QR you?

Last week, we were in Berlin for a meeting. Amidst the anticipated misty November cold and the seemingly constant aroma of bratwurst and cinnamon roasted almonds, I was surprised to see QR codes almost everywhere I looked.

This got me thinking about QR codes and why we don’t seem to have embraced them in Britain as much as our European counterparts.

Let’s start from the beginning.

What are QR codes?

Originating in Japan, QR codes have been around for a few years. QR stands for Quick Response (they can be read quickly by mobile phones). They work like barcodes by directing anyone who scans the code to a piece of information (usually a webpage). Typically, they’re used for marketing purposes on print media (like magazines and flyers), billboards and even promo hats and t-shirts.

QR codes Berlin

Reading a code

You can read a QR code either with an application that you’ve downloaded or via software that’s already on your phone.

Creating a code

There are lots of websites that generate QR codes for free. You simply enter the target URL and the tool will generate a downloadable QR code. Good free QR code generators include GO QR, Kaywa and QR Stuff.


Personally, I’m unsure how I feel about certain uses of QR codes. A lot of companies have misused them in the last couple of years, which has led to many people considering them as a little bit gimmicky.

Having said that, there are many great ways you can use them (I have one on my business card). If using a QR code will benefit the user in some way (save them time or effort, for example), you can justify using one. However, it’s important to proceed with caution and remember that users have certain expectations when they scan a QR code, so don’t leave them disappointed; make sure it’s worth their while.

Think about practicality. Consider whether they will be able to get close enough to the QR code to scan it. It doesn’t make much sense having one high up on billboard on a busy road. Nor does it seem like a good idea to have one on the bottom of a Boeing 747.

For tips, advice and support on all things digital/markety, get in touch with Group Dane.


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