Let's start at the beginning.  *QR Codes were first invented by Denso Wave a subsidiary of Toyota in 1994 and used extensively in manufacturing in Europe and Japan. Denso was able to see great value in 2D barcodes and created them in an open architecture allowing everyone free access to the technology.  



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     "This is an example of what not to do with a QR Code. I'll explain in a minute."

What are QR Codes? They are mobile response codes. They look like square jigsaw puzzles, typically in black-and-white and occasionally in color. (See Above) You see them on direct mail, corporate brochures, social media, television, magazine ads, business cards and on some posters and billboards. A typical linear barcode can only hold a maximum of 20 digits, whereas a QR-Code can hold over 200 times as much information hence its great value in multiple applications.


What do they do? They allow smart phone users to obtain information about your product or service on their phone. What makes them so compelling is that they are an immediate response mechanism. Click and the phone is automatically directed to a webpage, video, text message, or other content. It might also populate an email, store contact information, or log time and date of an upcoming event like a concert or seminar. Your static content just turned into a dynamic, interactive medium.


If you haven't already reviewed the documents on QR Codes on our website, I encourage you to do so. Simply go to and click "Download our QR Code PDF" or "Quick Facts About QR Codes" on our homepage.   


Okay so why should you not use a QR Code as we have here? Because this version of our site is not optimized for mobile usage. The user experience is likely to be frustrating and perhaps negative. Using mobile optimized sites or sending users to specific links within your site illustrate two uses which are much more practical and user friendly. We'll cover this more next month.


As marketing continues to become as much science as it is art, let me share some recent data on marketing based QR Codes with you.


According to Burston-Marseller research conducted in 2010, 22% of the Fortune 50 are using 2D codes in some manner. Source: "Q2 2011 Mobile Barcode Trend Report" (ScanLife Q4 2011) In 2011, ScanBuy saw a 300% growth in barcode scanning over 2010 and 1000% over 2009; Q4 2011 saw more scans than all of 2009 and 2010 combined. More than 3 million new ScanLife users were activated in Q4 2011 alone. Scans are now coming from 128 countries.



ComScore found that, in June 2011, 14 million mobile users in the U.S., representing 6.2% of the total mobile audience, scanned a QR and other 2D barcodes on their mobile device.


Mobio Identity, an international mobile commerce company, has also recorded amazing growth in the volume of mobile barcodes. Between Q3 2010 and Q3 2011, volume has grown an impressive 1400% in QR and other mobile barcodes being scanned through its system.


According to Mobio, the percentage of consumers who added QR scanning capabilities to their phones between Q3 2010 - Q3 2011 jumped 1342%. This jump is attributed to an increasing number of smart phone users becoming knowledgeable about these codes.


Source: Mobio "The Naked Facts: Tipping Point Edition" (Q3 2011)


According to the MGH, by the end of 2010 . . .

  • 49% of those who had seen QR Codes had scanned them.
  • 70% said they would be willing to do so either for the first time or do so again.
  • 62% of those scanning QR Codes had done so multiple times.

Source: MGH "QR Code Use and Interest Survey" (February 2011)


This is where I will stop with the data lest you fall asleep at your desk . The point to be made from this is simply that the adoption of QR Codes is currently growing exponentially and expected to continue as more and more people purchase smart phones. And, keep in mind, the cost of adding a standard QR Code to your print materials or advertising is zero, zip, zilch, nada. The only costs associated with it are on the back end, i.e. the location you are sending your audience to.


The data on QR Codes continues to grow and provides details such as age and gender adoption, income and education levels, common uses and more. As you are perhaps realizing, we have barely scratched the surface on this topic so we will pursue this further in our April newsletter discussing applications in the world of marketing.


*QR Code is a registered trademark of Denso Wave.

Thanks for Listening,


Bill Strobridge