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Tips for using QR codes in marketing

By John Foley Jr.

As people become more dependent on their smartphones, the opportunities to benefit from QR codes continue to grow for marketing departments.

QR codes connect people between traditional media and new media in just a matter of seconds, making printed materials truly interactive.

Forward-thinking companies are already seeing success with QR codes in a number of different areas. These include business cards, promotional materials, outdoor signs and banners, and flyers.

While the use of QR codes is certainly on the rise in many places, there still may be a high level of unfamiliarity within your target audience. 

If you are thinking about adding a QR code to your printed materials, it will be important to break down potential barriers with education.

Here are a few ways to help ensure your audience becomes aware of what a QR code is, and what they can do with it, before they actually see yours:

Place one in your email signature, blog posts and online newsletters.
Sure, a QR code’s primarily application may be on print.

However, putting a QR code on an email or a Web page may help to raise curiosity. You can let consumers click on the QR code as a link, and direct them to a page that describes what they are and how they work.

Provide how-to information on your printed materials.
We may strive to keep our message short, sweet and simple on our postcards, flyers and advertisements.

However, if you are including a QR code as a call-to-action, provide a bit of how-to text on the printed piece.

Specific instructions that make it clear that people can take a picture of the QR code with their phone or a webcam to access additional information or listing a Web site URL that lets them download QR code reader software is a start.

Polo Ralph Lauren, winner of the 2009 Mobile Marketer of the Year award by Mobile Marketer, provided how-to text in a U.S. Open promotion that included QR codes. If you are looking for inspiration, that ad might be a great place to look.

Designers – take advantage of the Reed-Solomon error-correction code!
QR codes may still be readable with up to 30 percent deterioration. This allows you to take a few liberties when it comes to designing a QR code. Perhaps you can put your logo in the middle of a QR code, or add a wrapper around the QR code that fits in with the overall creative theme of your printed materials.

Adding a creative touch may encourage people to take the initiative to scan the QR code just to see what will happen.

John Foley Jr. is president/CEO of interlinkOne, Wilimington, MA. Reach him at [email protected]