15 Minute Marketing Idea - QR Codes

15 Minute Marketing Idea

What is this thing?

QR Code PreviewIt's a QR code.... and in 2010, you'll start seeing a lot more of them. Google really likes QR codes, so you can pretty much guarentee that they'll become mainstream (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/explore-whole-new-way-to-window-shop.html).  

A QR code is a special barcode that acts like an internet hyperlink. When scanned by a smart phone (such as an iPhone) it will display a webpage, business card, or message.

QR codes are an easy, cheap and fun way to promote your business.

Read on! By the end you'll know how to create these codes and use them for nefarious guerilla marketing purposes.

That funny-looking box above represents a link to padiinstructorinfo.com. Scan it with a smartphone, and PADI Desert Chronicles will appear on the screen.

The code isn't doing much sitting on this webpage - but imagine if I printed out 300 of these codes on sticker paper and put them in every bathroom stall at DEMA? Besides a possible misdemeanor for me, it would be a sly marketing move: capturing the attention of smartphones users - anyone with an iPhone, Android phone, Palm Pre, etc.

This is pretty powerful marketing - that costs next to nothing. Additionally, you reaching customers who don't mind spending money on cool gizmos. According to ComScore - over 38 million Americans own smartphones already and 64% plan to purchase a smart phone in the near future.

Creating a QR code is extremely easy. Pasted below is a screengrab from qrstuff.com - one of many free QR code generators.

As you can see it's three short steps.
#1 Decide where you want the user to be directed to: (website, telephone number, etc).

#2 Type in the web address (or phone number) into the box

#3 Print!

How to utilize QR Codes

Step 1: What is Your Goal?

  • Increase membership in your dive club?
  • Book more divers into an upcoming dive trip or charter?
  • Promote a new product?
  • Spread the word about your internship opportunity?

Step 2: What do you want people to see?
When the QR code is scanned, it will bring up a webpage link, virtual business card, phone number, or a few lines of text - your choice. Whatever you choose will display on the phone's screen.

Let's say your goal is to bring new people into your dive club.

The QR code should point at a webpage (or text) describing your next dive club meeting date, time, location and topics. Be sure to say why your dive club meeting will be the most exciting night of the year. Maybe you're having an interesting guest speaker. Maybe there will be manufacturer-sponsored prizes. You've got a new customer's attention, make it as exciting as possible.

Additionally, you may wish to hide the link that you want the visitor to click, thereby getting them to your web page through curiosity.  For example, if a customer scans the QR codes and it displays the link 'http://www.learntoscubadive.com' the customer will immediately make a conscious decision as to whether they will click the link, as the URL is quite descriptive of the content.

Try shortening the URL through TinyURL to hide the ultimate destination, thereby ensuring the end user has to click through to your site.  Try this example:

QR Code Preview
Step 3: Go Nuts!
Create your QR code (see recommended websites below) and distribute!

  • If promoting your business or dive club: place the QR codes (responsibly) in and around places where divers hang out.  Is there a breakfast spot near a training site that attracts divers? Print out the codes and put them on index cards - under car windshield wipers, stashed in the menus, around the dive centre, or on your website etc.

  • To promote a new product such as a safety whistle or underwater camera in your store, post a QR code next to the product and link to a video of the product in action (on the manufacturer's website, or something you've made).

  • Need to fill up an upcoming dive trip? Put a QR code on your trip flyers and have it point to a youtube video of the destination.

  • Print off a sheet of QR codes and use them as a calling card. Leave one with your restaurant bill or in the waiting room of the dentist's office. Maybe write an intriguing message on the back,
    "Are you Curious?"

  • Print them onto stickers and plaster them over your dive kit / friends dive kit / interesting and unusual place.

  • Some of the websites below will print your QR code on a t-shirt. Walk around town, a convention center, or your favorite outdoor concert and invite people you see using their smartphones to scan your shirt.* )

  • Hide QR codes amongst your shop merchandise, and offer discounts or added extras for those customers that can decipher them.

The QR code is still new to many folks which makes it a great conversation piece.  Esquire magazine and Fast Company recently did issues spotlighting this new technology.

Also, take my word on this one:  people who own smartphones love to show off what they can do.

Are you QRious? Ready to Get Started?

Try out the QR code experience (see below)

Using a smartphone with a QR barcode reader, scan the QR code below. If it doesn't work for you right off the screen, try printing the image out on a piece of paper.

No barcode reader?

  • Here's CNet's list of the best barcode readers for the iPhone.
  • For Android I use the app called Barcode Scanner (it's free).
  • NeoReader is a QR reader app for Blackberry, Palm and other phones - though I haven't personally tested it.

Ready to Make Your Own?

