QR Codes – Practical Tool or Just More Static?

They’re starting to pop up everywhere – those little squares of black and white lines and blocks that look like static on your TV screen. Have you scanned one yet? If you haven’t, you’re in a shrinking group of smartphone users. It’s a QR (Quick-Response) Code, and they’re a quick (hence the name) way to drive consumers to your website, game, promotion, sign-up page or other mobile-oriented marketing campaign.

They started in Japan for a very practical purpose in 1994 — as a way of tracking car parts during the manufacturing process. The codes’ use has since expanded; their ability to bring the virtual world directly into the real world at a particular place and time has provided some very functional uses.

From a marketing standpoint, they are a quick, fun way for consumers to interact with an ad or sign and get information into their hands, literally. You simply hold a smartphone up and scan the code using an app scanner and once the code is recognized and read, the content loads on the phone.

bloomfield knoble has already used QR Codes for flyers, trade show booths, posters and ads. Games, websites, sales material and appointment signup sheets are just a few of the targeted activities and bits of information that we’ve shared with consumers through QR Codes.

One of the biggest benefits of QR Codes is the immediacy of action, rather than a passive request to visit a website or to find a company on Facebook or Twitter. QR Codes allow the consumer to immediately and easily, at the point of engagement, take action and get to the site that you want them to get to. They can sign in, check in or get information right at the exact moment you’ve grabbed them. And if you do it right, you’ll increase that engagement ten-fold once they reach your virtual destination.

Outside of marketing, yet really even enhancing the marketing possibilities, are some truly functional uses for the codes:

Dubai will soon have a QR Code for every building in the emirate. The codes will impart detailed information and access for registering complaints, retrieving details of inspection visits, tracking violations and providing location information in the event of an emergency.

Airlines have been using QR Codes for boarding since 2008. They are a quick and efficient way to scan boarding passes without having to print the pass — the code can be scanned directly off of the passenger’s smartphone. By the end of 2011, all carriers will be required to provide this service for international flights.

The Abilene Christian University Library uses QR codes in exhibits that, when scanned, take you to videos or web sites and enable you to search the library’s catalog. QR codes also make searching for books a little bit easier at the Bath University Library, which gives browser information about the book such as its call number and physical location. Ryerson University Library, on the other hand, allows users to scan a QR code to get an audio tour of the facility.

These real-world uses and the mainstreaming of QR Codes will only help deepen their marketing possibilities. Currently, 32% of smartphone users say they have used a QR code and 70% say they would be interested to do so, either for the first time or again, according to a survey from MGH, so the possibilities are there and growing.

The practical examples above show how QR Codes can be used to make consumers’ lives more efficient and knowledge-driven. The same should be done for any marketing campaign that implements the codes. We’ve used them to drive content into users’ hands in direct mail, magazine ads, conference and event signage, sporting event giant screens and much more. They’re efficient and functional ways to engage the consumer.

As useful and intriguing as QR Codes can be, we do have to urge caution in how you use them. Before you slap one of the little squares on every business card, poster, ad or tradeshow booth you create, think about the user. How does it enhance their experience and interaction with your brand? How does it complement the campaign? If you don’t have a valuable end-user experience after they’ve scanned, your message may be as scrambled as the blocks and lines of your QR Code.

If you want to learn more about the best ways to engage your customers with the media most appropriate to your brand and message, visit www.bloomfieldknoble.com and contact us to start the conversation.