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What the heck is a QR Code anyways?
May 1st 2011 -

They are those crazy little square boxes in magazines and on the web but you’ve probably been wondering, “What in the world are they for?” Is this some super-secret geek symbol or maybe evidence that we are not alone in the universe? For those who are not sure what to think about this strange new techno-incarnation, here’s the 411.

Quick Response codes, or QR for short, are simply a new manifestation of a very familiar technology we use every day – barcodes. Traditional UPC-style barcodes use vertical lines to encode the data they embody but of course the more data you try to embed the longer the barcode gets until it’s inefficiently long. Newer 2-dimensional barcodes have addressed much of this limitation but can still be impractical for many intended purposes. QR codes are a type of 2-D barcode but with much more scalability and flexibility which are important considerations as you read on.

One of the chief benefits of QR coding is that it harnesses the marketing potential of our ever-expanding mobile marketplace. Newer mobile phones and PDAs can capture the QR code and decode its contents very quickly, then present the data or the option to pursue the destination that the QR code contains. It satisfies the instant gratification that mobile web surfers crave and it captures the potential consumer’s interest at the instant that they are presented with the advertisement or product instead of postponing their curiosity until they are in front of a computer and potentially losing their short attention span. This is why you’ll see more of these codes showing up anywhere you see advertising… including billboards, buses, and even benches! Users with a camera phone simply snap a picture of the QR code and are presented with the opportunity to read the information or open a link to the webpage where they can learn more.

The information contained in the QR code can be text, a URL or any other data you want to share quickly. It can be linked to a website, a business card or vCard contact, open a text message or an email. The possibilities are as endless as the user’s own imagination. This is why you’ve seen them popping up in magazines – the advertiser is anxious to get you to scan the QR code which will in turn take you to more relevant information about the advertiser or their product.

QR codes can be included with printed materials, business cards, in-store displays, and even email and direct market mailings to further connect the target customer with the relevant information they need to move from potential to purchase in the shortest possible space of time. For non-profit purposes, the QR code can drive traffic to the web for more information about the organization which can include a call to action.

QR codes are also highly trackable, making them an ideal method for gauging market impact of any marketing campaign or promotional efforts. The code itself is free to generate and distribute license-free, so there’s really no cost at all to leveraging this emerging technological device. As an added method of tracking ROI, you can opt to link the QR code to a special offer that is not displayed anywhere else in the campaign, effectively rewarding those technocrats who actually use the QR code with an exclusive offer or promotion.

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