You Should Care about QR Codes

Blog post by Josh Lunsford, Director of Communications

QR codes (or Quick Response codes) have been around since the mid-1990s. They were first introduced in Japan for the automotive industry and were an easy way for machines to scan and get information about particular products.

Since then, QR codes exploded into various other industries. They become popular in the US around the early-2000s because it was an interesting way (not an easy way) to get someone to engage with your materials. It was a go-to addition to many marketing materials because it caught the eye.

Having been in the art world for a while, I would often see QR codes show up in art galleries and as part of exhibit information. There was even an artist who started to paint QR codes into his work. ( Often times the QR codes would lead to the home page of a website. Almost always that website was listed right next to or under the QR code. So, there was a lot of consumer frustration. Phone companies didn’t have native QR code reader applications on the phones. You had to find it in your app store, download it, launch it and then scan the code. All of that work to get to a site that was right there the entire time. People stopped engaging with QR codes very quickly.

Advertising agencies had found some fun ways to use QR codes. Usually these will simply lead to a unique page on a company’s site that has video or games or special content that is specific to that campaign or product. But all of this was kitschy and didn’t have lasting impact on consumer behavior.

Last year, Apple introduced a very convenient update with iOS 11. They added the ability for the native camera app to identify and scan a QR code. In 2017, around 83.3% of all mobile users use smart phones. That’s about 223 million people. Of those, about 90 million are using iPhones. ( That means that nearly 90 million people now have incredibly easy access to the information held behind the once annoying and mysterious QR codes.

Does this mean that QR codes will start popping up everywhere and you will be scanning codes with your phone every few minutes? Probably not. At least, that won’t happen any time soon. However, there are so many things that QR codes can do, that I want you to pay attention to the technology and ways you can engage your clients and donors.

What can QR codes do?

Simply, QR codes can link to a website. You can lead people to your site, to a special volunteer sign-up form, to a one-time giving campaign and much more. But QR codes can do much more.

QR codes can also:

  • Generate a text message from the consumer
  • Lead right to your social media page
  • Create a tweet for the consumer to share information
  • Generate a pin on Google Maps for someone to find a specific location
  • Share information on the consumer’s LinkedIn profile
  • Provide a phone number for the person to call
  • Create an email, with subject, to a specific email address of your choosing
  • Launch the app store to find your organization’s app
  • And more!

Dynamic QR Codes

I’ve seen some missteps in QR code generation in marketing materials. Someone has created a page for a campaign or special promotion. They use the page in a QR code to generate traffic and then put that QR code on all of their materials. Everything gets printed, but then the page changes or there may have been a typo. Then the QR code doesn’t work.

The answer? Dynamic QR codes. (I use The QR Code Generator. ( It’s free and easy to use.) You basically create a QR code that then can change its behavior or action. First, you created it to go straight to a campaign page. But the campaign changed or you have thought of a more creative idea to engage the user. You simply log back in and change the action of the QR code scan. Simple as that. With dynamic QR codes, you can print your materials, put your QR code out there for the world without much fear.

Find out ways to engage your audiences with QR codes. Join us for Marketing 101 and 201 classes in OKC and Tulsa in the coming months to find out how you can target those audiences and engage clients and new donors!


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