You may have heard that QR Codes are dead. But, like print, QR codes must evolve to meet demands. Many companies are incorporating QR codes in their marketing mix (along with similar tools like Google Goggles, a “visual search application for Android phones”). They are a valuable use for direct mail because they integrate print with the Internet.  Used effectively, they can be powerful tools that yield successful results in your marketing campaign and link your customers from printed material to the Web.

What Is a QR Code?

If you have not used QR codes, this Quick Response code is a URL that is converted into a specific matrix (or two-dimensional) barcode using QR code generators like Kawa or QR Stuff. Using a smart phone, customers download a barcode scanner application for Android, iPhone, or other smart phones, scan this barcode, and reach a website, a YouTube video, company home page, or a discount offer like USPS recently promoted.

Are They Successful?

QR codes can work in favor of the printing industry if they are used effectively.  A recent promotion from USPS is a great example. To help boost direct mail marketing, they offered a 3% discount off bulk mail shipping in July and August of 2011 to companies that incorporated QR codes into their direct mail. This smart move was not only a momentous push for mainstream QR code use, but also an encouragement for businesses to send printed mail. The USPS plans on offering a similar discount program in the summer of 2012.

In a recent study from comScore, 6.2% of all mobile phone users, or over 14,000 people, used QR code scanners. The highest users were males between the ages of 18–34 with an annual income over $100,000. Printed magazines and newspapers and product packages were the items most frequently scanned by these users. 

There are still some drawbacks, however, as many consumers are still not using QR codes because they are 1) unaware of how to use them or 2) do not have a smart phone or the application required to read them.  Further issues with QR code usage include location of the code and the destination site. If a customer cannot access a code either because it is on the side of a moving bus or another inconvenient location, he or she is not very likely to scan it. Seventy-two percent of consumers say they have seen a QR code, but nearly 30% do not know what it is according to an October 2011 survey from strategic marketing firm Russell Herder (from Marketing Also, if a customer does scan the code but does not find the desired or useful information, the use is considered unsuccessful. 

Successful Uses

QR codes can be great marketing tools, and they are also being used by printers in creative ways:

Printing Industries of America uses QR codes throughout our campaigns to ensure messages stand out in an area where space is limited. Lisa Rawa, Vice President, Marketing, shares some important QR code keys to successful implementation for your print campaigns:

  • Consider providing short instructions near the code for customers not yet familiar with the process.
  • Remember: People will be using their phones to scan QR codes, so check that the QR code leads to a website that is “mobile-enabled” and easily navigated.
  • Link the customer to engaging content like a product video, calendar event, contact information, an email address, an SMS text message, mapping information, or personalized mobile micro site instead of just a company website.
  • Use the QR tracking code to gain insight into the effectiveness of your campaign.

We Want to Know-

Are you using QR codes, and, if so, what kind of response have you experienced?

Do you have any creative uses for QR codes to share, like different colors, shapes, or applications?

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