QR Codes Are Smart Marketing Tools

QR Codes Are Smart Marketing Tools

By: Shelly Kramer
January 10, 2011

V3 Mobile Marketing QR Code

Maybe you’ve heard of or seen a few QR codes. Those little funny square 2D bar codes you see popping up in magazine ads, online and even on consumer packaged goods. They look like this silly thing, yet they’re really a sophisticated and smart marketing tool.

You have probably seen them already — and likely didn’t even notice them or weren’t sure what they were. Well, turns out they are pretty cool little tools that open the doorway to a whole new level of information. QR stands for “quick response” and these funny little guys began their life as a tracking system for vehicle parts in manufacturing, created in 1994 by a subsidiary of Toyota in Japan. But they’ve come a long way from the boring grey of the assembly line. Out of the factory and into the limelight as more and more commercial applications are cropping up for the QR codes.

Why does this matter? Well, QR codes deliver information. Easily. They can store data – lots and lots of data. Things like URL links, geo coordinates and text. You can get the calorie content on McDonald’s Big Mac over in Japan by scanning these codes. They are on billboards and store fronts. If you use your reader to scan the QR code at the top of this post, it will take you to the section of our website that talks about mobile marketing and the services we offer. Kind of cool, no?

Our friend, Scott Townsend who handles marketing for United Linen in Bartlesville, OK, just did a marketing campaign using QR Codes and we can’t wait to see the results as they roll out in the next few months. You can scan the QR codes for individual items and have your phone tell you in-depth information about the product–the kind of stuff you get on the website, only much faster and more efficiently delivered than if you had to find the site via your mobile browser. You can get phone numbers, store hours, contact information and more. You can find a code in your magazine, scan it and get access to extra content that didn’t make it into the hard copy. Not only is it smart marketing, it can also create “special” opportunities that only those tech savvy enough to be using QR codes take advantage of. And people like feeling special …. see, more smart marketing!

You can get iPhone apps like Tap Reader or even Android apps like QuickMark to instantly see on your mobile device the Place Page of the location on Google. I use Neo Reader on my iPhone to scan QR codes and love it. And since QR codes are super handy for quick reviews, I smell a HUGE spike in local reviews as the QR codes really take off.

Check out this video on the multipurpose codes here:

The Kansas City Business Journal’s recent edition featured a piece on QR codes, pointing to local realtors using the codes to get information easily into the hands of prospective buyers. Instead of the hassle (and waste) of printed flyers hanging off real estate signs or having to remember a web URL, house hunters can simply scan a QR code affixed to the sign and download information quickly and easily. Even better, the QR codes are reusable from property to property, so from a signage standpoint for the real estate firm, they’re efficient and cost-effective marketing tools.

QR Code
I think we’ll see QR codes more and more and look forward to seeing more innovative uses of them. What about you? What kind of innovative use of QR codes have you seen? We’d love to hear about it.

**Image credit, Dave Kaup, KCBJ

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  • Heather O

    Great post SK. :-)

  • Anonymous

    I am a REALTOR using QR codes in my marketing. I have been using them since early last year and think they have a lot of great applications.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks HO. LMK how they work for you guys – would love to know more. And/or have Mr. SO write a guest post about it!! w00t

  • Anonymous

    Hi Lesley,

    So glad to hear it. Do you find that prospective buyers know what they are, or are you finding people still don’t really have much idea? Would love to know more. And thanks for coming by!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Jim. I’ll check it out!

  • Anonymous

    Hey Dave,

    Kind of a spammy comment, no? I left it, giving you the benefit of the doubt … but I had to think about it.

  • http://prevolutionblog.com Kasey Skala

    QR codes are completely fascinating for me. I think there are a ton of potentials (as mentioned above and below in the REALTOR comment). For me, working in the beauty/salon business, there are a lot of ways I’m looking at utilizing this tool to deliver visuals and informative information to the consumer. I think the biggest issue right now is simply education and showing consumers the why/how/when of QR codes.

