Thursday, November 18, 2010

QR Codes for Mobile Marketing on Deck – Extinction of Dinosaurs Continues.

I was struck by the inevitability of mobile-phone access a decade or two ago, in Zurich. I sat with colleagues at dinner (Veltliner Keller in Old Town if you have to know) and a question came up about the cost of a new BMW of some arcane description. The owner of the German ad agency, Karl Woerlen, whipped out his “handi” and called a car-dealer friend in Freiburg, asked a question and then turned to us with the answer – at the time, in Deutschmarks.

This sounds dinosaurial today: an iPhone 4 delivers the world to your hand in about three seconds; price quotes for Beemers from not one but a dozen sources in half a dozen states is dead easy. There’s nothing I can write here that hasn’t been written a thousand times over – about smartphones and netbooks, tablet computers and apps out the wazoo.

Access to info (and gratification) is instantaneous, or at least as fast as your network. And now there are QR codes. See them in magazine and newspaper ads. Business cards. Drums of chemicals (for fast access to MSDS information via workers’ mobile phones).

What are these? Let’s ask

A QR Code (it stands for "Quick Response") is a mobile phone readable barcode that's been big in Japan forever, broke into Europe a while back, and is now getting traction in USA. In its simplest sense think "print based hypertext link" - simply encode a URL into the QR Code and then point a mobile phone (or other camera-enabled mobile) at it. If the device has had QR Code decoding software installed on it, it will fire up its browser and go straight to that URL.

Where are you going to put your QRs? (My website’s url, courtesy of, appears at the top of the post.) As a test, I emailed my QR to my “expert” in this stuff, Barrett-Wehlmann principal Jim Proctor:

I’m not sure the QR is a good thing to use in an email. Might as well use a link to the content you want someone to go to. If I receive the email with an embedded QR on my laptop I have to scan it with my phone and then it’s just little content.

I see the QR making most sense in an offline mobile environment, like tradeshow graphics’ link to more content. Magazine ad links to motion graphics. Brochure links to video. Press release to VNR. It should be a way to bring something to life. The first good use of this I saw was in Golf Digest. It was an article on a certain swing technique and when you scanned the QR, it took you to a lesson with motion.

You and I are going to see a lot more QR codes as the technique makes its way from geek-stream to mainstream.

Most important, for the moment, you better believe that appropriate expansion of this on-demand technology falls right back on the shoulders of “wanna-know-that.” Think [1] fans: QR on a wine label gratifies with winery notes delivered to the mobile platform; QR on a car ad delivers in-the-driver-seat motion graphics. Think [2] information-critical: QR on freight containers sending content descriptions direct to security screeners’ phones.

Think [3] about the only constant: it’s going to be change and every time you laugh at photo of some guy with a QR code on his shaven head, it could be one more nail in techno-dinosaurs’ coffins.

PS: There’s a concise post, with how-to video, from Marion Group Advertising and Marketing – access it here, it’s worth a look. (Thanks to Brian Bearden for this link.)

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