Monday, November 7, 2011

QR Codes: What the Heck?

You've seen them. You might not know what they do, or what they can be used for, but you've seen them. They're invading magazine ads, trade show booths, POP displays, maps and any number of other locations. They're those little black and white (usually) pixel boxes that tease you into wondering what the heck is going on. They're the latest in the social media trend.

What They Are

A QR, or Quick Response, Code is basically a souped up barcode. They're usually black and white, though they can be produced in color. One of the sites that will do that is They were originally used to track auto parts but are slowly making their way into the marketing lexicon. QR Codes can contain information on both the vertical and horizontal plains which means they can contain a lot more information than a barcode. They can also be read from any angle. When a QR Code is read, it acts as a trigger: opening a webpage, downloading a file, delivering a vcard or whatever other action has been programmed into it. The only thing the consumer needs to use it is a QR reader and most newer android and nokia phones and blackberries come with one straight out of the box. The consumer opens the app, points the camera at the QR code, presses the button, and action takes place.

How They're Used

Here are a few ideas I've either found online or come up with for creative QR Code uses:
  • Print
    • Demo Videos, testimonials, reviews
    • Contact information
    • Order form
    • Features and performance
    • Mobile site to register for tweets, rss,etc.
    • Current weather
    • Warranty registration
    • Provide feedback
  • Events
    • Pre-Event - background information, straw polls, registration, directions, booth information
    • Event Day - schedule, mobile site
    • Post Event - contact information, evaluation form, social media sites
  • Business Cards
    • Biography
    • Website
    • Vcard
The uses for QR codes are, in no way, explored to their extent in this very small list. They're only limited by the imagination of the person using them in their marketing strategy. I have seen them used in hotel lobbies to advertise restaurant specials, by clothing companies to show sizes or specials, and on food wrappers to share nutritional information.

Don't Forget

While all this is new and exciting, there are a few things we need to remember.

  • The consumer is using a mobile device.
    Make sure the landing page, PURL, etc. is mobile friendly.
  • Metrics and Analytics.
    Remember to collect the information pertinent to the campaign and analyze. The boss is going to want to know if its effective and how it needs to be modified.
    • What phone was used.
    • Where and when was the QR code accessed
    • Repeat visits
  • Change up the content.
    The back end of a QR Code can be changed at any time. A person who picks up the magazine 3 months after initial publication could have a completely different experience from the person who picked it up the same week it came out.
  • This is part of your branding and identity.


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