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July 16, 2011
QR Codes: A Summertime Refresher
If you’re from Philadelphia or environs, you’ve probably spent at least one weekend Down the Shore (pronounced “DownAShore”) in New Jersey by now. It’s a quick trip of between one and two hours, with the notable exceptions of Saturday mornings or Sunday evenings when it’s three to four hours thanks to the crazy amount of traffic on the Garden State Parkway. Everyone has a place, rents a place, or borrows a place because everyone knows someone with “a place” at the shore.

Boy, do I miss those trips! I have not, and probably will not, get to the beach this summer because there’s just too much going on at home, workwise and otherwise. And since it’s been too hot to play outside I’ve been in my office/dungeon learning things. I have a long list of Things I Don’t Know that gets longer every time I look at it. This would be incredibly disheartening if it wasn’t for the fact that I finally found something that is moving even faster than my own rush into old age: technology!

This summer I decided to tackle a rudimentary understanding of mobile tech. When the printed circular from Bed Bath & Beyond has QR codes in it, it’s time to learn what’s what.

I broke down and finally bought an iPhone. I am pretty sure that it will take me until 2013 to learn how to use it fully, but my kid downloaded a QR reader and talk about fun! I am scanning QR codes in circulars, magazines, store signs, you name it. It’s amazing what comes up: videos, coupons, eBook downloads — the possibilities seem endless.

In fact, they almost are. I did a little research on how businesses use QR codes, and therefore how I might apply the technology to my own clients. Here’s how some people are using QR codes:

1. They are placing them on business cards to reduce clutter. The code leads back to their website, where all the contact information and social media links are located. Sneaky trick: you could make a business card that is simply a QR code and count on basic human curiosity to send people to your website or eStore.

2. Event promotion: everything from movies and concerts to local parades. The codes in print ads or on posters can bring up movie trailers, music videos, or simply supply information about the event plus discount admission coupons.

3. QR codes can send an email, send a text message, or even dial a phone number. You can have it access Twitter or Facebook to get followers and “likes.”

4. In stores, POP displays with QR codes can lead to online video demos or related product and accessory information (think mobile catalog!). They can also be placed on merchandise tags or in bag cards offering discounts for the next purchase.

5. Realtors use QR codes to give extensive information, including photos and videos.

6. Starbucks (who, unlike me, you can always count on to be at the forefront of anything new) now lets you pay for coffee with a phone and a “secure” QR code.

7. Companies are putting QR codes on ball caps, t-shirts, and many other promotional items with or without their logos as a “teaser.”

And this list just scratches the surface!

The best thing about QR codes is that both the readers and code generators are mostly free. For my iPhone, I downloaded RedLaser, but there are many others for both iPhone and Android phones. The QR code generator a lot of people seem to be using is KAYWA, but there are plenty others to choose from as well.

Just a little more experimenting and testing of QR codes and my phone and I may just make it Down the Shore this summer after all!

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Rhonda Wenner is a Very Old Advertising Person who has been there, done that, and seen quite a bit.
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