3 Basic Uses for QR Codes For Franchise Owners

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Using QR Codes for the Local Franchise Business

Two years ago, there was lot of buzz about Taco Bell's QR Code promotion with MTV. This is often pointed out as a great example of a fast food or franchise business using QR Codes but my impression is that most franchise owners are local business people and the Taco Bell-MTV promotion is a better example of two national brands teaming up on a national campaign.

I thought that their use of QR Codes was inspired and this campaign will do a lot to help make the general public familiar with QR Codes but it doesn't do much to show franchise owners what they can do on the local level. If at this point you are not familiar with QR Codes please read some of my blogs on QR Codes.

Even though many franchise owners may own more than one franchise location in reality they are local business people who depend upon local customers and repeat customers for their business. There may be many marketing mistakes franchise owners make because they do not think of themselves as local business owners. QR Codes is a tool to help correct that. In fact almost anything a local business can do with a QR Code a franchise business can do

In spite of examples of large companies such as Taco Bell using QR Codes they really are custom made for small businesses. The biggest advantage is that they are very inexpensive to generate. There are a number of free and low cost QR Code Generators for marketing as well as platforms where you can build a QR Code campaign and a mobile website such as Linkblots.com. Of course there are plenty of agencies, such as Image Media Partners, that offer low cost solutions for QR Code campaigns.

3 Basic Uses for QR Codes

1. Bridge to the online world: Since a QR Code can be printed on anything that can be printed on it is the perfect tool to bring your customer from the physical world to the online world. If your business already has any type of online presence, a website that you control, a Facebook page or even a Google Places or Yelp listing you can use a QR Code to connect to it. This may be something as simple as scanning the code to "Like" your Facebook page or connecting to a more robust mobile micro-website.

2. Promotions: Unlike printed coupons QR Codes, if used properly, don't expire because the code brings the user to a mobile website that can be updated with new information. For example if Monday's coupon is a free coke and Tuesday's coupon is an early bird special you can update the coupon and continue to use the same QR Code. La Croissanterie, a French fast-food outlet, is using QR Codes as part of their loyalty program. A Mexican restaurant chain owner in Michigan used QR Codes to promote his third outlet opening in Ann Arbor. He included the QR Codes in ads on posters and newspapers around the University of Michigan and got about four thousand scans.

3. Information: QR Codes would be too limiting if the only thing they did was make it easier to "Like" your Facebook page or pass as a fancy high-tech coupon. Even though in a recent study by MGH Modern Marketing 87% of the respondents who were interested in QR Codes said they would scan a code to get a coupon, 63% said they would scan the code to get more information, 53% said they would sign up to a mailing list to receive more information and 60% said they would scan the code to make a purchase. People are looking for information as well as deals. One cool thing Taco Bell is doing with their QR Codes is linking to a Taco Bell mobile site that not only has specials but a store locator, menus and nutritional and allergy information. What information would be helpful to your customers? Do you have a mailing list? Use the QR Code to sign them up.

Basic QR Code Guidelines

There are only a few rules, or rather, best practices you should pay attention to.

  1. Specific Destination: Any time you have a link it should be to a specific page for a specific action. Don't send people to Facebook send them to your Facebook page. Don't send people to your home page send them to a specific landing page optimized for a mobile phone.
  2. Optimize for Mobile: 99% of all users will scan your QR Code with a mobile phone (OK I made up that number but who carries their desktop to a restaurant?) Your destination page needs to be set up for mobile phones. Facebook already is but if you send them someplace else make sure they can read your page on a smart phone.
  3. Keep the URL Short: The longer the URL the more complex the code will become. Keep things simple and use a URL shortener. If you make a unique code on a site like bit.ly.com you can keep track of the traffic. An added plus for bit.ly is that when you ad .qr to the end of any bit.ly URL it will generate a QR Code.

More QR Code Ideas

If you have not already come up with a list of uses for QR Codes here are a few suggests.

Where to send people who scan your QR Code:

· Mobile website

· Google Places or Yelp listing

· Menu

· Store Locator

· Facebook

· Coupon

· Sign up mail list

· Helpful information:

o Nutritional info

o Tax Tips

o Corporate site

o vacation destinations

· Slide show of home, cars, pizzas, shoes or whatever you are selling

· Video of your business or product

· Micro-payments

· E-commerce site

· Your phone number

· Contact information

· Information about product

· Charity you support

Where to print QR Codes:

· Business card

· Poster

· Front door (link to Foursqure)

· Google Places

· Menu

· Billboard

· Real Estate signs

· Newspaper or Magazine Ad

· T-shirt

· Little League Uniform

· Coupons

· On food

· Product packaging and labels

· Laptop stickers

· Table Tents

· Tattoos

· Catalogs

· Flyers

· Pizza boxes

Just about any place where you connect to your customers and would like to bring them into the online world is a good place to put a QR Code and any place on line that you can offer value to your customer is a great place to link a QR Code. The most effective way to scan a QR Code is with a smartphone. Many detractors will point out that currently only 35% of North Americans have a smartphone but market penetration will surpass 50% by the end of the year and it is expected to grow. My advice is to get a bit ahead of the curve and be ready. QR codes can easily fit into most marketing plans and it will pay dividends. A quick side note to local printing franchise owners, if your customers are not already asking you to print QR Codes they soon will be as the owners of Sir Speedy found out.

