What is a QR code? I saw this question recently from a self-proclaimed “marketing consultant” I follow on Twitter. Got me thinking that this might be a good post topic, since Quick Response (QR) codes aren’t quite mainstream… yet.
What is it?
First, the required Wikipedia definition: A QR code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.
How do I use it?
Great, but what does this mean for your marketing plan? Well, for starters – a lot. I’m starting to see QR codes appear more often in airports, major retailers, and even places like the San Diego Zoo. QR codes are popping up in advertisements, on store windows, and even large in-store displays.
QR codes can be used for almost anything: directing consumers to your website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, Google Places page, a YouTube video, a coupon, a contest entry page, a photo, a lead capture form – the possibilities are endless. Smart marketers are keeping things simple in the early days of QR codes, knowing that even though smart phones are taking over the US market, consumers are still learning about QR codes.
When you scan a QR code with your smart phone, you must use a special QR code reader app. There are several of these available for the iPhone and Android. I use QRReader, by TapMedia LTD. Many consumers won’t automatically know this, so you may consider including something in the display about downloading an app.
Often times, I see directions on how to “use” the QR code accompanying the promotion, which helps educate the consumer on how to proceed. Remember, keeping it simple is the key. An example might be:
- Download a QR code reader app for your smart phone
- Scan the code
- Enter your email address for a chance to win a $1000 shopping spree!
A promotion like this would allow you to capture an email address for use in an email marketing campaign, plus add an interactive element of fun to your in-store displays.
Since you can put a QR code virtually anywhere, feel free to get creative. I’ve seen QR codes on business cards, billboards, t-shirts, and even as temporary (or perhaps, permanent) tattoos.
What not to do
Here’s an example of a QR code I saw at a music venue recently that I thought could have been used a little more effectively. I attempted to scan this code, but must have been too small because it wouldn’t register with my phone. It’s buried in the bottom left corner on an already busy poster with no directions on how to use the code, or more importantly, why I should scan the code. What’s in it for me? Would have been nice to see some indication of what happens if I do scan the code. Can I buy tickets there? Is it the artist’s website? Is it a discount or promo code? Keep these points in mind if you plan on using QR codes for your own marketing.
Watch for more QR codes in 2011, as I think they will become more and more mainstream. What are some good examples of QR codes you’ve seen?