This past week, while I was on my 10-day July 4th vacation to a northern Minnesota lake, I made a stop at the local bottle shop which was attached to both a bar and city hall. The establishment was located in a town in which the heart is an intersection consisting of a post office, sportsman’s club, and the city hall/bar/bottle shop. The population is also under 400 (in an earlier tweet I had left off a zero, and stated 40–sorry!).
I mention the town’s smallness and remote location not because I think they would be backwards and wouldn’t know much about technology, but because in such a relaxing location I wouldn’t think my creative tech juices would start flowing. After all, I was on vacation for 10 days without access to the Internet (though city hall had WiFi freely available whether intentionally or unintentionally). Even this evening on the 12th, I still have yet to log into Facebook and check status updates.
While I was at the cash register I glanced over to a board of posters. I only recall one poster, what it was about, the images, and even the text, not because of the cleverness of how it depicted the consequences of procuring alcohol to minors, but the intriguing image in the lower right-hand corner. It was a two dimensional bar code. Fine print told me to take a picture with my mobile phone, and my QR reader app will link directly to the Minnesota Public Safety Web site for more information.
If I had a QR reader on my phone, I would have snapped a pic and provided the direct link here. Now that I have researched what QR codes are and installed an app, I am ready for the next QR enabled ad I come by. (Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tip: no matter how hard I searched via Google and Northstar, I couldn’t find the site it may have linked to, thereby they have good use of a QR code, but bad SEO. The QR code would be the only way for me to access additional info.)
QR stands for Quick Response and was created and used in Japan at first to provide product information for parts. It soon made its way to advertising as a way for mobile phone users to snap a pic and have an app take them directly to a web site encoded in the code. The term QR is trademarked, but I’m not sure what the non-trademarked name would be, so I am unable to call it by an un-trademarked name. Perhaps “mobile bar code,” but mobile bar code is just one application of a QR code, technically it can do so much more. Plus it uses a square matrix, not the bars you would traditionally see in UPC codes.
Creating QR codes is free and, unlike devoting time and motivation to update Twitter and Facebook, it is TRULY free from an implementation standpoint. Just go to a web site like qrcode.kaywa.com, enter in your URL, and it will generate a code for you to copy and paste into your marketing materials.
Why is this relevant? Well, for me it caught my eye and I still remember the poster. It could also create branding if you are one of the first ones doing it in your area. It also removes the necessity to stop, write down poster details or fall prey to the inability to commit details to memory. (Or, in my case, the failed attempt to find it via search!) It gives visitors a takeaway much like the now “old fashioned” posters with thin tear-off strips near the bottom containing a phone number. (Instead of a web site, you can encode a phone number for smart phones to call.)
Yes, I love this because as an IT administrator I don’t need to get involved. I just need to promote the idea. There are no processes, editorial reviews, link curation, automation tasks or designs to deal with. You enter the URL you want the code to link to, generate the image, and then print it on your materials. There is no back-end database to maintain. You don’t even need an account such as what you would need for a URL shortening site such as bit.ly. The URL is encoded within the image, not in some back end database requiring a look-up or a secondary site. IT’S REALLY FREE!
Now, I may not have been the first on the planet to discover QR, I certainly know many articles have been posted about the marketing benefits, and they have appeared alongside ads in magazines for some time. However, it is not yet ubiquitous, so I know I am not the last and there is much ground that can be covered.
Some careful readers may note that I mentioned use of an App, even after I discouraged creating apps for your site in a previous post. I’ve come under (friendly) prodding from one reader about whether apps are good or not, and do expect me to go over this in a future post. However, this is an example of what an app should do. Provide a productivity service: snap a picture, decode the bar code, go to the link. Now, if I created an app that only decoded my QR codes and only served up my web site, then I would be a hypocrite. But the app discussion is for later.
However, it is interesting to note, that without a mobile web site, you are harming your URL load time. Also, you can’t use a QR code to link to your App–sorry. (I grin as my case for mobile sites gains another point!)
Useful links about QR Codes:
- QR Code Generator from Kaywa: http://qrcode.kaywa.com
- More about Mobile Barcodes: http://www.mobile-barcodes.com
- QR Reader I downloaded and used from BeeTag: http://www.beetagg.com/supportedphones
Kaywa didn’t have a reader app for my Blackberry Pearl, but BeeTag did. I just launch my camera, snap the pic, and BeeTag automatically kicks in linking me to the web site.
Finally, the million dollar question is, “will this help market my brand?” I don’t know the market saturation yet or how much of the general public knows what these are and how many have apps to read it, but I’ll check on that. Again, it’s free from an implementation and upkeep standpoint, and if you don’t mind putting a code on your print materials, why not? It is kind of a fashion statement and Lendorff.Kaywa demonstrates putting them on a nifty space invader scarf. It definitely peaks interest since it is still new to much of the population. Heck, it got me to download an app.