Using QR Codes Effectively: Beyond the Advertisement

QR Code BDC advertisingJust when you think you have everything figured out about marketing your business, a new technology comes along and shakes things up a bit. Doing the shaking today is an exciting piece of technology gaining traction and showing up in traditional media used by mainstream Americans and it looks like the black and white square above. Not very impressive? What if this square transformed your printed sign into a video, your lawn sign into a virtual tour, your furniture brochure into an interactive website?

QR codes, little known a few months ago, are increasingly visible in everything from print ads and brochures to lawn signs. A recent study sponsored by Mobio, a technology company, indicates these codes have become popular with the 35-44 year old age bracket, representing 25% QR code users. There is wide acceptance in the 45-54 age group as well, accounting for 22% of those who scan QR codes with their smartphones. In addition, the majority of scanners are female: 64% to be exact. These numbers suggest an early adoption by Generation X and baby boomer women, a dynamic and desirable segment of the market. So what are these black and white boxes?

QR codes are like next-generation bar codes. These codes are generated online with a QR code web application, downloaded and printed in any way imaginable: stickers, posters, billboard, coasters, promo materials, t-shirts, etc. From there, the end-user is able to take a picture of the code with their smart phone, which initiates an action on their phone like linking to a website, video, application, or downloading a file without the hassle of typing your website address into their computer. Essentially, QR codes allow you to transition readers of your two-dimensional printed materials to your online content.

When should you consider using QR codes in your print materials?

Limited space: Whether you are creating a tri-fold brochure, poster, magazine or newspaper advertisement, there is limited space to work with. Every page added to the design results in increased production costs; not a happy thing when dealing with limited marketing budgets. When the user scans a QR code, they are able to access more information online if they are interested in your message. It really expands what you are able to do creatively with your advertisements without limiting you to the space allotted. It literally allows you to think “outside the box,” and lets interested customers experience something beyond the advertisement.

Does adding a QR code add value for your target market? A key to deciding whether to add a QR code comes down to the value proposition. Is there something worthwhile, interesting or engaging that you’re linking to with the QR code? A good example of adding value to a printed catalog is to include a QR code to a product demonstration video, showing features and benefits of the product, or explaining how it is best used. The end consumer gets to see the product in action, something that is difficult to do with print. Another way to add value is to include a call to action where people who scan the QR code are able to download a coupon, enter to win free gear, get invited to a VIP event, download a white paper, etc.

QR Code Ideas

A cool idea from a recent article at CNN.com is for real estate agents to use QR codes on their “for sale” signs, linking the prospect to a video tour of a home. This keeps the potential customer’s interest and offers another touch point, giving a unique glimpse into the floor plan of the home, without getting the carpets dirty. How about car window stickers which link to a video test drive for potential buyers? A business card linking to a 30-second elevator speech would be great way to introduce your company to potential clients. There are some great options here for the savvy salesperson.

Measuring Response

How many people looked at my signage? Is there a positive return on investment for this marketing channel? Should I spend my money somewhere else, or perhaps move my sign to a higher-traffic location? These are all real and valid questions which require hard data to answer. Many QR code generators have built-in tracking functionality, showing how many people scanned your QR code and visited your links. This gives you the right data to allow you to adjust your print budget, print distribution, and signage location.

Printed materials have been, and will likely remain a viable advertising medium for businesses looking to expand their reach. QR codes expand on that value, letting your customers learn more about your company and your products with dynamic, interactive elements on their personal mobile device. This technology helps blend real-world and online presentations together, enriching the experience for the user. At the same time, advertisers have an opportunity to communicate with customers in many different mediums through one small, funny-looking, black and white-printed box. There is tremendous value here for both the customer and the advertiser: a win-win for both parties.

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