QR codes are funny-looking, two-dimensional barcodes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters. Invented by a company in Japan (Denso Wave) over a decade ago, QR codes are only now beginning to gain prominence in North America. (They've been popular for years in Japan and Europe.)
How QR codes work
The power of a QR code is in its ability to connect users with each other and with relevant digital content quickly and effectively. The process begins when the end-user snaps a picture of the QR code using a smartphone or other camera-enabled device. The device then uses specialized software to "read" the code and deliver the content it contains (usually a website or web-based promotion, which the phone opens in its web browser).
QR codes marry print with digital, via the mobile phone. Many smartphones come preloaded with free software for scanning QR codes. For models that don't, there are many free QR code readers available via the app stores of the various smart phone manufacturers. Scanlife, i-nigma, and NeoReader are just a few of the choices that seem to do the best job.
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How to create a QR code
The process of creating QR codes is relatively simple, too, which is one of the attractions of this tool. Many websites can create free QR codes for you. A quick Google search for "qr code generator" will return many viable results. Once you find one you like, simply follow their instructions, and you will have a QR code in no time. You can then save the QR code to your hard drive for use with any of your promotional campaigns.
The possibilities of using QR codes are as amazing and creative as the people deploying them. The choices are only limited by your imagination. Since a QR code can point to ANY website address, the choices are as vast as the web itself. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Put a QR code on the back (or front) of your business card. It can be encoded so the person scanning it can automatically receive all of your contact information digitally, so they don't have to enter it manually into their phone's directory.
- Print a QR code on postcard or brochure mailers, and have it point to a landing page with a special discount offer or contest entry.
- Add a QR code to printed invitations, and point it to a Google map page that provides directions to your location.
- Place a QR code on posters promoting a show, play, or movie, and have it point to a YouTube trailer promotion.
- Print QR codes on product instructional sheets, labels, or decals, and link the code to a website providing more details or a YouTube video showing how the product is assembled.
- Add QR codes to vehicle signs, billboards, TV ads, t-shirts, coffee cups... the list goes on.
- Put QR codes on restaurant menus to provide dietary information for each dish.
- Make the pages of a book come to life with QR codes that provide links to websites that offer more details about the subject in the book.
- QR codes work great for tradeshow booth signs and events.
- Want to bring more traffic to your Facebook page? Create a QR code that points to it, and add it to all of your marketing materials.