What are QR codes?
QR codes consist of black modules arranged in square patterns on a white background. “QR” stands for quick response: the contents can be decoded at high speed. QR codes have been around since 1994, but have until now been used mostly for industrial applications. Their usefulness in marketing is starting understood.
Illustration courtesy of PetaHopkins,
via Flickr Creative Commons
Why are QR codes valuable for marketing?
The marketing potential of QR codes lies in the fact that they are open source, free to generate and have a hyperlinking capability. You can generate and print your own QR codes for free, for others to scan, by visiting one of several sites that generate QR codes. QR codes can connect a person equipped with a camera phone and the right reader software to not just text or contact information, but also to email, IM, SMS, a web site, or a wireless phone number.
How much information do they hold?
QR codes can include up to 7,100 characters of numeric code, 4,300 alphanumeric characters, or 3,000 binary (8 bits) units.
How easy is it to create a QR code?
Very easy. You enter the information into one of the many free QR codes generators, the entire process takes just a few minutes.
How are QR codes used in marketing?
You can now see them on billboards, in-store displays, business cards, event ticketing and tracking, trade-show and conference management, print ads, contests, direct marketing campaigns, coupons, restaurant menus, sides of trucks, point-of-sale receipts, products tags and packaging, and more and more.
1 – QR codes bridge the gap between offline and online media
They can be easily added to offline media: business cards, flyers, brochures, posters, billboards, signs. Ubimark, an Indiana company, has published books that include QR codes. One of them, a version of Around the World in 80 Days, uses QR codes to provide readers access to the audio versions of the book chapters and to Google Maps.
You do not need to include your web address anymore, or a phone number. And there is no risk that people may copy them wrong. At the very moment when prospects are exposed to your message, they can scan the QR code and get connected to your offer, call to action or web site.
2 – QR codes enable sharing and building community
You can use an app called Likify to create PR codes that connect you with a Like button for your Facebook page. You can also create discounts that are specific to the QR code, and run them in advertisements or post them in a store, and turn them into retweets so that people share them with their followers. All this helps you build community.
3 – QR codes can be used for calls to action
You can link the codes to how-to videos, stories about a product, launching a web site, launching a pre-filled tweet, watching a trailer, audio commentaries. You can program the ode to deliver a text message with a promo code to get a discount. Or you can have “Call us” and “Email us” messages, where people scan the code and automatically call or email. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas hased used QR codes in magazine ads to promote their new facilities. Scanning the code takes you to a video and a free room offer. Also, since the QR code can lead to a web page, you can, if your platform allows you, create a code that will populate the cart with specific products. You can also link the QR code to a landing page where people exchange their contact information for a treat, or a discount. For more ideas on how to use QR codes, read: 101 uses for QR codes.
4 – QR codes contribute to your SEO and SMO
Jeff Korhan, in an article in Social Media Examiner, explains that QR codes enhance both your search engine and social media optimization, You can increase traffic to those searchable objects to further optimize them by encouraging more sharing.
5 -The effectiveness of PR codes can be measured
The beauty of inbound marketing is that you can accurately assess the marketing cost of sales. Until now, with offline media like print or billboards, you were not able to measure this kind of effectiveness. With QR codes, you can measure results based on clicks and leads.
Link-shortening services bit.ly and goo.gl now automatically generate a QR code for sharing your shortened links. With goo.gl, you simply click on the “More” link after creating a shortened link, and you are directed to a place that gives you not only the QR code, but useful analytics. MyQR.co also provides analytics.
6- QR codes can be used creatively, and be made to look good
The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia, created a campaign promoting the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’s Picasso Exhibit “Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris,” The campaign includes QR codes in print and out-of-home ads plus a dedicated Facebook Page. The QR codes access a website featuring 15 pieces of Picasso’s art, plus a link to buy tickets. (The website, discoverthemaster.com, is different when accessed via a mobile phone. When reached from a desktop or laptop, it leads to the exhibit’s Facebook site.)
QRLicious creates visually attractive, personalized QR codes for a small fee ($20 for 1, $80 for 10). MyQR.co also provides the ability to customize the color of your QR codes.
Australian-born artist Simone O’Callaghan created a series of artworks based on QR codes, where she altered the codes to take on more organic and less pixilated forms, whilst making sure that they could still be scanned by mobile phones. For the more daring, there are even now tattoo parlors making permanent or temporary tattoos that link to people’s websites and Facebook pages.
Have you used QR codes for marketing? I would love to hear what your experience has been.
This post brought to you by Jean-Marie Bonthous, PhD.
Jean-Marie Bonthous, (“JM”) is founder and Principal of Seamless Social, a social business consultancy which helps clients develop and implement social marketing strategies. The consultancy helps clients improve business results through better use of inbound and content marketing as well as Social CRM. Jean-Marie Bonthous has been a trusted advisor to Fortune 1000 companies for thirty years and has led many successful, high-impact projects, He is author of two books on business intelligence.