By now you have probably seen an advertisement or magazine article sporting a QR Code. If you’re not familiar with this technology, Quick Response Codes are those strange looking little blocks of black and white squares that look like static on an old television screen. They are the next generation of bar codes. You simply scan the code on your smart phone using any one of several free downloadable apps and the code takes you almost instantly to a pre-determined website.
Like any new technology, you have to wonder if it will catch on with the general public or quickly go the way of betamax. From my point of view, I see big potential for this technology in marketing — if it’s used creatively. These codes make it possible to take print communication up a notch and integrate video or interactive elements to the message. A college viewbook could place a QR Code next to a paragraph on campus life and steer the audience to a video tour. A foodservice supplier (let’s say our longtime client U.S. Foodservice) could place a QR Code in their product catalog and take customers to a YouTube video demonstrating how to prepare and serve a new recipe.
Here at Inprint we are in the final stages of a project that we thought offered an ideal use of QR Codes. We recently designed informational kiosks that will be placed at access points along the Upper James River Water Trail in Botetourt County, Virginia. The 3’ x 5’ displays include maps and essential information about being responsible and safe on the river. The kiosk points out Virginia law regarding fishing licenses. We generated a QR Code that takes the user to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' site where he/she can buy a license right through their smart phone. Elsewhere on the kiosk, canoeists and kayakers are urged to monitor river levels for safety. A QR Code takes them directly to NOAA’s site for real time information. These are two good examples of using QR Codes to extend the usefulness of a printed sign and offer a genuinely valuable service to the user. The NOAA site's URL is nearly 50 characters long. It's doubtful that anyone would stand at the river's edge and type that URL into their smart phone browser.
The gratuitous use of this or any other technology diminishes its value. The key will be to use it to truly enhances an advertising concept or provide some sort of service or convenience to the user. We will undoubtedly find more creative ways to make use of QR Codes. If you’ve seen other innovative ways to use them, we’d love to hear your story.