60 Second QR-codes for dummies Overview

60 Second QR-codes  for dummies Overview

So What Are QR Codes?

QR codes are the commercial name for a type of 2D(dimensional) bar code – as opposed to 1 dimensional barcodes which have lines running in vertical strips running in a horizontal format from left to right like the barcode you may be familiar with on a bar of chocolate in the supermarket.

A 2D QR barcode has boxes running both left to right on the horizontal axis and up and down the vertical axis as well. Each small box or what we call a ‘pixel’ contains information, for example the QR code below says

The 3 “big boxes” in the corners simply tell the camera which way the code is orientated, so QR codes can be snapped in any direction but generally are printed with the 2 big boxes in the top and one on the left.

Where Did QR Codes Come From?

QR codes were originally invented in Japan by Denso for industrial bar codes on packaging for warehousing and production purposes

In their wisdom they realized that this “standard” would be more beneficial if everyone could use it, so they open sourced the technology and now anyone can create, read and implement QR code technology for free with no license fees being required.

There have been several other 2D code technologies available over the years but all required some form of license fees as such they haven’t been widely accepted and adoption results have been disappointing.

How Did QR Codes End Up On My Phone?

In the 90’s the use of QR codes were rapidly changed by all of the Japanese mobile carriers sitting down and agreeing to implement QR software into their mobile phones. Originally it was just a concept for delivering business card information.

For example the QR code below has a VCF card with my name, phone number, company name and email address. This is a highly efficient way to ‘store’ this information and by printing this 2-d image on the back of your business card allowed for very rapid deployment of information transfer into your electronic address book both on the phone and your desktop.

In the USA it is very disappointing that most carriers have tried to ‘milk money’ out of their customers and gone for ‘proprietary bar code’ systems so they can charge clients for reading codes and publishers for printing codes. This is why the 2D bar code system here in the USA is so flawed – greed.

It’s a shame considering the inventors of QR codes, Denso, were so visionary to let anyone use their codes for free that people are now trying to stand on their shoulders and rip people off. QR codes can be created by anyone license free and most readers can be downloaded to any camera enabled smart phone for free.

If someone tries to charge you to print a proprietary code – just say no thanks, and use QR codes for free.

So What Exactly Can QR Codes Do?

QR codes can be read by almost any phone with a camera.
There are a variety of QR code readers/software applications available to download from the internet for free.

Remember any QR code can be read by any reader. There are some variations on functionality but this is outside the scope of this overview.

QR Codes can be implemented to do the following;

  • Display Text Only – you might want to ‘push’ an address or some other form of information as text to the handset.
    e.g. 40% off sale this Thursday to Sunday – our address is 255 George St.
  • Initiate Email Transaction – QR codes can not only initiate an email but pre-populate text into the email e.g. Message: Subject:   “Please add me to your mailing list“.
  • Initiate SMS transaction – QR codes are often used to initiate sms. e.g. QR code on poster to sms Vote for “Danny” in this weeks American Idol
  • Initiate Browser Session – Most QR marketing codes initiate a browsing session for the phone to a particular website landing page (which allows for great analytics tracking of advertisements success – see landing page topic below).
  • Initiate Audio Stream – You can use a QR code to initiate the download an audio track.  e.g. Lets say your client is Sony Records – on the billboard posters/magazine advertisements you place a small QR code – this code could download a stream of 10 second audio track previews for the reader to listen to right then and there onto their handset.
  • Initiate Video Stream – Any phone that allows video to be displayed can use QR codes to initiate playing of a video stream. e.g. “Iron Man 2” QR movie poster campaign which had a QR code to access the movie’s mobile site including trailers and interviews to be directly played on your mobile handset while in the cinema foyer.


Dean Collins
+1-212-203-4357   New York
+61-2-9016-5642   Sydney
+44-20-3129-6001 London



5 Responses to “60 Second QR-codes for dummies Overview”

  1. 1 jeparsons
    August 16, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Excellent summary of the possible outcomes of scanning QR Codes. Now if only smartphone vendors and their software OS partners can get on the same page with pre-installed reader software and best practices for reading contacts from scanned codes.

    For marketers who use codes as a gateway to Web landing pages, a word of caution is in order. Creating the tag, while simple, is only the first step. To successfully build a satisfying mobile Web ‘micro site’ one must contest with tiny screens, less memory and storage capacity, bandwidth limitations and, above all, the absence of run-time applications and (on Apple devices) Flash. Pointing to just any Web site is usually a mistake. Companies like Warbasse Design ( ) — the folks behind the Iron Man 2 campaign — are focused on getting the mobile Web experience right.

  2. 2 Adam Serhan
    September 21, 2010 at 1:56 am

    one can always find brain food here.

  3. September 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm


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