Just like your United Airlines’ pilot continuously says for three hours while you are waiting impatiently on the tarmac, Quick Response (QR) codes are just about to take off.
QR codes are similar to barcodes, which are used by retailers to track inventory and price products at the point of sale. The difference is that QR codes can hold a lot more data and are consumer facing. You don’t need a fancy scanner, as QR codes can be accessed by any phone with a camera.
Barcodes are one-dimensional and can’t hold more than 20 numerical digits. QR codes are two-dimensional matrix barcodes and can hold alphanumeric characters. Picture boring, back-office Toby Flenderson vs. client-facing Michael Scott with an amazing memory.
What do QR Codes enable?
They enable everything from online to offline marketplaces to augmented reality.
Just like Kevin Federline, innovation in the QR code world follows the money. For Kevin, it was an emotionally unstable but wildly successful pop star. For QR codes, it’s performance marketing.
It is difficult to monitor the performance of offline marketing. If you run TV and print ads at the same time, how do you know which one is more effective? And if you don’t live in a small town and your billboard isn’t just up there to seek justice for an unsolved murder, how do you know if your three billboards are working?
QR codes give marketers a new way to assess consumers’ interaction between offline and online media. It allows companies to attribute performance marketing in the physical world. For you sales managers out there, you can even figure out which one of your sales representatives is doing the best job, by giving them unique QR codes behind specific company promotions.
Let’s take a look at Japan and China:
QR codes are in its early days in the U.S., but they have been mainstream for years in Japan and China. Those countries have been using their cellphone cameras to bypass URLs for a long time.
QR codes were trademarked by Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota, in 1994. QR codes were created for dynamic car parts inventory management. In 2000, the broad applications were recognized, and its use became quite popular in Japanese and Chinese marketing. Crazy that the company that owns the trademark for QR codes is also on pace to set the record for most recalls by an automaker.
QR codes are used everywhere in China. I think the U.S. has some time before our churches also collect tithes through QR codes.
Some pretty cool QR code applications (and a picture of a panda, so keep reading):
When you scan a QR code, it can link you to digital content as well as perform an action for you. Many QR codes perform simple actions, like launch a website on your internet browser.
Others have gotten quite advance. Firms have QR codes on their website, where their contact information automatically saves into your contact manager if you scan it. If Patrick Bateman were around today, he’d probably throw a QR code on his business cards.
You can have a QR code send a tweet when scanned, or for those of you who still have the app, check you in on Foursquare. QR codes can even enroll you in an event.
Bands can put QR Codes on a CD cover that links to a band's website, allowing you to purchase concert tickets. And, if you miss Limewire, QR codes could even give you free mp3 downloads.
Advertisers are having fun innovating with the QR code in mind. Including QR codes on large billboards, and I guess in zoos, is now very common across China.
Since I am on an Angry Bird kick, they killed it with their QR code, which links you to their download page.
I don’t play the game, but two ComedySeller references in two weeks must be doing wonders for their top line. And, if you are curious if the strategy of continuously referencing companies until someone from said company sees the post and pays me for ad space works, then you are not alone.
Obviously with any large scale innovation and confusion, scammers are quick to jump on board. Scammers are using QR codes to flood smartphones with disguised malware downloads. So, don’t just go wildly snapping pics of QR codes. Our lawyers want to let you know ComedySeller is not responsible for any malware problems.
The next generation of barcodes will hold even more information. Experts predict that an Internet connection will soon not even be necessary. The content will be effectively embedded in the code. Imagine scanning a digital code to manifest physical reality. I’ll leave you with that.
I am a 25 year-old venture capitalist and amateur stand-up comedian living in NYC.