Saturday, September 11, 2010

QR Code as Mobile Marketing Tool


Pictured above is QR code for my Vaspers account at YouTube, where I upload my Str8 Sounds videos and some client videos. If you scan it with your cell phone, it will take you directly to my YouTube page.

QR Code (QR means Quick Response) is the hot new marketing tool that smart corporations are using, often mixing them into all print and web promotional material. You should start using them right now, ride the wave of innovation and experimentation.

What do QR codes do?

They're a type of 2D (two dimensional) bar code that people can scan with their Android, iPhone, or other smart phone. The QR code image triggers the cell phone browser to navigate to a website, blog, Facebook or Twitter page, mobile version of your website, or any URL you use to generate the code.

QR codes represent a form of "hard linking", i.e., embedding web hyperlinks into the physical world, on solid objects of offline reality.

It's similar to using your cell phone to scan the bar code of a product in a store to discover ingredients, country of origin, expiration date, technical specifications, user reviews, price comparisons, and other shopping data valuable to customers.

One of the main advantages of QR code is that it solves the problem of long or complex URLs for product tracking and web navigating. But you must use a URL shortener, like TinyURL or, to shorten it first, before submitting it to the QR code generator, because a complex QR code will be less easy to scan with a steady hand.

The uniquely designed website 9 Threads explains further, in "QR Codes: The Future of Mobile Marketing is Now".


These printed checkerboard-looking codes were originally created by Denso-Wave in Japan in 1994 to track auto parts through the manufacturing process. They’ve been appearing in the U.S. on FedEx packages, in deliveries and in some ads - and are spreading quickly.

Predictably, QR codes have already taken off in Japan. In Tokyo, you run your phone over a sandwich or even the tag on fresh produce at the market, and it tells you not only how many calories are in the food, but where the ingredients come from – a major concern in the Japanese culture.

Japanese marketers have been exploring ways to leverage the technology in lots of interesting ways. In some malls, escalator handrails are lined with QR codes. When you point your phone at them, up pops a coupon for 15% off a pedicure at a spa on the third floor or a free ginger beer with the purchase of an entree at a restaurant in the food court along with pictures of the menu items.

Each QR code can contain up to 4,296 characters (or a string of 7,089 numbers). Users with smart phone cameras and the right software installed can take a picture of the QR code, which causes the phone to react in any of a number of ways.

The code can launch the web browser and the URL contained in the code, launch the email client and auto-fill a particular address, prompt the user to send a text message by launching the SMS software, direct the phone to download and install an app (with user permission) or even make a phone call.

The codes can appear on newspaper pages, signs, buses, business cards (like mine pictured to the left), or any object that you can print a decent-resolution image on. My iPhone (running ScanLife) even properly resolves the instructions in a QR code that I capture from my computer screen.

This billboard in SoHo marks the official premiere of Calvin Klein Jeans’ Fall 2010 advertising campaign. And it features nothing but a headline, logo and QR code.


Take advantage of the free QR Code Generators to start creating individual codes for various purposes, and work them into your marketing plans. I use the Kaywa QR Code Generator.

Put a QR code wherever you'd put your email address, business phone, website or blog, and other contact information.

The real challenge is to think of imaginative ways to use a QR code for publicity, marketing, or advocacy, before your competitors do, which could also get media attention for your clever QR code implementation.

What websites, blogs, social network accounts, business phone, landing page, or other entity do you want to generate individual QR codes for, and how will you use them in your marketing, sales, and PR material?

Start with some simple, obvious ideas.

Put a specific QR code on your business card, company stationary, promo stickers, product packaging, catalogs, direct mail, print ads, billboards, and coffee mugs.

Print QR codes on all the bags into which you place your customers' purchases.

Use a code that links to your ecommerce site. When the customer gets home, tries out the product, loves it, and wants to immediately buy some more, they don't have to search for your ecommerce URL. They just scan the QR code on the bag, and off they go to your shopping site.

Print a QR code linking to your ecommerce site on a discount coupon that can be scanned and used to buy products online.

Don't blow it.

9 Threads goes on to explain how Nordstroms goofed up their QR code promotion.


The QR code that Nordstrom’s displayed in their windows resolves to the Men’s Apparel section of the Nordstrom’s website. They failed to use a URL shortening service and presented a 117 character URL -- and therefore necessitated an overly complex QR code. (Because the more information results in a larger, more intricate code, the natural unsteadiness of the user's hand makes it harder for the image sensor to accurately resolve an image.)
The more egregious error is that the URL in question was not optimized for mobile devices and was therefore very user-unfriendly. Additionally, content delivered in this manner -- at this stage of the QR adoption cycle -- should be more easily digestible and more compelling than a standard eCommerce page.
TIP: If you've got a flash-based site or a site that doesn't translate well on mobile devices, ask your digital people to do a browser detect for mobile Operating Systems and then redirect that traffic to your facebook business page (be sure to use the touch version for touchscreen-enabled devices) or even your LinkedIn profile.

This is good advice even if you're not planning on using QR codes to drive traffic.

9 Threads also provides a list of bar code readers.


The best of the available readers in alphabetical order are:
BeeTagg supports a wide range of mobile devices and reads QR-Code, Datamatrix and the proprietary code BeeTagg.
Compatability Download Instructions
i-nigma is pre-installed by all of Japan’s major mobile manufacturers and reads QR-Code and Datamatrix.
Compatability Download Instructions
Kaywa supports a range of mobile devices and reads QR Code and Datamatrix.
Compatability Download Instructions
Mobiletag scans 1D barcodes EAN 13 and UPC as well as the 2D barcodes Datamatrix, QR Code, Flashcode and Fotokody.
Compatability and download instructions
NeoReader supports a range of mobile devices and reads QR codes, Datamatrix, Aztec Codes, EAN, UPC and Code 128.
Compatability Download Instructions
QuickMark supports a range of mobile devices and reads QR Code, Datamatrix and the proprietary code QuickMark.
Compatability and download instructions
ScanLife supports a wide range of mobile devices and reads and the proprietary code EZcode.
Compatability and download instructions
UpCode supports a range of mobile devices and reads the proprietary code UpCode, and in Symbian phones QR Code and DataMatrix.
Compatability Download Instructions
Zxing has clients for Android, Java, and iPhone but not Windows mobile devices and reads QR Code, Code 39, Code 128, UPC-A, UPC-E, EAN-8 and EAN-13.
Compatability and download instructions


Google Shopper
-- FREE bar code scanner Android app

Video about Google Shopper on YouTube

CNET "QR Code Readers for iPhone"

Mashable "5 Unique Uses for QR Code"

Google QR Code Generator

Kaywa QR Code Generator

Wayne Sutton "11 Must See QR Code Marketing and Implementation Campaign Videos"

Yale University Collaborative Learning Center "QR Codes and RF Readers"

Nokia Mobile Codes

Stanford School of Medicine "Bar Codes and QR Codes"

Delivr QR Code Generator (includes URL shortener if a web address is too long or complex)

2d Code blog about news related to QR and other bar codes

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