Put QR codes to work on your marketing campaigns

This month we’re going to take a look at an amazingly powerful marketing tool. This tool takes advantage of the power and popularity of the smartphone. I’m talking about a two-dimensional barcode called the QuickResponse code, or QR code.

By now you have noticed the curious little boxes full of black and white squares that have been popping up in print advertising, magazines, in-store ads and real estate signs. These boxes can serve up an amazing amount of information to anyone with a smartphone and a simple free app.

The QR code originated in the 1990s as a way to track parts inventory in the auto industry. The code was designed to be read quickly and accurately. Initially QR codes could store about 25 characters. Now they have the capacity to store more than 4,000 characters and this capacity is sure to keep growing.

A QR code can contain a Web address or contact information, whether it’s simply a phone number or a complete address book entry. It can generate an email or text message or even initiate a phone call. It is this flexibility that makes the QR code such an amazing marketing device.

QR codes can be placed on virtually any surface. Anyone with a smartphone or camera-equipped tablet can then scan the code using a wide variety of free (or nearly free) apps available from the device’s app store. The user simply opens the app and points the camera at the code. The app processes the code and takes the action specified by the information encoded by the creator.

Anyone can create a QR code in seconds. All it takes is a quick search of your device’s app store. You can also type “QR code creator” into your favorite search engine. Free applications will allow you to create basic barcodes with text and URLs. For a nominal fee, you can create more sophisticated codes. Once the code is created, it’s a simple matter of saving the image and placing it where people can scan it.

Let’s look at some real-world examples. One of my favorites is the case where a popular English soccer club posted a giant QR code on a billboard near a particularly congested stretch of motorway. Thousands of people stuck in traffic with nothing better to do would scan the code with their smartphones. The code took them to the club’s mobile shopping site where they could purchase tickets, apparel and more.

Savvy business people are including a QR code with their full contact information on their business cards. Realtors use QR codes on A-boards, signs and even tent cards in open houses to direct potential buyers to Web sites with photos, videos and other information about the property. Print advertisers add QR codes linking folks to more detailed product information, discount coupons or even a page where they can order the product immediately.

More creative users have added QR codes to their letterhead, vehicle graphics and email signatures. A friend of mine created several QR codes and put them on cards, then put the cards in a bowl at her booth at a trade show. The codes took visitors to various pages on her Web site where they won prizes and got product information. She also included QR codes specific to the event on her handouts at the booth. This allowed her to track interest in the various products and services she was marketing as well as the overall response to her investment in the trade show.

Creating unique landing pages for QR codes used for specific products, campaigns and events gives marketers an incredibly powerful tool to track the effectiveness of their advertising. With tools like Google Analytics, it’s easy to see the traffic generated by campaign- or event-specific QR codes.

It’s possible for QR codes to link to poison sites or malicious links, but most code readers will ask before opening links. Always be mindful when opening any unknown hyperlinks.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of QR codes, go to www.byteslaves.com/Byte_Slave_Computing/QR_Codes.html to see examples of several types of these codes created using the QR Droid app on my Android smartphone.

Sven Mogelgaard is president and CEO of Byte Slaves Inc. Contact him at 425-482-9529 or 877-972-7767 or go to www.byteslaves.com.

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