Quick overview of what QR codes are, how they are being used and how to use them with promotional products.
QR, or Quick Response, codes are 2-dimension barcodes that were invented in 1994 in Japan by a Toyota subsidiary to track parts in the manufacturing process.As phones became smarter, marketers were able to apply this technology in order to engage consumers through mobile marketing.
QR codes work by being scanned by a smartphone – iPhone, Android, Blackberry – with a scanning app. The code then instructs the phone to display specific content which could be a mobile site, video, coupon, opt-in for email or text alerts, contact info, social media likes or follows and more. Starbucks uses them as a payment option.
Because of their flexibility, QR codes are popping up everywhere. The U.S. saw 181% increase in QR code usage in first quarter of 2011 followed by a 39% increase in the second.
The reason for the increase and why marketers are jumping on the QR code bandwagon is the increase in the use of smartphones. By the end of this year, experts predict that 50% of all cell phone users will own smartphones. 25% of smartphone owners prefer to access the Internet via their smartphone over a computer.Marketers also like QR codes because they are a less intrusive form of mobile marketing than texting. The reason is that the consumer chooses to scan the code and therefore choose to be marketed to.QR codes also provide immediate engagement with consumers. They can directly respond to a call to action.
When marketing with QR codes, the most important component is the content that will pop up on the phone when they scan code. Like any other form of marketing, it must be relevant to the target audience. Since the content is going to be viewed on a cellphone, it should be mobile friendly – small site, concise copy, minimal images. That content must also be valuable, informative or entertaining. Just an ad or a website not as effective. Keep them coming back.
Let’s take a look at few examples. This first one is a typical QR code campaign. Which Wich is a sandwich shop that had an bunny hunt around Easter. They sent a message out through Facebook announcing the hunt for the qr code in the store. When a customer found the code and scanned it, instructions for receiving the free cookie popped up on the phone.
In this next example, this shoemaker printed a QR code on his shoes that when scanned, plays a video showing how the shoes are made by hand. I chose to show this example in particular because it correlates well with how QR codes can be ideally used with promotional products. The previous example with the cookies was a one-shot deal – short engagement, one impression. With the shoes here, the woman who owns the shoe will likely watch the video once and have her friends scan the code as well. The code stays relevant as long is it is still visible on the shoe. Likewise promotional products have a long term value and the QR codes printed on them should as well.
By far, the most impressive use of QR code technology that I found was a grocery store chain in South Korea that built virtual stores in subway stations. On their morning commute, customers would scan the code by an item and it would be placed in their virtual shopping cart. They would pay for their purchase online through their phone and it would be delivered when they got home at night. It’s been a big success and an interesting case study. I show this one to point out the potential QR codes have.
Now that you are completely impressed with QR codes, let’s talk about where to get them. Several website will create them for free and even offer some level of analytics. You simply logon to the site enter the information you want in the QR code – web link, contact info, map, etc. and the site will generate the code. If you client wants to be able to track how many people scan the code, they will have to create an account. There are free ones available.
Now that you or your customer have a code, it’s time to put it on a promotional product. A QR code is simply artwork, so it must meet the imprint requirements of the product it’s being placed on – vector or hi-res image. QR code do have their own requirements too so that a phone’s scanner can read it. The minimum imprint size is ¾ in x ¾ in –That just for the code, so if the client wants a logo or other info, more imprint area is needed. The surface of the product must be mostly flat – mugs work. Pen’s don’t. Finally, what makes QR codes well suited for pp’s is that they can be a one color imprint as long as it is a strong, contrasting color. White and blue – good. White and pale yellow – not.It is very important that QR codes are tested to make sure that they work. Test them before the artwork is sent to the factory and I strongly recommend a spec sample to be tested as well.
Threw a lot of information, but these are the key points
Selling QR Codes Presented by David Schaaf Newton Manufacturing Company
What’s A QR Code? “Quick Response” Codes 2-dimensional barcode Invented in Japan in 1994
How Do They work? Code scanned by smartphone Marketing content pops up on phone Mobile site Video Coupon Opt in Contact info Social media
Where to Get QR Codes Several websites create them for free Enter info, output an image Client can create an account for tracking
QR Codes and Promo Products Imprint Minimum size - .75” x .75” Mostly flat surface One contrasting color TEST the code Before submitting to factory Spec samples
Client Wants a QR Code, Now What? If they DO have a code… Handle it like normal artwork Vector conversion if necessary If they DON’T have a code… Ask for the URL, contact info, etc. Newton will create the code If they DON’T have a code or content… Work with CRG to create content
If you don’t remember anything else… Minimum requirements Minimum imprint size - .75” x .75” Mostly flat surface At least one contrasting color TEST, TEST, TEST – spec samples