Old QR Codes Never Die….. What Do They Do? How to Plan Your QR Code Lifecycle

Nov 29, 2011

Vya Staff

So, you’ve incorporated QR codes into your marketing campaign. You’ve created the QR codes. You’ve followed key QR code specifications to ensure your target market will be able to scan your codes. But, over time, what happens to those codes and their associated content? Although the QR codes you have placed in mailers, magazine ads and in catalogues may be highly effective today, you need to consider the shelf-life of the piece where it is printed. Once it goes to press, how long will the public have access to that code? What will they find when they scan it after six months, a year, several years? In order to ensure those who scan your QR code encounter a positive experience no matter when they scan, follow the key guidelines below for QR code lifecycle planning.

QR Codes and Media Type

QR codes are quickly finding homes on all sorts of media. But, before you print, give some thought as to how long the materials will circulate. angelwing-qrcode_thumb

Magazines – Both consumer and business-to-business publications can be found on newsstands and then coffee tables for extended periods. When including QR codes in magazine ads, be sure to consider:

- How frequently is the magazine published?

- How long are back copies typically around? You might think they do not last much past the publication date, but when is the last time you read a current magazine in a doctor’s office waiting room?

- Keep in mind that with the popularity of recycling, magazines are being passed on to second and third-hand readers rather than thrown away.

Catalog – Catalogs are published less frequently than magazines and thus you need to plan for an even more extended life for QR codes included in catalogs. In addition, for both consumer and business-to-business catalogs, the distribution method can have a big impact on the life of the QR codes inside. Therefore, in addition to the considerations above for a magazine, with a catalog you also need to think about how it is distributed. Is it mailed one-time? Do customers sign-up online to receive a copy? Do your sales agents or dealers hand out copies? Is it available in stores for a period of time?

Others – Although the media in the following list tend to have shorter lives, even these can get tucked away and found over time:

- Newspapers
- Posters
- Mailers
- Sales collateral
- Postcards

Not All QR Codes are the Same

In addition to considering where your QR code will be published, you need to be aware of the limitations of some types of QR codes. In some cases, your QR code will always point to the same information and cannot be changed or updated.

Unchangeable – When QR codes are linked directly to data, the data cannot be changed. These type of codes will forever pull up the same information:

- Plain Text
- Business Card (V-Card, also known as a virtual business card)
- Phone number
- Email Address
- Scheduled Event Information

Versatile – When QR codes are linked to mobile websites via URLs you have more flexibility. Another bonus? They are can be tracked, whereas those in the example above cannot. By including contact or event information on a URL instead of embedded into the QR code, the information can be updated over time.

QR Codes in the Afterlife

For QR codes that link to a mobile web page, there are essentially three options for managing them over time:

- You can retire the code.
- You can update the content on the web page.
- You can re-direct the URL associated with the QR code to a different web page.

QR Code Retirements

Just because you retire a QR code, doesn’t mean that it will stop having visitors. There is no telling how often or for what length of time people will find it and hopefully, try to use it.

If you are working with a QR code provider, confirm what the viewers will see if the code is retired. Do not take a chance of creating a negative experience for a potential customer by crushing their interest with an error message or, just as bad, an ad for the provider.

When you retire a code that links to a URL, post a message on that website explaining that the offer has expired. If you have a current promotion or updated content, provide them with a link to the new information. By using a URL-based code and links, you can track how many people saw the expiration message and how many went on to click the links you provided.

Web Page Updates

QR codes are often used specifically to link viewers to content that changes over time. As you know, websites can be changed. Thus when QR codes link to websites, the content can be updated and edited on an unlimited basis, ensuring your audience up-to-date information. For example:

- If the QR code points to a webpage that gives information on interest rates, you can continuously update the rate information and the QR code is always pointing at the most current information.

- By directing the QR code to a page with customer reviews that is continuously updated, the code-users will be able to see the new reviews as they are submitted.

Web Page Redirects

When QR codes link to web pages, the URL can be redirected to point to new content. But keep in mind how the QR code was described originally, so that those being redirected will understand what happened. If the viewer is expecting to see an offer, you should still point them to an offer. If you point them to something completely different they may assume something went wrong and abandon the action. Here are some examples of linking to a detoured URL but ending at the same type of information:

- If your company distributes collateral with a QR code pointing to a specific sales agent’s profile webpage and that agent leaves the company, the linked URL can be redirected to a different agent’s profile webpage.

- If the QR code points to a webpage with a promotional offer that has expired, you can seamlessly redirect the linked URL to a website with a current offer.


Although marketers spend time creating QR codes, developing the linking content and deciding on the proper QR code placement, they might give little thought to how this customer engagement will end. Remember to consider the longevity of the printed materials and plan for your codes accordingly. If you use QR codes on a regular basis, how do you manage them over time? If you have retired one in the past, how did it work and would you do it the same way the next time?

* For more information on how to use QR codes effectively, sign-up for QR Code Tips and Tricks.*

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Tags: QR Codes, Quick Response Codes