More and more marketers are using QR codes on their direct mail campaigns. And why not? These little black-and-white (for the most part) squares of code are cool. They make print interactive. They open up the possibilities of sharing sites and sounds (sorry, bad pun) that a static printed piece can’t do on its own.
For many businesspeople, QR codes (the QR stands for “Quick Response”) are still kind of new. In fact, they were invented back in 1994 and were major retail and marketing tools in the Pacific Rim.
In brief, QR codes are 2D mobile barcodes that are based on smart phone technology. They store data in a length/height matrix, whereas 1D barcodes only store data in length. You know by now how they work: they’re read by an image scanner that you download (for free) onto your smart phone. When you come across a QR code that you want to read, you have to first launch the reader on your phone. Then you aim the phone at the code and scan it.
Hopefully, what happens next is you have access to some very interesting and relevant content. It exists on the marketer’s web site and can usually only be accessed via the code. Maybe it launches a video. Or a coupon. Or an order form. It’s a bit like magic, when you think of the possibilities.
There are some easy tips to keep in mind, however, if you’re planning on using a QR code on a printed piece.
1. Give it some space!
Remember to leave a white border all the way around the edge of the embedded image so that the data areas of the QR code are separated from the image and other format specifications for optimizing your code.
2. Make it part of your call to action.
Because QR codes require users to take out their phone, launch the scanner, and then scan them, you’d better make sure what you’re offering behind the code is worth their effort. Maybe they’ll get a special discount, or entered into a contest, or have access to in-depth content only available via the code. The more unique and fabulous the content, the better the response.
3. Always include instructions and some teaser copy.
A very common mistake marketers make when incorporating a QR code in a campaign is not providing any information about it. You need to include copy that motivates people to scan the code (“Sign up for your chance to win our December iPad Giveaway Contest!”) as well as a just a snippet of instructions (“Scan me with a free QR Reader on your smart phone – it’s easy!”) If you don’t, people tend to ignore them.
4. Don’t waste that code!
Perhaps the biggest “QR code faux pas” would be merely using it to bring someone to your site’s home page, or to a survey that’s so onerous, no one will take the time to fill it out using their phone – or content that’s not even optimized for a smart phone. Sound obvious? Well, it happens more than you’d think.
There are lots of smart ways to use QR codes in a direct marketing campaign. Make them clever. Make the content relevant and unique. And BTW, did you know they need not be square – or even printed in black ink?
Image credit: Thanks to Hubspot for the free stock photos.