MindFire Communications, Inc.
Decoding QR codes – what are they and can they help your business?
May 16, 2011 | Inga Rundquist

The hot topic among many marketers these days are QR codes, or quick response codes.  In a relatively short time span, they’ve leapt onto the marketing scene and, as recent stats suggest, they’re starting to catch on.

According to figures released from Mobia, QR code scanning grew a massive 1,200 percent between July and December of last year. Even the USPS is encouraging mailers to use the device on mailings. In July and August, the postal service is offering a 3% upfront discount to mailers who include 2-D barcodes as part of their mailing.

Despite this, as marketers you know that industry stats and buzz should never be reason to incorporate a tactic into a marketing program. (After all, we didn’t all jump on the MC Hammer pants trend back in the 1990s because everyone was talking about it, did we?)

As always, you should carefully consider the pros and cons of the QR technology to determine whether it will help you achieve your marketing goals and connect with your audience.

What is a QR code?

A QR code is a 2-D barcode that can be scanned by the camera on your smartphone and transfer information. Based on the type of code it is, it might link to digital content on the web; activate a number of phone functions including email, IM and SMS; and connect the mobile device to a web browser.

How do they work?

To read a QR code using your smart phone, you’ll have to download a QR code reader. There are many different QR readers available, and it is very quick and easy to download the app on your phone.

If you want to generate your own QR code for a campaign, all you have to do is find a QR code generator and upload your information. We like Kaywa for its simplicity, but others include Zxing, QR Stuff or Sparq.

Are QR codes for me?

That, my friends, is the burning question, isn’t it? Some things to consider:

  • Make sure you have a clear understanding of your target audience to determine if this is the kind of software they would use. The Mobio report we referenced above includes some great stats on the demographics of QR code users.
  • Most importantly, don’t force QR codes into your marketing program just because they’re "in fashion.”
  • Utilize the QR code to add additional value to your customers. Don’t just lead your customers to the home page of your website – provide them with additional content about the topic at hand. There needs to be a reward at the end of the rainbow!

Finally, because we like you and because you’ve stuck with us to the very end of this article, we’ve put together a little treat for you:

15 ideas for places QR codes can link to

  1. Directions to your store/business
  2. Coupons and special offers
  3. Installation instructions, warranties
  4. Sources for replacement parts and services
  5. Free downloads
  6. Digital tickets, passes, boarding passes
  7. Link to relevant forum topics, contact us forms
  8. Your vCard and contact information (perhaps off a QR code sticker that’s on your laptop?)
  9. Recommendations for complementary products and services
  10. Background information on a product – such as the source of a bag of lettuce, or project team behind a new product
  11. Links to newspaper and editorial coverage about your product
  12. Video or images of a house that is for sale
  13. Audio commentary on a city walking tour or exhibit
  14. Recipes for restaurant menu items
  15. Bonus content from TV shows, videos, behind-the-scenes footage, etc.

If you need more QR code inspiration, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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