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Inside//Out: QR codes

QR.pngWouldn't you love to drive people from your physical world marketing efforts to the web in real time? Who wouldn't? This has been a dream of marketers since the popularization of the web and technology is starting to catch up. QR (or quick response) codes are, quite simply two dimensional bar codes. The codes were designed in Japan for the auto industry and they remain popular today.

In marketing, QR codes have started to pop up sporadically in ads and catalogs. I did a post on this technology in 2007 which you can read here. In that post, I noted that this was a potential technology for marketers to leverage in the future. To be blunt, this is still in the future, but the trend is one that is coming quickly (though it may take another form). The ability to grab information and go will build momentum over time.

The entire system works by taking a picture of the code with a cell phone camera, decoding the symbol on the device and taking an action. That action can be directing someone to a URL, passing them a phone number, giving them marketing copy or sending them a text message.

Here is a demo of the technology in this edition of Inside//Out

[Feed readers, click through to the post if you cannot see the video]

  • Quick and cheap to create
  • Simple and compact design
  • Able to be placed on myriad surfaces (paper, cloth, etc.)
  • Convey complex information to mobile customers


  • Lack of consumer education about how QR works
  • Hardware/software readers are scarce
  • Lack of adoption in the US

Key Takeaways:

  • QR should be used for nothing more than a test/experiment at this point
  • The ability for mobile users to get complex content very quickly is a major trend
  • Scanning codes, text message response or the next generation of this idea will push the need further
  • You already see this in real estate in major markets using SMS
  • Integration between physical marketing and digital marketing will continue to converge using new technology

Have you seen these in mainstream ads? Would you consider using them in your campaign? Are you looking at SMS response? Let me know!

There are a number of readers out there. I use the NeoReader on the iPhone. The Kaywa Reader is probably the most popular.

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