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QR Codes: The Next Frontier
By: Kaitlin T. Gallucci
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You need a smartphone to read it, so it’s a mobile thing, right? Absolutely. And it’s a hyperlink that brings you to the Internet, so it’s got to be a digital strategy? Sure. But it’s included in print advertising, in magazines, and on billboards, so it’s traditional? Certainly. So what exactly would you consider it? It’s all of the above, and that’s what makes the potential uses for QR codes in marketing so interesting.

As Hamilton Chan, CEO of Paperlinks & Paperspring, described, “Traditionally, hyperlinks live in browser windows on desktop monitors. Today, however, some hyperlinks are moving offline, where they can be ‘clicked’ by people roaming the real world.” A QR code, like a traditional bar code, can be placed on anything, allowing consumers to “quickly link from the real-world experience to rich web content.” An incredibly innovative tool, the use of QR codes is blurring the line between the “real” world and the digital online world. With the prevalent use of smartphones and the dozens of free QR code scanner apps available on the app market, there's nothing to keep this technology from entering mainstream marketing. Just imagine the value this could create for businesses and retailers of all sizes and types.

It’s virtually a rule of thumb for marketing messages to include a call to action: “Visit my website!” “Call me!” “Buy me!” “Shop in my store!” Typically we rely on copywriting and design to make these “calls” prominent and enticing to our audience. But a QR code silently creates a sense of curiosity (“What is this? What will it show me?”), without pushing. For example, this past summer Calvin Klein Jeans utilized a QR code for its well-known NYC billboard space; the code shown on the billboard didn’t merely link to a static image that would normally occupy such a space, but rather to a 40-second video ad—richer content for consumer engagement. So, Calvin Klein turned their outdoor ad space into a video spot without having to rig a giant television screen to a billboard—just by printing a QR code accompanied by one simple line of intriguing copy.

Why should a QR code be any more effective than merely including a URL link in text? Honestly, the reason is probably just the sheer convenience. Rather than manually typing a web address into a smart phone browser, or attempting to remember the URL for later, consumers can just scan a QR code and the content is in front of them within seconds. Going to a website certainly isn’t an arduous task, but the less time and effort it takes, the more likely it is that your consumers will follow your call to action. On top of it all, there is the added benefit that your marketing progress is measurable. I may not know how many people saw my print ad, but now I can track how many scanned the QR code and visited the attached link.

Not only is this valuable for ads, but QR codes can be placed on anything: store fronts, products, business cards, etc. The possibilities, and the marketing potential, are limitless.

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About the Author
Kaitlin T. Gallucci is a New York based direct and digital marketing strategist. She tweets here.
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