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A guest post by Paul Prisco of Dog Food Design.

Today's consumer is quickly adapting to QR codes as smartphone usage explodes. According to Nielsen projections, there will be more smartphones in the United States than basic phones by year's end. So, you need to start paying attention to QR codes---NOW!

Overall, time spent on smartphones is increasing rapidly. In Japan, for example, social media usage on mobile outnumbers desktop almost six to one. The convergence of social media, mobile devices, and search should be a key driver of your strategy, given your brand objectives. This merger leads to huge opportunities like advertising, mobile commerce, and gaming.

The strategic value of QR code marketing is often questioned, given the recent well-publicized mishaps. A few blunders that come to mind are:

Blunder #1: Placing QR Codes in Remote Areas

QR codes are useless if they can't be scanned. If you're placing QR codes in areas like subways, that's not going to fly. Scout out the area first to make sure you'll get service. Don't forget to place in locations people can actually get to!

Consider placing inexpensive items like a postcard or sticker in those "No Service Zones" that can be scanned at a later date.

Blunder #2: Pointing QR Codes to Your Desktop Website

To achieve results, they first have to be measurable, right? You can't measure anything in marketing without isolating the call to action. So, if you're pointing folks from a print ad to a desktop site, you're making measurement difficult. Ideally, you want a simple mobile site, which is effortless in terms of usability and has a support mechanism for a call to action. This will allow you to:

  • Tailor the user experience

  • Create relevant content

  • Measure the effort

To keep it simple, direct consumers to a YouTube video, map or a phone call—without a mobile site. You don't have to develop a full-blown mobile site if it doesn't align with your budget or marketing objectives. A landing page that coordinates with your call to action or offer will do the trick as well.

Blunder #3: Crafting QR Codes That Don't Scan

There is room for creativity when creating QR codes but there are technical limitations. A QR code needs to be at least 1" x 1" and most you'll find are 1.75" x 1.75" to be on the safe side.

Avoid placing on textiles, such as T-shirts, which in theory is a great idea but doesn't work that well. QR codes will work on color backgrounds—but the message here is to test, test, test! Make sure they work on different phones, different angles and on different substrates, and keep testing!

All these marketing blunders reinforce the fact that marketing isn't always executed with the consumer in mind. Placing your customer first and thinking of ways a QR code will add value to the process should be top of mind.

Paul Prisco is the founder and principal at Dog Food Design, a design and direct marketing agency for brands. He can be reached at 404.829.2704 or

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