A bit of history

Their sudden surge in popularity in North America over the past couple of years might lead people to think QR codes are a relatively new technology, but in reality the standard has been in use since 1994. Just to add some perspective, Google has only been with us since 1998.

While they are associated most clearly with their popular use in mobile web applications, QR codes were originally created for tracking automobile parts through the manufacturing process. They are really just a slightly evolved version of their predecessor, the "one-dimensional" bar code (UPC codes being the most familiar example). That means the contents of a QR code is not restricted to URLs - they can carry any type of information. The next logical question is: how much?

How long is a piece of code?

The answer to that simple question requires a bit of explanation. Firstly, there are forty different sizes of QR codes - though only a couple of those are used regularly in marketing. The format you're probably most familiar with is called "version 2," which is a 25 x 25 grid. The version 2 QR code can hold up to 47 characters. A certain amount of redundancy is built in for the purposes of error correction, which enables the code to be read even if part of it is missing or obscured. There is a trade-off, however - the stronger the error correction, the lower the character count. At the strongest level of error correction, a version 2 QR code can contain about 20 characters.

That probably doesn't seem like much information - about a third of the capacity of an SMS text message at best. It is however, more than enough for a URL. And as long as you have internet access from your mobile device, a QR code can be the gateway to all sorts of data, from contact information to websites and streaming video.

How much is too much?

When creating your own QR code marketing plan, keep in mind where your customers will be when they scan your code. Give them as much information as they need to act on your message, but don't go overboard.

Keep the initial message clear and concise, and make sure that first page - the landing page - is well-formatted and easy to read on a variety of devices. Save longer copy and rich media content for the regular "desktop" version of your website, and make sure your mobile messaging can be read and understood quickly. Keep in mind your customer may not have the latest and greatest smart phone either, and consider how that might affect their viewing experience.

What Next?

Choosing the right QR code app for your phone

QR code Marketing: 5 Tips for a Successful Campaign (mashable.com)

Create your own QR code marketing campaigns quickly and easily with pbSmart™ Codes Software.

Mon-Fri 8am-8pm ET
Get Started Today
New QR Code Reader App!
New QR Code Reader App - Free Download ScanShot available at your app store


This text will be replaced