Thursday, April 7, 2011

QR Codes: An Emerging Marketing Trend

What is a QR code anyway?

A Quick Response code (QR) is a two-dimensional barcode, read by smartphones and other camera phones or by dedicated QR code readers. The codes are encoded with text, URL, phone numbers or other data. The QR code technology is already pretty common overseas (imagine that!), especially in Japan where it originated. The concept is still emerging here in the States as a new marketing trend, but seems to be catching on quickly. The use of QR codes is free of licensing, so the technology is available to use by any company. The codes are being used on menus, magazines, business cards, coupons, t-shirts- basically anything that can be scanned. The user scans the QR code and, through their phone, can automatically dial a phone number, visit a specific social media site or home page URL, set their phone calendar with an event (complete with alarm for a reminder), set the phone GPS with a physical address, just to name a few ideas. I love the concept because it incorporates design with technology and has a specific, user-generated purpose.

How are they being used?
These codes are popping up in marketing campaigns, both in traditional and interactive media partly because they allow marketing professionals to easily track response rates. They are being used in tradeshows, billboards, direct mail pieces, coupons and contests, and in guerrilla marketing campaigns. Use these codes to drive traffic to exclusive online content, offering prizes or other incentives. The majority of consumers may not being using these codes on a regular basis yet, but curiosity will make them check it out. Those that are already using them will be tech-savvy and more likely to visit your website, or be influenced by your social media campaign.

Well-known companies are using QR codes in various ways. Pepsi prints QR codes on bottles to direct customers to their website. Designers are using them on their mailers to give customers exclusive online content like runway videos and limited edition collections. Restaurants are using QR Codes to list product nutritional information on its packaging. Real Estate agents are using them on signage to provide details about the house for sale. The codes are also being used in unusual ways-food suppliers are using them to show where their product is grown and when it was harvested, an English version of "The Amazing Race" reality TV show is using the codes as part of the treasure hunt, and Japan has even put them on tombs to give background on the interred (creepy!)

So how can you use these codes for your small business?
You can drive traffic to your website by offering exclusive contests or discounts for QR code users. Track traffic to your website by using different codes on different marketing pieces, therefore knowing which piece has the best ROI (return on investment). Thank customers for their patronage and put one on receipts to offer a discount on their next purchase. Encode one with a Google map for your store location. Encode one with product reviews and information or price comparisons. Send the user to YouTube to see your online commercial. You can make it part of your campaign by placing them on t- shirts, business cards, billboards, or magnets. Or get creative, like Lego who made one out of lego blocks, and make the QR code the central part of your campaign.

If you still aren’t convinced about the future of QR Codes in your business marketing, let your customer tell you- In a recent study commissioned by ad agency MGH, 72 percent of smartphone users indicated that they would be likely to recall an ad with a QR code. Check out the whole study here: You can generate a QR code using a site like, iCandy, or Stickybits. will also provide the code reader for your phone, so will Barcode Scanner. You can install the app on your phone with ease.

KC Hart is the Director of Marketing & Communications for the Asheville Home Builders Association.

No comments:

Post a Comment