QR Codes Are Coming to a Marketing Strategy Near You
Learn how QR codes can enhance your marketing strategy
Businesses of all sizes are suddenly becoming aware of QR codes as a new marketing tool. QR codes, a modern cousin to bar codes, are a way businesses can let camera-equipped smartphone owners get useful information, such as web links, videos, contact information, special content, coupons, and product information. Find out what QR codes are, how businesses are using them, and how you can generate your own QR codes in just minutes.
What is a QR code?
QR codes, or quick response codes, resemble traditional bar codes in that they encode information in a two-dimensional image. A typical QR code can include approximately 7,000 numeric characters, or 4,000 alphanumeric characters. For marketing, the possibilities are endless and evolving. The intent is to quickly connect smartphone owners with deeper information about a business or product.
Here are some advantages to using QR codes:
- Simple, fast, and inexpensive to create and distribute
- Connects people with detailed product information
- Smartphones with QR code readers are becoming increasingly common
Here are some issues to keep in mind:
- Many people do not yet own a smartphone (although this is changing quickly)
- QR codes are not yet widely used in all countries
- QR codes need to be tested on a variety of smartphones to make sure they work as intended
Google says yes to QR codes
QR codes, common in mobile-obsessed Japan for years as well as other countries, are just now gaining traction in North America. For example, in December Google announced that it is mailing more than 100,000 decals containing QR codes to local US businesses that are popular on Google and Google maps. The aim is to allow shoppers armed with smartphones and QR code readers to scan the decals to get reviews of the local business.
Your first scan
To see how a QR code might work, try scanning the following QR code with your camera-equipped BlackBerry® smartphone. You will need BlackBerry® Messenger v5.0.*
Scan this QR code to go to
- On the Home screen or in the Instant Messaging folder, click the BlackBerry Messenger icon.
- On the contact list screen, press the Menu key.
- Click Invite Contact.
- Click Scan a person's barcode.
- Click Continue.
- Hold your device so that all four corners of the QR code appear on your device’s screen. Continue to hold the device until you hear the success beep.
- Click Yes to open the link.
What information can you generate in a QR code?
Some examples of what a QR code can include are:
- Phone numbers
- Complete contact information
- SMS text messages
- Calendar events
- An email address
- A geographic map location
How are marketers using QR codes?
Where will you go?
QR codes for marketing are taking off as more and more consumers use them to initiate purchasing decisions. Examples of how businesses are using QR codes today include linking potential customers to:
- Company websites or specific product pages
- Bonus content or unique campaign landing pages
- Educational materials
- Videos and product demonstrations
- Printable offers and coupons
- Contests or sweepstakes
- Special offers sent via SMS text messages
- Manuals, spec sheets, feature lists
- Warrantee registration pages
- Sales reps, both by phone and by BlackBerry Messenger
- Driving directions
Wanted: Measurable print advertising
An intriguing possibility is that QR codes may help revitalize print advertising. As online advertising has gobbled up more and more ad spending because of its low cost, reach, and measurability, print advertising has languished. But what happens when a print ad includes a traceable QR code linking the reader to a web page? Not only can you test different print ads with traceable QR codes, you can also quickly change the destination web page with, say, new offers. Print ads suddenly become more dynamic and measurable.
How to create your own QR codes
A big advantage to QR codes is that they are fast, easy, and inexpensive to create. A simple web search for "QR Code Generator" reveals dozens of free options. While we cannot endorse any particular generator**, we did experiment with:
Both are free and very easy to use.
Before generating your first QR codes, it pays to think through your strategy. Consider these questions:
- How can QR codes fit with my existing marketing strategy?
- Think through the scenarios: Where are you sending people? Is the destination what they expect? Does it provide real value and useful information, or will it disappoint them?
- Will the destination look good on a small screen?
- How will you measure your success? Web traffic only or will you include a user data capture form?
Most importantly, test, test, test with a variety of smartphones and people!
- A data service plan from your wireless service provider
- A BlackBerry smartphone with 64MB of memory
- 2.4MB of available smartphone memory
- BlackBerry® Device Software v4.5 or later
** Use third-party applications at your own risk. Research in Motion Limited (“RIM”) makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the features, reliability, or pricing of third party products or services, or their compatibility with any RIM products.