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QR codes

To many, the Quick Response (QR) code may seem like a dinosaur. Sure, they were all the rage almost a decade ago but excitement burned out pretty fast. A lack of smartphones, internet lags, and clunky execution led to the demise of these black-and-white square images. But technology has caught up with the application and the codes are showing up everywhere.

Just Point and Shoot

A QR code is like a public-access barcode

A QR code works much like a barcode. That little picture is the conduit that will send you to all kinds of information. These codes can lead you to coupons and apps, act as a customer service portal, or even land the user on a corporate video (more on that later). Thanks to upgrades in our phones and wi-fi, most smartphones will read the code without an additional app and take you to the payoff quickly.

The Little QR Code That Could

The QR code was invented in Japan in 1994 by the Denso Wave company to track its manufacturing process for vehicles. By 2002, the codes were enjoying widespread use in Japan. When the QR code first started showing up in North America around 2010, they were a novelty.

Big companies began using QR codes for marketing. Taco Bell and Miller Light created interactive campaigns. Even small start-ups used the codes to build brand awareness. Their business appeal was obvious: they were inexpensive to create, track and adapt. Guidelines and services could be found through a simple internet search.

Popular TV series True Blood was the first to employ a designer QR code. The HBO show had a design team turn the code on its side and feature dripping red blood. This promotional gimmick hit the branding jackpot by customizing the trending technology. The code got major exposure when it appeared on a primetime TV ad.

QR Codes and Corporate Video

A QR code can be used as a direct link to corporate video. An important part of video production is marketing. After all, what good is a video that nobody watches? Increase your exposure by using a QR code as a direct line to a video that promotes your business. This could be anything from an explainer to a testimonial that makes a direct connection with your target market. A code placed in an area that aligns with your business and your desired consumer—think a pet food company that shows up at a pet fair—can deliver new customers. A QR code can replace the need for an app in proximity marketing campaigns.  

taking smartphone pic of QR code
QR codes are a natural fit for proximity marketing

Corporate video promotion is only one way to use a QR code. Here are some other ideas:

  • add to post-purchase packaging so consumers can easily reorder
  • create an interactive experience in a library, museum or any space with added info
  • provide an opportunity for customer reviews
  • use as a digital business card that you can update whenever necessary

Scanning the Future

If you missed out on the QR code the first time around, now is the time to embrace the latest version of this little powerhouse. As a consumer, use it to take advantage of deals, learn more about a product, and engage with brands. As a business, try employing codes as part of your marketing plan and track their impact. The next time you see that familiar pixellated picture, take a moment to see what’s inside.

This post was originally published in September 2011 but has been updated to keep content accurate and relevant.

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