  • http://www.attunementsforthesoul.com/ Sophie Lhoste

    Thank you for explaining QR codes to me. You make me feel smart! Mind just gone into overdrive about how I can use it in my practice down the line. Dreaming.

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    I think QR codes are a pain, at least so far. I was in France last year and there were QR codes all over promoting tourist events. But first you had to follow instructions to download the right app. Umm .. I’ll take a post please. Or even a web address. And for the realtor, am i going to get out of my car and scan the thing or just open the box and get the paper? Won’t people want to see a virtual tour on nice big screen in their home instead of a smart phone in their car?

    Esquire magazine was one of the first traditional media outlets to use these things. So you download special software to get what? Some exclusive photos or Robert Downey Junior? Wake me when it’s over.

    I think augmented reality is going to leapfrog the whole thing. But I’ve been wrong before. Will be interesting to see some actual results. I’m sure there are some niche applications.

    In any event, a tremendous post. Will love debating this with you live soon. : )

  • B2Bplatform

    QR codes are a way of marketing. Still often used in a wrong way. QR codes should be used like a sort of present. People are triggered by a brand or special product, discount or even a job add. Used in this way people are opening a QR code like opening a present.

  • Anonymous

    HI Alex. I agree wholeheartedly. You’re so right … people LOVE presents!!!

  • Anonymous

    Interesting, Mark. I use Neo Reader and have had no problems downloading the codes.

    I think they are yet another marketing tool — and a tool that won’t apply to every demographic or to every client’s need. But they CAN help create buzz and excitement about an event, a promotion, and isn’t that what we marketers are always in search of?

    I’m a fan of augmented reality, too, but just like QR codes, AR isn’t for everyone. I’d venture a guess that there as many people who are as confused or annoyed by AR as you might be about QR codes — and again, it all goes back to demographic and what audience segment you might be trying to reach.

    I’m very interested in seeing where this is going … and one thing’s for sure, time will tell!

    Thanks for coming by – and yes, I always look forward to live debates!!

  • Anonymous

    Hey Tyler. I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    I love sending your brilliant mind on an adventure!! QR isn’t right for everyone, but it sure is interesting to think about and explore! Let me know if you do and how you do it!!

  • Anonymous

    I’m fascinated, too, Kasey. Think about this for a salon. Having an ad in a print publication that had a QR code. If you scanned the code, it took you to a landing page on the website that had a list of services AND gave you a discount coupon for booking. Not every customer would see/do/experiment/book, but it would be interesting to see how many might. And if you’re already doing traditional advertising, adding in an element like this is no biggie, but could have tremendous value add – especially as consumers begin to recognize and use them more. Hmmmmmm. Food for thought!! Thanks for coming by!

  • Anonymous

    Hey Jim … will definitely check your reader out. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/jmitchem Jim Mitchem

    We’re about to roll out StickyBits on Boxman Studios hospitality venues. Same concept as QR, except that it reads/uses regular barcodes and maintains a central platform for sharing experiences. With StickyBits you can upload video and photography to the barcode’s home. The idea (in general) is that you can scan any item to see what other people have to say about the item. It’s great for people who are shopping around for something. For Boxman, our goal is for people to just have fun with it – to share their experiences over time as our different venues move around the country.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Lisa. I will.

  • Anonymous

    That is SOOOO cool, Jim. Like instant reviews, in your hand. I love it.

  • Heather O

    I am so glad you re-posted this one. I need to hop on this … you are a motivating force. I really appreciate all the information you share and I am so glad to know you.

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  • http://twitter.com/CharterHomes Kelly C.

    Hello Shelly! My company (Charter Homes & Neighborhoods) actually did something similar to the real estate case you mentioned above. We used QR codes on signage (and now, on all our paper brochures outside of homes) to allow visitors to take a “video tour” of the home even if it was outside our model hours. We’ve seen great response from this initiative – and mobile-based views of our “Ready Now Home” videos has skyrocketed. The key is to make using the QR codes simple, and to provide “back up” technology if the user isn’t scanning a code. Thanks for a great article.