QR codes still remain a mystery to many people in the United States. Around the world the popularity of QR codes has gone from tech usage, to fashionably popular, and has settled into common place usability for many purposes.
In case you don't know what I'm revering to, a QR code is a square barcode that's made up of many dots. It has smaller squares in 3 of the corners to help the barcode reader know which end is up or down. The "reader" is actually any smartphone with a "QR Code App" installed. When you scan a QR code with your smartphone you are whisked away to a website.
The "QR" actually stands for Quick Response, which refers to the short amount of time it takes you to turn on your phone, take a pic, and arrive at the website. Typically it's quicker to scan a code than it is to type a website address into your phone.
QR codes can be used for other things than just bringing people to websites. They can also be used to share contact information between smartphones, trigger a telephone call, encode a text message, send a PayPal payment, save an event to your calendar, encode a WiFi network setting, open an application on a smartphone, and record a location in a map program. With these options and many others, you are limited only by your creativity.
Unfortunately what I've found through the United States is that marketing guys lack creativity, even worse, they have a complete lack of understanding on how QR code technology works. Some marketing agencies will even offer a QR code as a value added item in your ads without first considering if you should even be using it in your ad placement.
Let me go over what are the two most important points of QR code usage so you understand the basics before introducing these into your marketing campaigns.
1. A smartphone needs 3G, 4G, or WiFi connection in order to send users to a website. As I mentioned above, there are other reasons to use QR codes than directing people to websites but generic advertising typically directs users to the web for "more information." I've seen plenty of QR codes in subway stations, on subway trains, in airplane magazines, and on posters inside of buildings where cell phone reception is impossible.
QR codes are in common place usage at large trade shows like JCK in Las Vegas and the SmartShow in Chicago. I've also seen small businesses set up booths with QR codes at local Chamber of Commerce and community business networking events. Regretfully the poor cell phone reception inside large cement and steel buildings usually prevents these types of QR code usage.
Before you slap a QR code on your ad you need to ask yourself if the user will even be able to use it at the location you intend it to be used. Otherwise it's a technology fail, and a waste of your time and money. Always have a backup marketing plan when doing in-person marketing.
2. Placement of the QR code on your ad is important. A newspaper, magazine, business card, or direct mail piece do not have the issues that signs, posters, or indoor billboards have. More often than not I always see QR codes in the bottom corner of signs and posters, and more often than not those signs are hung at eye level. When the poster is conveniently hung at eye level it makes the QR code inconveniently locate at about knee height or lower. Unless you're a techno geek with a fascination in QR codes (um, like me) no one in their right mind will bother crouching down to scan the code.
I've seen posters on the side of public trash cans in New York City with QR codes at ankle level. I've seen QR codes on huge indoor billboards at Gatwick Airport in London with QR codes at knee level. I've also seen QR codes low on movie posters in Bordeaux, France. Incorrect QR code placement is misunderstood on a global level.
Before you slap a QR code on your sign or poster, make sure that the ultimate placement of the poster will make for easy QR code scanning without bending over, otherwise your target audience will not bother scanning.
So keep these 2 important points in mind as you develop your own QR code marketing and always test your QR codes before you deploy them.