Lately it seems everyone is talking about QR codes.   I can find lots of articles telling me the little squares are “the next big thing”  and other blog posts claiming they are a complete waste of time.   My guess is the truth is somewhere in between.  Used properly, the codes can be an effective tool.  Right now, however, I simply see a lot of people using them without much of a plan.

contact QR

Let’s start with some basics..  What is a QR Code?

QR Code is a 2d barcode (square matrix code) designed by the Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994.  They were initially used to track automobile parts during the manufacturing process. While a cool piece of triva how are they useful as part of your marketing?

QR codes can store a lot of information in a small space.   For example, the code to the left contains my Vcard.  If you have a smart phone with QR software, or a QR scanner, you can instantly download my contact information. A QR code on the back of a business card allows for rapid data entry.  Putting the code on your card, is a service to people to whom you hand the card, since they won’t have to spend the time, or pay someone $10/hour to transform stacks of  business cards into usable data.

Will a QR code make your phone ring?  Maybe.  At least they will have your number in their file.  But you have to have a reader.  That is probably the biggest drawback of the emerging technology.  If you don’t have a smart phone, you can’t use the code. While the number of people with smart phones is growing daily, they are still far from common, making the codes relevant to a select segment of the market.  But before you dismiss the codes for their limited reach, remember you didn’t get a lot of use from your fax machine if you were the first person in your circle to own one either.

As a marketer, understanding there is a limited market actually gives you a powerful tool.  You can use QR codes to target specific offers to a limited, upscale, tech savvy community. For example, the codes are being used by Realtors, who create one for each property, placing the codes on property signs or sales literature.   The codes can link to websites, product listings, videos,  special offers, text messages and calendar events.  And with some of the paid QR generators you can track how often the pages are accessed or even change where the code points.  The advantage?  Reduced printing costs for merchants who distribute codes on coupons and other printed material then change the offer as needed by simply updating the destination page.

Are QR codes really the next big thing, or simply hype?  Only time will tell.  I am intrigued by what you can do with the code.  I like the fact that it is fairly simply to create, download an embed in other media.  I would like to know what, if any success you have had with QR codes.  How do you think they can or should be used?