For more information about QR Codes and how to use them you can download this QR Code Check List and Fact Sheet or visit the QR Code Resourcepage on our website. I would be very interested in hearing about your experiences or questions concerning QR Codes in the comments section.

Timothy Lorang is the founder and Executive Partner for Image Media Partners, an online and social media marketing and consulting agency based in Seattle, Washington. Partner Views Blog covers many of the aspects of online, social media and QR Code marketing. Image Media Partners offers low cost solutions for those needing assistance for their QR Code Campaigns and a free QR Code Check List and Fact Sheet download.

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TImothy, in the franchising world there is a big debate over what nutritional content to display on the menu board in order to promote healthy choices.

One idea is to have a downloaded app:


How would a QR code solve this problem?


QR Codes can offer a solution and I think Taco Bell has done a good job. Here is a link to Taco Bell's nutritional info on their mobile web site:(you can see it on a regular computer screen too): http://m.tacobell.com/dh?cp=9&_E=onclick&_C=nutritional

The example you cited with McDonald's IPhone does the same thing but I thing there is one big advantage of using QR Codes over the IPhone App.

QR Codes are are platform agnostic. Any smartphone can download a QR Code reader and it doesn't matter if its an IPhone, Android, or Blackberry, if it can access the the internet and open a browser it can use a QR Code. IPhone Apps are for IPhones and you will need to make an app for the other platforms.

Beyond that the QR Code is pretty simple, it points to a URL and like any website you can change and update information and as long as you do not change the URL the QR Code is good. That means you can print it on packages, posters, ads or any place and it will not become obsolete as long as you maintain the web site.

The web site should be optimized for mobile phones, in other words the web site must look ok on the phone. Some platforms do that automatically or you may need to build web sites specifically for mobile phones. But since mobile phone screens are not that big the main problem is making the page simple enough and not too big.

Again, take a look at Taco Bell, they have nutritional information for their entire menu and they can update it as fast as they update or change the menu. They do not need to print and distribute new posters, menus or anything else because the QR Code remains the same. Here is the URL to the home page of their mobile web site: http://m.tacobell.com/dh?cp=0&home2_VAL=m1&_E=onclick&_C=home2

I think putting the nutritional information on a website and giving access to that via a QR Code is a simple solution to the problem. People can of course access the web site through regular links and the URL on any browser or computer.


Yes, I think the app solution is too platform dependent. No reason for it.

Not wild about the purple background with Taco Bell's site. Hard to read. Maybe it looks better on a phone?

Yes, the purple is a bit much. It must be a corporate banding thing. From a users perspective dark lettering on a light background is easier to read.

Great article. Don't forget about Twitter, but we just added foursquare QR codes to our Mini-QR sticker line: See this page for foursquare Mini-QR stickers. One thing we've come across more often than not is that the average individual is not as techy as we all are, a lot of them seem to not really know what the big deal about Social Media is, they don't know Facebook can be such a great marketing tool. But then what about QR?

We are trying our best to help local businesses and franchises learn more about the benefits of QR codes and how it can combine with Social Media to really generate buzz and word of mouth....

The problem we are coming across is that not only is it overwhelming to most to simply learn about Social Media, learning about QR codes and the advantages it has (but what it takes to get this ball rolling) is even more overwhelming, not to mention the extra steps involved with creating landing pages and custom mobile websites.

I am really glad you wrote this and I hope to help spread the word and help local business and franchises learn more about the advantages of QR codes and how to get it done right. ~ Stuart Lawson, @FollowMeSticker

Thank you Stuart,
First off I think your follow me stickers are cool. What a great idea and thanks for your comments.

There are a lot of problems. We are clearly in a transitional phase in marketing that present several problems.

One problem is no one really knows what are going to be the things that work and what are going to be the things that don't work. Like the pioneers, do I take the trail through the desert or the mountains? I remember being at an academic conference when I first heard about Facebook. It was just this student thing at Harvard and the discussion was if other Universities should get involved. Not nearly as much buzz as 2nd Life made a couple of years later.

The other problem is when do you start to adapt the new marketing technologies? Sticking with the pioneering analogy, if you go too soon you could die in the desert, too late and all the good land is gone. But someone needs to blaze the trail and if you can make it work it will be good. So the trick is to find that sweet spot where you live and are successful.

I think with the experience countries like Japan and Korea have had with smartphones and QR Codes, combined with the projected rapid adaption of smartphones in North America that QR Codes can be a simple and eloquent solution to getting people online. I also think that some of the groups that are going to be early adopters will be surprising. For example, I recently wrote some blogs about prospective students on college websites. (http://bit.ly/qHojHi) One statistic from one of the studies I cited showed that 82% of students have cell phones but only 14% used their mobile device to access the school’s website. However 41% of students from households with incomes less than $30,000 DID access the websites via mobile device. What that suggests to me is that there is some technology leapfrogging going on out there. As technology is getting cheaper and a fairly inexpensive hand held device can access the internet people who in the past did not have access, it has been called the "Technology Divide" between the haves and the have-nots, now have access. These are the people who are going to start driving mobile websites and tools such as QR Codes.

Also, i didn't mean to slight Twitter, it was just a long article and I ran out of time :)

Thanks again for your comments.


Tim -

This is the best article I've read that had me going away knowing more about QR codes and how to use them.

Great Stuff.

I have used QR Codes for anti-counterfeiting. Manufacturers place unique QR code on their product and each code can be verified(scanned) only once. Please share your email so that I can send you the overview of project.

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