QR Codes: Marketing Fad or Future?

Recently a client of ours for whom we do everything from web site work to direct marketing asked us to place a QR code on their next print ad. A QR code, for those unfamiliar, is a digital fingerprint — that looks like a square made up of a seemingly random organization of pixels — that when scanned with a smart phone, sends the user to a web page where the user can take advantage of an offer, buy an item, learn more etc.. In order to do this, the smart phone user must first download a “QR Reader, ” which will enable their smart phone to capture the data.

A key benefit of a QR code is that it works in real-time. In the case of our ad, if the person reviewing it likes what they see and is presumably carrying their smart phone, rather than needing to call a 1-800 number and go through voice-prompt purgatory, or find a computer to navigate to a web site, they experience the immediate gratification of being directed straight to a site designed specifically for their device, with easily accessible information. The use of a QR code for printed direct mail is perhaps one step more compelling. Rather than having to fill out a post card, find a stamp and mail back a response, you can scan the QR code and go straight to the mobile-formatted content.

From a marketing and sales perspective, not only is this more enticing, but it’s more measurable since you can measure both impressions as well as conversions, something not possible with a post card.

The conversation about QR codes has ratcheted up recently and they are popping up everywhere, on storefronts and posters, at tradeshows, on all matter of printed materials (I haven’t seen any tattoos yet, but I’m sure they’re out there).  QR codes provide a simple, and immediate mechanism for people to respond to an appealing ad or offer.  Have you seen and responded to a QR code or are you using them in your internet marketing mix?  I’d like to hear your perspective.

We’re heading to a tipping point in which mobile usage will be so ubiquitous that QR codes will become one more commodity. But for this small moment in time, they are a fresh addition to the marketing landscape. The time it takes for smart ideas to become commodities is attenuating, and QR codes will probably be standard operating procedure soon enough.