QR Codes – Have You Seen Them? Used Them?

As I was doing research for my upcoming Direct Mail in the Digital Age I discovered a neat new (well really not so new…) communication technology called QR codes. I think this codes offer a wide variety of very interesting options to marketers.

QR—or “quick response”—codes represent the most recent innovation and serve to extend the reach of direct mail—and other printed materials—to the mobile environment. They’re basically matrix barcodes that can be read by mobile phones equipped with cameras or smart phones. Similar to a barcode that you would see on a product in a retail environment, QR codes are arranged in a square pattern on a white background; the codes can contain test, URLs or other data.

They are truly revolutionary! Created in Japan, by Denso-Wave, a Toyota subsidiary back in 1994, the codes allow anyone with a mobile phone to “scan” the QR code and decode its content. The content (most typically a URL) generally takes the user to a specific web site.

The use of these codes basically removes the need for people to have a pencil and paper handy to write down information. They simply scan the QR code and the information is captured in their mobile device. So it could be used, for instance, to put information on a calendar—you walk by a poster for a play, scan the QR code and voila’ the info is captured and stored in your phone. Or, you receive a direct mail piece in your mailbox for a new restaurant in town that contains a QR code—you scan the code and are taken to the web site where you can see menu items and prices.

QR codes can be printed on any hard copy format from business cards, to newspapers and magazines to signs, products, etc.  Users can generate and print their own codes by visiting a variety of online sites where the codes can be generated for no charge. Here is a QR code for my company, Strategic Communications, LLC.

I’m intrigued with the possibilities. QR codes on business cards to provide more detailed information about you and your company. QR codes on coasters to provide advertising information. QR codes in print ads to draw people to your web site. Or, of course, in a direct mailer to engage the recipient and provide more detailed information than you could squeeze into a 4×6 postcard format, for instance.

The possibilities literally are endless. I’m anxious to see how these begin to be used and the creative ideas that marketers come up with to tie the use of QR codes into their other communication activities.

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