Useful websites:
Print out one or several QR codes at qrstuff.com.  You can print the codes on regular paper or make stickers on Avery labels). You can also create fabric QR patches at p8tch.com (attach to a dive bag, jacket, etc).

15 minute QR code project

  1. Go to qrstuff.com
  2. Choose "text" as the data type
  3. Update the sample text below.
  4. Paste the text into the website's text box.
  5. Print.
  6. Distribute.

To: The Curious One!

From: [your dive business name here]

Fate is telling you to become a scuba diver. Email us at [your email here] or call us at XXX-XXX-XXXX. Mention you found our QR code and you and a friend can try scuba for free in our pool. Already a diver? Come to our next dive club meeting. We'd love to meet you. Email us for details.

One last really important thing:
You've got the customer's attention. Make the payoff compelling. Rather than simply linking to your homepage, consider a short message of simple text that references your website. For example:

Hi there, we like your style. We're scuba divers, and like you, we're curious. We like to explore and try new things. Here's our website: xyzdivecenter.com - we hope you'll stop by.

Alternately, you could have the QR code point to a special page on your website inviting the customer to leave their contact info to receive a special offer. Or, if you have a short promotional video already produced, you could link to the video's URL. Be sure and watch your video on someone's phone first to make sure it looks okay.


This year, I expect to start seeing more and more of these weird little hyroglyphics all over the place.  Send me a photograph of your QR Code advertisement via email, and a winner will be selected at the end of the year to receive a special prize.  The more interesting, innovative and unusual the QR code and its placement, the higher your chance of winning.

One final QR Link for you to try:

QR Code Preview


Beating the big chill - Above and Below go Ice Diving

Unless you've been hibernating over the past month (or you're fortunate enough to reside outside of the UK), you'll have noticed that we've been experiencing a little snow and ice around our island in the Atlantic.

Most of us (me included) decided that this would be a good oppourtunity to stock up the kitchen shelves with hot soup and bread rolls, wrap ourselves in a duvet for a few more minutes each morning, and generally try to get through the snow storms as best we could.

The team at Above and Below Dive Centre, Pontefract decided differently however.  Martin and Sharon Ainsworth saw this as an oppourtunity to provide training to their customers that wasn't usually available in the UK, and often cost quite considerable amounts of money to complete elsewhere...PADI Ice Diver.

I'll not try to explain the psychology behind their decision to jump into freezing water in January (I'd be there myself if I didn't have a dislocated shoulder...honest!). Therefore I'll let Sharon Ainsworth explain in her own words how they went about this endeavour:

"As you know, Martin, not backwards in coming forwards, decided to take advantage of the sub zero temperatures, (and the fact that Blue Lagoon has completely iced over) and promote the ice diver speciality – a first for us here in the UK!!!!  - here’s how it went:

We started at 8am, preparing the site prior to divers arriving – what a surprise this was – you can see by the photo, the chunk of ice we took out was several inches thick, remarkable considering the lake is over 16 acres, and all frozen!  It was so heavy that one of our team had to get in and smash it up into smaller pieces!!

After refreshing everyone on knot tying, we began to assign roles as divers, rope tenders and safety divers working as a team.  This was a challenge in itself, as EVERYONE wanted to be first in!  Anyway, after the biggest, most senior, superior, etc, etc won, they got kitted up, roped up and descended through the hole into the crystal clear water.  AWESOME was the response from the first diver on surfacing!

We had so many divers wanting to go in, by mid afternoon, we had cut 3 separate entry/exit holes through the ice, with 3 separate dive teams around the lake.

Anyhow, 6 ice diving instructors and 15 new ice divers later, and lots of excited and smiley faces – the day was a ‘titanic’ success, (excuse the pun), so much so, we can’t wait to do it again later this week (weather permitting)

The air temperature was 2 degs C, water temp 0 degs C."

I think you'll agree that this looks like great fun, and is a great example of PADI Members taking advantage of the change in weather to get divers learning some new skills, completing further training and having a great time whilst doing it.

If any other PADI Members have been doing anything interesting over the previous months (BCD Sledging?!!!) please send your article and photographs through to me at richard.howes@padi.co.uk and I'll get the posted on this blog.


Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all PADI Dive Centres and PADI Instructors.  I trust that you all had a great break over the winter period, and not too many of you are suffering due to the chilling winter snow in the UK.

2010 has now officially started, and we're into a new season.  For those of you wanting to know how your centre performed during 2010, we'll be sending your centre ranking via email shortly.

For those members wanting to know what is in store for the coming year with regards to PADI, Standards Updates and ideas for increasing customer uptake and retention, the member forums will be running in the next few months.  Check back here for updates on dates.

In the meantime, as a new years present grab a coffee and check out some of the Scuba Related Advertisements from yesteryear:

See you all soon!