Uses for QR Codes

by on February 25, 2011

With the exponential rise in mobile internet access there is no doubt in my mind that 2D codes (also known as Quick Response, or QR Codes) will become a trusty tool for “tagging” real-world objects with virtual information.

Stickybits is an innovative example of how to add digital content to real world objects. However, I’m not a big fan of proprietary apps and coding. For instance, Cell C recently launched the Bee-Tag powered PhotoCode in South Africa, while Microsoft is trying to push their “creatively” named Tag system too.

All of these competing standards, apps and readers are prohibitive to the mass uptake of this technology. It confuses and frustrates consumers. This is why I’m betting on the more open QR Code standard to become the benchmark. The majority of downloadable readers will scan QR Codes, no matter whether you’re using an iPhone, Nokia, Android or any other smartphone. I use UpCode on my phone.

It’s one thing getting it to work, but quite another to use it effectively. There have been some pathetic attempts at using QR. Take, for example, the bank that put a QR Code in a newspaper advert. Firstly, the QR Code pointed not to their mobile banking site but to their website which is not optimised for mobile. Secondly, the market is totally wrong.

People who currently know about and use QR Codes are geeks or tech-savvy under-50s (apologies to those over 50, but I’ll then lump you in the geek category… admit it). These people tend to stay away from print newspapers. This ignorant and sterile use of QR Codes in marketing has damaged the concept for creative agencies trying to push clients to use it.

However, critical mass and uptake for this technology is rumoured to round the tipping point in the next two years. In technophilic Japan, QR Codes are already pervasive and innate.

Creativity

So how do you use QR Codes properly? There are literally thousands of creative uses for QR Codes, but here are some of the best:

Business Cards: A QR code on your business card could point to your website/mobisite or it could even have your vCard info on it. Simply sign up at Viscards or check out the MECARD standard, then enter your contact information and download the QR Code which points to your vCard .vcf file (Viscards) or that contains the specified contact details (MECARD). Once that is done, all you have to do is print the QR Code on your business card.

Here are some kinds of information that work well on a QR code:
1. Mobisite
2. Contact info
3. Company Facebook Fan Page
4. Personal Facebook page
5. Twitter account
6. YouTube account or video
7. Blog
8. LinkedIn profile
9. Skype details
10. CV or Bio

If you’re wondering about 2D encoding standards then check out this great link to figure out how to code different information. Here’s another cool site called ShareSquare which gets a “+1? for being able to host all sorts of information. For all the Crackberry addicts out there, point your browser here.

Coupons: Create a coupon featuring specials for your business, which is then hosted online (but still mobile-friendly) and then create a QR code pointing to the coupon. Print the QR code on flyers, ads, billboards, product labels etc. and now your loyal customers have a quick and easy way to get discounts, specials, rewards and savings.

Product Labels and Shelf Talkers: Want people to find out more about your product? Simply put a QR Code on the label or on the shelf. This can point to the product’s mobisite, for example.

In this instance, the information on a mobisite should include:

1. Product and company information
2. Ingredients
3. Allergy warnings
4. Recipes – cross-sell other products in the recipes
4. Complementary products – cross-sell your brand/s
6. Dietary information – This can be great for fitness fanatics and people who are dieting
7. Reviews
8. Online sales
9. Informative video
10. Discounts and Loyalty Rewards

Scavenger Hunts: QR Codes are begging for a scavenger hunt application. Customers can scan a code with directions, find another code at that location… etc. Check out location-based service SCVNGR for an interesting look at treasure hunt 2.0. Add QR codes into the mix and you’ve hit upon a very interesting concept.

Promotions and Events: Print QR Codes on T-shirts, pamphlets and flyers or get your “promo girls” to sport temporary QR code tattoos.

Signage & Advertising: Put QR Codes on all your signage and advertising. Particularly effective would be delivery vans and motorbikes. In traffic, people don’t have the time to take down numbers or type in details. A QR code is as simple as snapping a picture. It could immediately save your vCard details on to someone’s phone: “Bright Spark Electricians. +27725551234. www.brightsparx.co.za” for example.

TV Ads: Imagine if I told you that I could turn a 30 second slot into a 5 minute multimedia experience. Put a QR Code at the tail of your TV ad and you can direct customers to a 5 minute video for your product. Remember, though, that you MUST give the customer value. Simply pushing them to more advertising won’t work. Think of exclusive content, discounts and rewards.

Directions: QR Codes can point to Google Maps or GPS co-ordinates, or you can simply give text directions. It’s very frustrating to type out or print out lengthy directions. A QR Code allows a user to scan and follow the directions on their phone… straight to your door.

Supercharge your print campaigns and content: Print simply can’t keep up with society’s addiction to multimedia content. Print is just too one dimensional. By adding QR Codes to your print campaigns and content you can immediately augment it with multimedia. For example, an advert or article on the latest up-and-coming band can include a QR Code directing people to a free ringtone download, or an exclusive look at the latest music video.

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