QR codes are not new. They have been around for about 7 years but their use has been held back by technology – that is, the availability in the market of mobile phones able to scan the QR code.

But now that ‘smart’ phones are the dominant phone, QR codes are more accessible than ever before.

To understand how to use QR codes, you need to understand how to design a direct response advertisement.

Whenever you design a direct response advertisement, regardless of media, you should always start at the finish. Start with what you want your customer or prospect to do as a result of reading your ad.

Do you want them to go to a website, pick up a phone, download or fill in a form, scan a QR code?

Once you know what you want them to do, you design your response mechanism as the first part of designing your ad. Once you have written your ad you give it to someone of average intelligence (or anyone really). That’s because there are more people of average or lower intelligence in the world and their money is the same as rich people’s. If they understand the ad and can respond as required, then you should produce the ad.

If the marketers using QR codes as the response device followed this procedure, they would understand why QR codes should not be the only response device on an advertisement.

They would discover that most people with ‘smart’ phones have not downloaded the QR code App and cannot respond to the ad. In fact in my country – Australia – less than 6% of smart phone users can scan QR codes.

The scanning technology is not native to the handsets. It requires the user to go through the hassle of downloading the App. And given we are lazy by nature, many people opt-out of downloading the App and ignore the QR code.

Yet retailers abound who are rushing to establish outdoor virtual stores for the 6% of the smart phone population to use.

The rule for putting QR codes in your ads is simple. Just as users can download a copy of Adobe PDF Reader to read a PDF file, the advertiser should offer an easy way for the prospect or customer to download the QR code App. See the image below.

And they should offer an alternate way to respond, otherwise they risk reducing their response to only those who want to use QR codes, which is a very small percentage of the population.

Make it easy to download the QR code App