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Mobile world, now welcome the QR Code

September 8, 2011

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Most people today may have already seen them but without knowing what they are-- small black and white boxes with tiny lines and meaningless graphics in the corner of a magazine advertisement, on a softdrink, a coffee shop, or even on a pack of cigarettes. They may look meaningless to most people, but to major advertisers that strongly believe in their usefulness, they are anything but meaningless.

Those small graphics are actually called "QR Codes" for "Quick Response Codes" and consist of a whole new method of effectively connecting with consumers with the use of their smartphones.

"And you may not know this, but QR Codes have actually been around for a few years in other parts of the world such as in Japan, China and a few more countries. And now they are making their appearance in the U.S. and Canada for a few reasons," says Patrick Donnelly, a mobile solutions designer for

"The first reason is that, thanks to the rapidly growing popularity of the iPhone, consumers are finally embracing smartphones in their everyday life. QR Code technology makes it possible for companies and their brands to embrace mobile phones as a vital tool to reach a lot more consumers and in different venues that were simply not possible just a few short years ago," added Donnelly.

Internet marketers and advertisers must first create a QR Code, which can be generated by simply entering a URL at a variety of websites, such as BeQRious and Delivr. That QR Code can then be printed in an ad, placed on a website, distributed in a brochure, or even offered as a temporary tattoo!

To read QR Codes, a consumer must first install a QR Code reader application on a smartphone or other mobile device such as a tablet. Most of these apps such as Qrafter and RedLaser are free of charge.

Then the smartphone can be pointed at the code, which is scanned with the device's camera. Instantly, the code then leads the consumer to the encoded URL, which can be any kind of online content-- a mobile website, social media site, online video, or other marketing material that can be of interest to the consumer.

"However, QR Codes have a few limits," said Nick Jerome, a marketing service manager with FastSigns. "For example, a typical restaurant might use QR Codes on their menu to unlock a special coupon. Or, magazines can bring an article to life with a QR Code that links to a video with extra article content. Or an organization might use them to promote an upcoming event such as a golf tournament. Another example would be a business that would utilize several QR Codes to host a scavenger hunt at a tradeshow."

Jerome explained that just as important as the code itself is the marketing that surrounds and promotes it. Any code and in whatever form is only as good as the marketing 'punch' behind it in the first place, and still needs to be used on the right consumer that is being targeted by the product for it to be effective by the marketer or advertiser.

"The concept is to actively market the code on signs, graphics and print advertising with a call to action," said Jerome. And the ones that have understood that from the beginning are leading other advertisers in doing the same.

Another concept to QR Code success is to link to a mobile-friendly site. After all, a consumer accessing a full-blown, tiny-print website on a smartphone may immediately click away.

"QR Codes on marketing material can be effective in many different ways," says Gus Velissarios, founder of "The whole idea is to perform in a mobile environment. For example, if we were to create a QR Code to render a YouTube link, not all smartphones render YouTube videos the same way, so we would create a landing page for a video that is available in various formats that can be viewed via mobile such as 3GP, MP4 and FLV."

It's all about incentive, explained Velissarios. If consumers have a reason to scan the code, visit the link, and see what it's all about, they will-- especially if there's a sweetener in it, such as a discount in price or a free sample.

The QR Code itself is useless without good marketing material to back it up, and that's one of the key elements to remember. "Don't just jump on the bandwagon simply because your competition is doing it," said Velissarios. "Find out what your competition is utilizing for and create a better incentive for your customer to want to scan your code to visit your offer page."

"And to be one step ahead of the competition, make sure that your message renders to a mobile website," added Velissarios.

QR Codes are currently undergoing a rather quiet evolution, as more people figure out how to use them, more businesses incorporate them into their marketing plan, new technologies develop, and the codes themselves become more interactive.

"I strongly believe that QR Codes will keep evolving with technology," explained Velissarios. "I think that more and more brands and local markets will continue to utilize QR Codes for many years to come. The more fun and interactive they become the greater the usage."

If they're not fun to use, QR Codes might actually end up driving consumers away. So it's important that companies use them to offer real value to their customers and clients.

"QR Code reader apps and mobile phone technology are improving rapidly and in turn making it easier to use the codes," explained Jerome. "As QR Code utilization increases, advertisers need to ensure mobile marketing campaigns are streamlined and worthwhile for the end-user. Sending users to non-mobile websites and landing pages and leaving out the call to action can actually drive users away from using QR Codes in the future-- in essence completely defeating the concept."

Even the look of QR Codes might be changing, making them less anonymous collections of black-and-white lines and boxes, and more logos or even works of graphic art in a few cases.

"There are a handful of QR Code designers that are making these otherwise binary codes into pieces of art that are scannable," said Donnelly. "Creating branded barcodes with colors, logos and objects create a more human feel that creates a good first impression for the codes themselves, and that's the whole idea."


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