – 

  • David Bennett

    I love QR codes. I have one on our Twitter background and on our printed matter.

    On the other side, I am still amazed by how quickly and the i-nigma QR reader on my iPhone grabs URLs.  

  • Anonymous

    QR Codes are great for marketing to external customers, but also ideal for ‘marketing’ to internal customers.    My blog “Got a problem? Take a photo of a QR barcode” shows how QR codes are being used to help employees get to information they need quickly to do their job

  • Kramella

    Well, i have a question. Can you reuse a QR code or do you to generate a new one for everything you do? Figure a vehicle dealership with many choices and i want to have a QR code for each and the offer can change all the time. It seems it would be easier to have the one code for each item and just manage the offer? New to this so don’t mind if a silly question. I have been looking for answer and not found it yet?

    • David McIntyre

      As long as the URL remains the same, the QR code can remain the same.

  • Anonymous

    QR codes marketing is going to be huge in the U.S.

  • greg

    I’m about to have a second beermat printed to promote my business, this one with a QR on the reverse side. Here’s an early look:
    I’ve decided against putting a list of instructions on the beermat on how exactly how to interact with it. Primarily because the majority of the people in my line of work who will receive the beermats are tech-savy enough to know what they’re seeing. And those who aren’t as knowledgeable, have almost certainly seen QR codes on various marketing pieces. Simple curiosity can be a great thing.
    QR codes will be around for some time. And studies have shown that smart phone use/sales will continue to explode in the coming years.
    Being a one-person shop, my beermat/QR code marketing campaign will consist of only a couple hundred pieces. My goal is simply to drive people to my web site in a fun and exciting way. So whether a person scans my code with an intimate knowledge of QR codes already, or another person scans it and a smile draws across their face after seeing the result… be it.