QR Codes: Unlocking the Mystery

B2B Marcom Insider

It was only 10 or 15 years ago when advertisements, brochures, displays, mailers, packaging and other communications materials began including a URL to drive interested consumers to websites. Over the last two to three years, these same communications materials now include icons and links to LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter social media sites. Same goal, a way to get people informed of a product, service or cause.

There’s a new player in town: QR (Quick Response) Code. It looks like a black-and-white square with a maze inside that looks like it was drawn by a drunk art director on a cocktail napkin. You see them popping up everywhere. Just point your smart phone and you are taken to a website landing page.

A Fun, Effective Sales Promotion Tool…

First applications for these codes were point-of-sale promotions. Point your phone to the code on a poster in a store and you’ll see what’s on sale. Theaters are using QR codes to provide movie previews. And, more and more print advertising and brochures are using QR codes to help customers learn more with videos, selection guides, special offers and more.

What is a QR code anyway?

Like the common bar code used on everyday packaging, a QR code is a 2-D barcode that is scanned by a smart phone's camera to transfer information. Based on the type of code it is, it might direct the user to a website, make a phone call, deliver a vCard or more.

What are the Limits of QR codes?

These codes are a mainstay in Asia and are rapidly gaining ground in North America. The North American usage of QR codes is directly tied to the growth of smart phones using iPhone, Android or other platforms. Younger users of course, are leading the smart phone wave and the growth of QR codes. Many of the older cell phone users won't recognize the codes when they see them, or won't have a smart phone with a QR reader installed, which limits their impact.

Benefits of QR Codes

Flexibility. The QR code target, such as a customized landing page or website, can be easily changed. That is important for printed materials with a long life, tradeshow and point-of-sale promotions. If anything changes, just change the target.

Low Cost. Developing the codes is inexpensive. There are many software generators and suppliers of QR codes.

Fun, Unique. These codes offer a certain amount of fun and surprise. Kind of a Bob Barker mentality of trying to discover “what’s behind door number one.”

Deploying QR Codes to Meet Communications Objectives

Printed Materials. Adding a QR code to ads, direct mail, brochures, data sheets, business cards or other printed materials give customers instant access to more detailed product information, videos, presentations, etc.

Product Labeling. Imagine standing in an aisle in Home Depot trying to decide if a specific product is right for your needs. Use your smart phone to scan the code on the label — and then watch an installation video, see all of the specifications, recommendations, cautions, etc. Bet you will have fewer returns.

Tradeshow Displays. A lot of tradeshow attendees are reluctant to enter a booth until they are sure there is something of a value for them there. Use QR codes on graphics on the perimeter of the booth to show attendees the specifics of what you offer. You can also use the codes to announce special services and pricing or enter a drawing.

Tradeshow Giveaways. An imprinted shopping bag announcing “See If You Won an iPad” along with a QR code and a landing page with a registration page can increase leads and awareness. Again, the code target can be modified on the fly for flexibility.

Clothing. T-shirts, caps, shirts, sweaters and other apparel are ideal for QR code-based promotions. Imagine a cap with a code and a teaser such as, “Find Out Who The Real Boss Is…”

Scavenger Hunts. This appears on every QR code marketing list. Hunts can be fun and engaging. For destination marketing, a scavenger hunt approach can be a great way to get visitors to check out places they might not otherwise go.

These are a few ways you can use QR codes to connect and engage your audience. QR codes can provide additional information, including photos, reviews, directions and event dates and times.

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