Ever have one of those rare moments when you realize you are living in the future? The future you’ve seen in the movies where cars fly, everyone’s clothes are made of aluminum foil and your neighbor is from another planet. The last time I had this feeling was upon using a QR code for the first time.
QR codes are those fuzzy ink blot looking barcodes you may have seen on business cards or promotional materials.
A QR code, or quick-response code, is an information rich scannable two-dimensional barcode. Basically, you snap a picture of the code using your smartphone and content is pushed back to your phone usually in the form of a webpage. Because QR codes allow the user to compress digital content into a tiny box that can be placed almost anywhere, the marketing potential for QR codes is enormous. Here are a few unique ways they’re being used:
- Non-Profit: Women of the Storm, a non-partisan activist group, launched their Be the One campaign to help restore the gulf and placed this massive QR code in the middle of Time Square. Users were instructed to scan the QR code and sign a petition
- Business cards: Placing QR codes on business cards is becoming increasingly more popular. Anyone can easily generate barcode using sites like qrstuff .com, delivr.com, and kaywa.com, and assign to it whatever link you want. For a business card this is probably your personal webpage, company webpage, or your resume. It’s a great way to cram a ton more information on to a business card, plus, it looks cool.
- Coupons: Place a QR code on a storefront window, flyer, print ad or other promotional material that gives scanners a coupon.
- Body Art: Yep. You can do this too.
One issue remains, to be able to use a QR code, users must have a QR scanner app on their phone. In most cases, simply taking a photo with your mobile camera won’t do anything. This presents a pretty significant obstacle for marketers because in order to have a successful QR campaign, users need to:
- Be able to recognize a QR code
- Know how to read it
- Have a smartphone that can access a QR code scanner
- Know where to download a QR code scanner
Since QR codes are so new, there is no one single QR scanner app, there are tons. Some scanner apps are terrible and some are great, but the fact that users have to search for a QR scanning app and select from a dozens of options, none of which being much more popular than the other, creates quite an obstacle for a successful QR experience. I personally have downloaded and tested about a dozen QR scanners and found the ScanLife scanner app to be the best. As QR codes become more mainstream in the U.S. this problem will likely fade, but for now it’s a considerable obstacle.
How familiar are you with QR codes? Do you use them? Do you have a favorite QR scanner app?
Rebecca Jarrett is an intern in the Digital Innovation Group (DIG) at Engauge. She graduated from The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in advertising. Rebecca is interested in music, pop culture, and emerging technology.