Cracking the QR Code

Matthew Ray
April 22, 2010

QR (quick response) codes are popping up everywhere: on your subway platform, in your glossy magazine, on your soda bottle. What’s next…in your underwear? Yes, probably! Just because these little devils are breeding, doesn’t mean people know what they are, or more importantly, how to use them.

What is a QR Code?

Basically, a QR code is a barcode on steroids. Originally used to track auto parts, they’re now used for encoding lots of information on a two-dimensional space such as the pages of magazines, posters, TV screens and even websites.

Big whoop! What can I do with QR codes?

QR codes are tailor-made for linking to content on smartphones. Uses include magazine advertisements that link to websites, additional product information, links to video clips and quick on-the-spot surveys.

When it comes to out-of-the-box ideas, our favorite real-world use of QR codes is by theDetroit Red Wings. Using their Jumbotron screen, the Wings instructed fans to turn to the page in their program that had the QR code. After a quick scan the fans got a funny YouTube video, ‘Kronwalled.” According to the Wings, people watching the video through a mobile device watched it from beginning to end 22% of the time, far exceeding their expectations. It was so buzzy, they plan to integrate more QR code placements in their traditional ads.

  1. QR codes on business cards. Rather than overload a business card with all of your contact info you could include the bare minimum for reaching casino you, then create a code that leads people to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, or social media account du jour!
  2. Scavenger hunts. Everyone on the planet wants to make a QRC scavenger hunt. It’s a great idea…probably because scavenger hunts are fun and engaging, Just remember they need an action or goal and are generally a lot easier to write about than to administer.
  3. Labeling. “Who makes this lovely wine?” Scan the QR code and find out more than just the vineyard name. “Where did you buy this shirt?” Scan the QR code on the tag and learn about the designer and nearest retailer.
  4. Retail. Few retail businesses are open 24/7. Don”t disappoint potential customers after you”ve left for the day. Create a “Shop Now” QR code and put it in your storefront window. One scan and you”ve turned a passerby into a lead who might share a lot more of their contact information with you. Also, imagine QR codes next to products that offer value-added information. For example, hardware stores could link to how-to videos of how to use specific tools.
  5. Promotions, discounts and giveaways. If you want to encourage patronage from the iPhone and Android set, create discounts that are specific to QR codes. Run these codes in advertisements or post them throughout your store.
  6. Follow The QR code to Facebook. You can create mobile-friendly landing pages with Facebook Like buttons. The name of the game is engagement, so a “Like” can create a long-term marketing opportunity.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to use QR codes to connect and engage your audience. According to MGH, 72% of smartphone users are likely to recall an ad featuring a QR code. There”s a certain amount of fun and surprise with QR codes, so take advantage of that “what”s behind door number one” mentality.

Has the QR code taken hold of the American consumer? We think there is potential if executed correctly. Have you used QR codes in your marketing and communications? If so, how are you using them, and what results have you seen?