Contributed Column

The Marketer’s Basket

by Sara Blum

QR Codes — A Marketer’s Dream Come True

QR codes, or QRCs, short for quick response codes, went mainstream during the past year.

Developed by the automotive industry to keep track of parts, QRCs are another form of bar code with a powerful difference: The information encoded can be binary or alphanumeric. By scanning more than just binary code, QRCs can be used to return contact information; websites, often used for video; and text messages.

Similar to bar codes that get scanned at the grocery store, QRCs are scanned using the cameras in smart phones. There are a multitude of QRC scanner mobile apps to choose from. QuickMark and i-nigma are two good ones. With so many people carrying smart phones, QRCs are a marketer’s dream come true.

Just about any business can use QR codes. Whether your business is higher education, a nonprofit, retail, or municipality, it can benefit. QR codes are a powerful force in marketing. They provide an immediate connection between you and your customers and the message you want them to see or the action you want them to take. They help you communicate better to your stakeholders, and reach people in new ways.

Marketing has shifted from convincing to educating, and QRCs are a perfect vehicle for linking consumers with information. They are versatile and provide convenience to the user.

• Versatility. One of the great things about QRCs is that they can translate across all marketing mediums and vehicles. They can be integrated into almost any marketing material desired, from print collateral (brochures, flyers, letters) to direct mail to outdoors (bus signs and billboards).

• Convenience. QRCs are a one-stop process for users, directing them to what you want them to see: for example, your contact information, a website, video, and promotions.

• Competitive Differentiation. Get creative with your QRC, both in design and implementation, and you’ll stand out from your competition.

• Measure Results. The actions generated by QRCs can be tracked with analytics.

QRCs can be used to promote events, websites, movies, brands, and contests; deliver contact information — and that’s just a start. Companies should be putting QRCs on every printed piece they generate to drive their consumers to more information about the products or services they are selling.

Lessons have been learned with this emergent technology and here are a few to remember.

• Know what you want your customers to do. Do you want them to watch a video, import your contact information, generate a sale through your mobile site, or gain information?

• Help your customer do it. Put a little clue next to your code like “Scan to win.”

• Make your code work double-time. Design matters. Don’t use an ugly black code; design your code to sell your brand. And then make sure it still scans!

• Track your results. Decide ahead of time what metrics matter to you and build them into your campaign.

• Test your code. Make sure your code can be read by a variety of readers on a variety of devices. Not all scanners will read all codes, and you can’t control which scanner app people opt to download. The less proprietary your code, the better.

• Make sure there’s connectivity where you run your code. If you’re planning on running your code on signage — for instance a real estate listing — make sure there’s cell service where you put your sign.

Good planning, good design, and good execution mean good results. QRCs are here to stay, so why not put them into your marketing arsenal? •

Sara Blum is the president of Acorn Marketing in Burlington, a full-service agency providing marketing services. She can be reached at

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