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QR Codes: Now I get it

Jul 1, 2011 12:00 AM

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About a year ago I downloaded a QR Code reader on my iPhone and started clicking away to see what this was all about. I thought it was interesting, but other things took priority and it did not get the attention it deserved. This past week while with a bunch of printers I now see the value. But only if used properly!

QR Codes are here to stay and very convenient for mobile device users. The new mobile devices are coming with QR Code readers included in them.

After my second look at QR Codes a year later I now get it. On the way flying home last week I started scanning the codes on airport signage, in magazines, on brochures. Some were great, others stunk badly. We now have another bazooka for marketing and what you do with this technology is important. Don’t use it for the cool factor, but to add value and use your creativity.

Here is what I like about QR Codes. Quick access to information from my iPhone. All you do it point, click, and the web content is there. Bam! Add to your favorites if you like. Now, it is up to the business using the QR Code to put the right content in there so I am excited about what is behind the curtain. Use it poorly and you will disappoint prospects. If you use of these codes poorly as many did when e-mail marketing, social media, text messaging, and PURLs hit the street, you will slow down adoption of this technology and hurt your reputation.

A few examples of the good and bad use of QR Codes:

Walking through Philadelphia Airport I saw an advertisement on the wall for Big Green Egg which had a QR Code on it. I clicked and fired up a You Tube Video advertisement explaining how wonderful their grill was. Not bad for an early adopter, but this tactic may not fly down the road if too many of these are 30 second advertisements that look like they should be only shown while watching General Hospital. They didn’t position as well as they could so I had no idea what I was getting into, I would have rather seen “learn more” or something that explained what I was getting into by looking behind the curtain.

Next I looked through the in flight magazine and saw a printer selling different wedding invitations and materials. Pretty cool, but the QR Codes were really small on the page and my QR Code reader could not get them to work no matter what I did. Ugh! It frustrated me that I spent so much time trying to get behind the curtain. They will fail. They had ten QR Codes on a two page to see the different wedding products and none of them worked. This will give QR Codes a bad name quickly if too many botch the use of them in print.

Next stop, QR Code for Luggage Online who had a nice advertisement in the same magazine. The problem with this one was that all it did was bring me to their website which was not designed for a mobile device. It was frustrating with little print and difficult to navigate.

One more QR Code before napping. In the same magazine was an ad for Tito Vodka along with a big QR Code. Now we are talking. By now I needed a good stiff drink by now. Give me a double! I liked this one since it did not fire up a You Tube video immediately with some big sales guy in my face, but instead came to a well designed mobile website with several short videos on how they make the Vodka, a little about the company, etc. It was well done and you could choose what you wanted to do. On my iPhone it was easy to get around and read the print.

After clicking another couple dozen QR Codes I could see how convenient this can be to get at information quickly, but the concern with the unknown behind the curtain. This could be a waste of time and become a bunch of white noise quickly if we are not careful. Remember those first emails, social networking efforts, Purls, text advertisements you received? You are only as good as the execution and thought behind the technology.

I was with a couple dozen printers this past week who saw huge potential to grow sales by using QR codes. The USPS has an incentive on postage through July if you use QR Codes in your mailings. You save 3% on postage. If you are going to do anything with marketing, you will need to get with it here. Growth of this approach to sharing information is going to grow 14,000 % next year. Insane growth. For now, embrace this new technology and put out good content used properly.

Michael Casey is president & founder of Survey Advantage (, a strategic partner with several associations and franchises. Through partnership with MIS providers, the company offers automated survey services.