Integrated Direct Marketing Agency Question: What’s splotchy, black and white and fits in a box?
Answer: One of today’s most quickly emerging marketing trends, the QR code.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re fairly marketing savvy. You probably know what a Quick Response (QR) code is. But have you taken the time to weigh the positives and negatives of launching a strategic marketing campaign involving QR? Or decide if this new fad has staying power? Keep reading for a top-line summary of the benefits and drawbacks of using QR codes. I promise this post will be a quick scan.

The Good
Why are marketers tripping over themselves to slap a QR code onto any and every ad, billboard and mail package they push out the door right now? Because it’s a new way to spruce up old channels of communication. At this stage, it still piques a shopper’s curiosity. These codes give marketers an alternative to the same old “call, click or come in” call to action. More importantly, they are a highly measurable way to drive response. Not only can you track the number of hits, but also demographic information, such as age, gender and location. Oh, and it makes companies look cool to influential early adopters.

Another benefit is the QR code’s Swiss Army-like versatility. Any business can customize usage to fit their specific strategic marketing plan. Movie studios can link fans directly to trailers. Real estate agents can lead homebuyers to a quick virtual tour. And furniture manufacturers can provide customers with easy-to-follow assembly instructions. At The Kern Organization, we just created a direct mail package for Symantec that uses a QR code to direct prospects to an informative video that expands on the letter’s key message. There’s no end to the possibilities.

A huge opportunity exists for marketers to leverage this technology to grow their businesses. