What is a QR code (& how to use them for marketing)

06 Nov

What is a QR code?

I work every day with REALTORS®, who as a group are well motivated and positioned to take advantage of QR codes. Of course, there are always questions, from the basic ‘what is a QR code’ to the advanced ‘how do I properly use them in my marketing efforts.’ Over the years I think that I have refined some decent answers to these questions that are perhaps worth sharing.

Let’s start with the obvious definition, and then we will discuss the best way to conceptualize QR codes.  In part 2 of this article we will explore more about how to effectively market with QR codes.

Already familiar with QR, but looking for details on why they work and the anatomy of a QR code?

QR codes defined

The ‘QR’ in QR code stands for ‘Quick Response.’ We will come back to that. The ‘code’ obviously stands for the fact that the design of blocks that make up a QR code represent encoded information or data.

Almost exactly like a barcode that the supermarket checker scans, the only difference between a barcode and a QR code is the capacity for data. A QR code encodes the data both horizontally (like a barcode), but also vertically. So whereas with a barcode, it doesn’t make any difference at all how tall the thin lines are, with a QR code the vertical portion does matter.

This is why a QR code is often also referred to as a ’2d barcode,’ because the information is represented by both the horizontal markings, but the vertical as well.

So far we know that a QR code is just like a barcode on a product at the supermarket, but also that it contains more information. Now understand that a QR code can be ‘read’ by any camera enabled computing device. At the moment, we are talking smartphones and tablet computers.

What do QR codes actually do?

A vCard QR from QRstyler. Pick any design you want - create one today at

A vCard QR from QRstyler.

So now we have come back to the ‘QR’ or ‘Quick Response’ definition above. Why Quick Response? What does it actually do for us? The answer is that a Quick Response code is the fastest, easiest way to get information to someone with a camera enabled device. Want someone to go to a website? Send you an email? Get your contact information? See all the details about a specific product, sale, or other opportunity?

In a world where space is limited (so you can’t always print as much information as you might want), where time is limited (consumers are on the go, they won’t always sit still to see or read your whole message), and where functionality is limited (you can’t easily do things offline in the real world that you can do online in the virtual internet world), QR codes offer several benefits.

In the virtual world, all of this great functionality is available to us. If I want to get you from one web page to another, I can just say ‘click here.’ That click, whether it happens on a button, or on text, is called a ‘hyperlink.’ It links you from one thing to another. It is a huge part of what makes the internet such a powerful experience.

For example, if I want you to go and make your own custom, styled QR code, I can just say ‘click here,’ and link the words to   I have linked you from this page to that – and all you have to do is click.

But what if you are looking at a newspaper article about  Or a flyer, or a tv commercial?  How do I actually get you to that website easily?  Before QR codes, I would have to show you the website address ‘,’ and say it repeatedly in the advertisement, in the hopes that you would both remember the address, and eventually type it correctly.

This came out of our app. Embed your brand here and encode away, just contact us to get started.

An example of QR product packaging

By using a QR code, I can simply ‘link you’ from a product label, tv commercial, etc.  Since you ovviously cannot ‘click’ on a printed page, or on a tv commercial, we use a QR code, or ‘physical hyerlink’ instead.  The code acts like the link or button on the webpage, but instead of using your mouse, you point your smartphone camera at the code, it reads the code, and does the rest.

Putting it all together – a simple answer to what is a QR Code?

We can now put our entire ‘What is a QR code’ answer together in one sentence.  The short version is that a QR code is like a web button that your smartphone can push.  A slightly more accurate version is that a QR code, or Quick Response Code, is a way to have your smartphone quickly read more information than you can, and act on that information by bridging the gap between the physical world and virtual in a process known as physical hyperlinking.

QR conclusions

We hope that this brief QR code tutorial helped! You know what is even better than a tutorial? Trying it yourself! Create your own QR code at – mix and match designs to customize the QR code, and then scan the code yourself to experience the entire process.

In part two of this article we will explore how virtually any business can inexpensively take advantage of QR codes to increase their marketing reach and their brand exposure.


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