By now you have probably been exposed to the latest in marketing technology although you might not have been aware of what you were seeing. What am I talking about, you ask? Well, have you seen this strange black and white squares that have been popping up at the grocery store, on cutting edge marketing materials and sometimes even on TV recently? I thought so.
What are they you ask? They are known as QR Codes or Quick Response Codes. And those seemingly innocuous squares carry hidden meaning to those in-the-know and anyone with a smart phone can become part of the “in” crowd with the click of a camera shutter.
********* Warning useless digression approaching **********
To the uninitiated they are simply the next generation of bar code but to really understand how they developed and how they can help you, we need to get Mr. Peabody to fire up the Way-back Machine (and leave Sherman behind this time).
The concept behind the QR Code actually originated back in the 90’s and at that time special information was being encoded using a somewhat standard product bar codes but it required a special device called a CueCat to access the special information. This was problematic because the CueCat had to be attached to your computer to work and at that time your average home computer was somewhat less than mobile. So what did you have to do? You had to buy products (sometimes they were even used in magazine ads), bring them to your computer and make a concerted effort to find the Easter egg (if it eggisted at all). The devices were even given away in some places in order to promote the use of this new marketing technology. Needless to say, I am probably the only one left that remembers them because they were such a dismal failure. Another product of technology not being able to keep up with itself.
Fast forward to present day where everyone you meet has a smart phone that is 10x more powerful than the Gargoyle you were attaching your CueCat to back in the day (which was a Wednesday as I recall). Not only that but you would be hard pressed to find a regular cell phone that did not have a built-in camera now. Finally technology has caught up to the brilliant idea.
Digression complete, you may now return to your regularly scheduled posting
So how can you make the most of this technology that has finally come into its own? Well, as is usual with most really broad questions, it all depends. Everyone can make use of these lovely little squares of wonder, you just have to decide what you want to do. Unlike the CueCat enabled codes of the past, QR codes can reveal much more than just a URL. With a QR Code you can encode:
- A URL. This is the most common use. Whether for a website proper, a product micro site or a social media page you can get users looking at what you have to offer right from their phone anywhere and anytime they encounter your square of destiny.
- A secret message. Yep, the next generation of invisible ink is here and there are no special pens required. Send a special message for people “In the Know”, provide a special offer for those with the ability to find it or maybe pass on a special code to accessing special content about your products or services.
- An SMS. Yes, you heard me right. you can encode a phone number and message into your magic block so that you no longer have to say “Text 2323 to 900-555-1212” to get your special prize. People can just point and click their way to entering your contest.
- A Phone Number. Most smart phones are designed to turn any number that even remotely resembles a phone number into a link that can be dialed with the single click. This type of QR Code take it one step further and does not require that you even have the number. Just scan to get the number and click to connect. Now THAT is Quick Response.
- Your Contact Info. The easiest way to get your contact info to a prospect. They scan the code and a new contact is automatically setup with your Name, Address, Phone and Email. What could be easier. These are great for business cards. Who needs a special card scanner when a quick click with your phone does it all and allows you to call NOW, not in 3 days when you get around to scanning the card back at the office.
- An Email. Depending on how their phone functions, you can even queue up an email with a click that will populate the email address it is going to, the subject line and the body. The best email based contest entry vehicle even. People walking by your both at a trade show and click to enter rather than stopping to fill out a form that you might not be able to read anyway.
- Your Geographical Information. Map it, Baby! Can you imagine having your office location encoded so that with a click it opens up a smart phone mapping program and plants a flag at your location so that it is quick and easy for people to get to you?
So, I guess now the question becomes not “How can I use it?”, but “How Can I get my own code?”. Well, that is easy too. There are a number of places online that will allow you generate your own codes for FREE. You just put in the info you want encoded, click a button and presto your code appears ready for download in a format that can be used in print or on the web. In fact you can even find one right here. Just look at the resources menu above and click the “QR Code Generator” link – or anywhere it is linked (like here) in the body if you are super lazy.
So what are you waiting for an engraved invitation? The only limitation for using QR Codes is your own imagination. So get out there and get your own magic square now!