If you are a bit bewildered by QR codes, you are not alone. QR (Quick Response) codes are becoming increasingly popular among marketers and can now be seen on billboards, print ads, and even t-shirts. So what are they and how can they help you business?
QR codes are two-dimensional bar-codes that can be “scanned” by many mobile phones in order to enable a function within that particular phone. For example, scanning a QR code on a print ad might take the user to a particular Web page within the advertiser’s site or bring up a specific YouTube video. A QR code on a business card, on the other hand, might give the user the option to add that person’s contact information to the phone address book. The options are fairly broad as you can see from this run-down of creative QR code uses from Fast Company Magazine. To experiment with QR codes, simply download a QR code scanning app on your smartphone (search QR code in your phone’s app store).
Like any technology, however, QR codes can be overused by marketers. Using a QR code just for the sake of projecting a tech-savvy image can backfire. If you disappoint users with the output or functionality, it may backfire. You certainly don’t want users questioning the point of the exercise. That said, there are plenty of practical applications and circumstances when QR codes make sense, especially if you are looking to drive interaction. A few examples are:
- Including QR codes on walking tours to deliver more information or narration to users
- Displaying QR codes on event announcements to enable users to quickly add them to their calendars
- Using QR codes on product packaging to promote product applications or accessories
- Featuring large QR codes on outdoor advertising so on-the-go users don’t have to type
- Tying QR codes to games/mystery messages to engage users with a brand or idea
It’s still a bit unclear how fast the technology is catching on and how many users are actually using the scanning apps on a regular basis. This infographic from JumpScan give us some insight, but it is probably safe to assume that the technology leans toward a tech-savvy audience.
The most important thing is to be creative. And if you can’t think of interesting uses with the “wow” factor, it may be better to wait until inspirations strikes.