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According to a study by mobile-action-code gurus, Nellymoser, QR codes continue to grow in popularity among advertisers. The company recently surveyed the Top 100 US magazines, finding that the number of mobile action codes, which include QR codes, Microsoft Tags and digital watermarks, increased by 61% (1375-2200) from Q1 to Q2, indicating advertisers are still keen on using the scannables as a tool for mobile engagement.

Despite the findings, I think it’s fair to say that QR codes (which represent 80% of all mobile action codes) have so far enjoyed mixed success, and there remains a real question of whether or not anyone actually scans them.

Admittedly, I had a brief love affair with QR codes at about this time last year. I was seduced by their mystery, their technology, their possibilities. At one point, I was scanning every code in sight, whether on billboards, TV infomercials or grocery-store watermelon bins. I even began creating my own QR codes at home, scanning them for ‘innocent’ fun. But after a couple of bad (boring) experiences, I lost interest and fell off the bandwagon.

Without a doubt mine is a cautionary tale, but I imagine it is shared by many others, so in order to prevent further QR-code disenchantment, I offer a few unsolicited tips on how to make them work better.

Tip #1: Give consumers a good payoff.

QR codes give advertisers a way to deliver all sorts of cool content, so if you’re going to trouble someone to take out their phone, open an app and scan your code, reward the effort. Try to do more than just direct consumers to a mobile site, and whatever you do, don’t remind them to drink more Ovaltine.

Tip #2: Put codes in places where consumers can safely scan them.

This seems like a no-brainer, but billboards and semi trucks are no place for QR codes. Save ‘em for print ads, packaging, point-of-sale displays and bathroom stalls. If you’re feeling adventurous, slap one on a TV commercial or web video. These are safer options, and chances are your audience will have more time to absorb the content.

Tip #3: Build scanning functionality into smartphone camera apps.

Since smartphones already have camera apps that everyone knows how to use, why not build in code-scanning functionality? It would make scanning simpler, which would result in higher scan rates. To the bigwigs at Apple and Google, if you’re reading this, please consider implementing this innovation in your mobile operating systems — and feel free to throw me a few billz.

So what do you think? Do you scan QR codes? Are you more often impressed or disappointed with the content? What advice would you give advertisers on how to better engage you with QR codes? Please share your thoughts.

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