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Learn the ins and outs of these little marketing marvels

Learn the ins and outs of these little marketing marvels

In this article

Quick response (QR) codes have gone from weird looking little squares to a marketing essential over the last 20 years. Their journey is as fascinating as the mechanics behind them. Let’s dig in and see how these little marketing marvels work!
qr marketing marvels

What is a QR code?

To put it as plainly as possible, QR codes are a type of barcode that hold information. When you scan the code, it “unlocks” and displays the information.

Japanese company Denso Wave created them in 1994 for high-speed scanning of components in the automotive industry. Each component was given its own code and when someone scanned the code, it gave them all the information about that particular part.

Data to share

Eventually, folks realized the little squares had uses way beyond just keeping track of automotive inventory.

Now, organizations all over the world use them to convey information to whoever scans them. If you have data that you want to share with a lot of people, QR codes are perfect for that.

You can change the channel or video your code links to at any time. You can link it to a video of your dog and when your cat gets jealous, switch the link to a video of your cat. (Just don’t tell your dog, though.)
Mobile page QR Code

They’re ideal for sharing:

QR code structure

There are seven main elements to a QR code:

  1. Version pattern
  2. Format pattern
  3. Data and error correction keys
  4. Position pattern
  5. Alignment pattern
  6. Timing pattern
  7. Quiet zone

We’ll take a closer look at each of these.

qr code structure

These patterns specify the version of the QR code. The version is determined by the number of modules (the small black squares) the code is composed of.

Currently, there are 40 QR code versions, ranging from version 1 to version 40. Version 1 has 21 modules. Each subsequent version has an additional 4 modules until they reach version 40 with 177 total modules. The more modules inside a QR code, the more storage capacity it will have.

Versions 1 to 7 are the most common for mobile marketing.

These patterns store information about error correction and the code’s data mask. Error correction ensures the QR code can be decoded even if it is partially covered or damaged. There are four levels of error correction affecting the layout of the code.

(There is additional information about error correction below.)

These patterns store the actual information contained within the QR code.

These patterns indicate the correct direction of the QR code.

This pattern allows the QR code to be decoded from any angle. So, even if the code is being scanned upside down or at an odd angle, it can still be scanned without issue.
These patterns allow the decoder to determine the width of the data matrix.
This is the blank space around the actual code. It is crucial because it allows the decoder to identify the QR code from its surroundings.

Error Correction

QR codes are processed with the use of a Reed-Solomon code, which is a type of error correcting code used a lot in digital communication.
Paypal QR Code

QR codes are processed with the use of a Reed-Solomon code, which is a type of error correcting code used a lot in digital communication.

When readable errors come up (like, part of the code is damaged, for example), the Reed-Solomon code adapts the QR code so it can still be read.

There are four levels of error correction that can restore the code’s data if it is partially obscured or slightly damaged:

  • L: Approximately 7%
  • M: Approximately 15%
  • Q: Approximately 25%
  • H: Approximately 30%

QR code storage capacity

There are four QR code datatypes:

  • Alphanumeric: can store up to 4,296 characters.
  • Numeric: can store up to 7,089 characters.
  • Binary: can store up to 2,953 bytes
  • Kanji: can store up to 1,817 characters

Dynamic QR codes

There are two main types of QR codes:

  1. Static
  2. Dynamic

Static QRs encode the content within the QR code itself, meaning once the data is set it cannot be changed.

Dynamic QR codes
 link to a short URL, which redirects the scanner to the content. This means you can edit dynamic codes and change their content as many times as you need to without having to reprint them.

Customize dynamic codes

In addition to that, you can also customize dynamic codes by changing their colors, altering their shapes, adding images, creating gradients and editing the shortened URLs
Dynamic codes also provide tracking data on the times, locations and frequency of scans. You can use this data to refine and improve your QR code campaigns.

How to scan a QR code

The vast majority of modern phones have automatic QR code scanning capability. You might have to change a setting in the phone’s camera app to enable it.

If your phone does not have automatic scanning capability, you can download a code scanning app.

To scan a QR code, you simply hover your camera over the code with your camera set to automatic code scanning mode or your code scanning app opened.

Using QR codes

When using QR codes for marketing or other information sharing purposes, keep the following things in mind:

Give your audience a good reason to scan your code.

They can be the centerpiece to an ad or they can be subtly placed in a corner. Keep in mind the background and scannability aspects when choosing a placement.

While they might seem ubiquitous, some audience members might not know how to scan a code. Give them an ultra basic tutorial on how to scan it so nobody misses your offer.

How to create a QR code

To create a QR code you first need a QR code generator, like With our platform you will be able to create dynamic QR codes that can be reused, customized and tracked. 

Please register for a free trial or log in if you have an account.

The basic steps are:

  1. Click “Create QR Code.”
  2. Select the type of code you want.
  3. Enter the necessary information.
  4. Click “Save and Apply Changes”

Download file QR codes

You can now download a file of the code and start using it or you can create a QR code design template to customize the code with.

From their humble beginnings as an inventory tool to their current state as a mobile marketing essential, QR codes have evolved to offer organizations a superb way to connect the real world with the digital world and share information with audiences of all sizes.

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