What, Why and How of QR Codes

by Pat Alexander on January 10, 2011 · 12 comments

Mary Biever has graciously provided this guest post on a rapidly expanding technology that each of us has probably seen, but now know what it was about.  I saw a number of these during the holidays in the retail ads.  Mary is an Energetic corporate computer trainer, wife & mom of teens. Passionate about social media, tech, cooking, gardening, 4-H, and empowering people.  You can find Mary at http://marybiever.wordpress.com and http://twitter.com/MaryBiever.  Mary, Thank you for letting me post your blog at the Ecosystem.

At yesterday’s Indiana Social Media Summit/Smackdown, 1 Indianapolis attendee wore a t-shirt with a giant QR code printed on it, challenging friends to scan his  code. Last night, I tried explaining this to a friend who is neither a geek nor a marketer. He had never heard of QR codes. That’s when I realized most normal people don’t know what QR codes are or how they will be used next year.

What are they?

You may have seen the graphics attached to packages, on flyers, or in other information without realizing what they are. These are 2 dimensional barcodes.  They were developed in 1994 for use by car manufacturers as a Quick Response code.Why do people use them?

If you scan a QR code into a SmartPhone or other device, you access information faster. Instead of manually typing in a web address, I can scan in the code and immediately get to the website. It can be set to immediately provide the scanner with contact information and text. Imagine the possibilities for your business card.

Think of this as a faster way to get coupons, special offers, and more.

Marketers love these because they can measure ROI on different parts of a campaign. Put a different QR code on different media branches of a campaign. They can then measure response rates and make smarter purchasing decisions in the future.
Artists are including QR codes in their artwork so those who scan the code can access new information, Easter eggs, and more.

At yesterday’s Indiana smackdown, trophies were given to statewide winners. Evansville’s Ameristamp Sign-a-rama donated the name plates for the trophies and included the QR codes of winners beside each winner’s name. A QR code can be included on any printed material or signs. Some business owners print and post them to better reach their smartphone customers.

How can I get started?

The first step to printing something with a QR code is to generate a unique code for your information or website. If you Google “QR code generator,” several options will be listed. Mashable recommends considering  Kaywa, iCandy or Stickybits.

Right now, 1 in 4 Americans uses a cell phone with applications.  By this time next year, 1 in 2 Americans will have a SmartPhone.

Smart businesses will find ways to use QR codes to better reach their customers. The smartest ones will find new ways to use them.

  • Jason Verlinde

    Great post Mary. Question. Once you create on is it "live" forever? I would be hesitant to put on business card if the code expires at some point in the future.

  • Pat, thanks for inviting me as a guest blogger. Love getting to know you better via social media.

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  • Great post. As the Marketing Coordinator of an insurance agency in MA, I've had our company utilizing QR codes in our email signatures for a few weeks now that link to a hidden page on our website. Many people did not know what it was at first, but I think that helped spark interest in it that much more. That page is now the 3rd most-visited page on our site this month.

    • Jason

      Beth:

      Was your thoughts on placing the QR code in an email signature just to spark interest in the technology? Seems like in an email or any website an old fashioned clickable link would serve the same purpose?

      • Hi Jason,

        Exactly. Most people do not recognize QR codes at the moment, so by being perhaps one of the first places a consumer has seen such technology lends my company the benefit of being seen as innovative. As you said perfectly, "an old fashioned clickable link" would be just that, old fashioned.

        QR codes have been around for years actually, but they've never quite taken off with American consumers and/or marketers. It's still too early to tell whether this round will end with QR codes becoming a normal part of American marketing/advertising, but my the insurance company I work for was surely one of the first to try it!

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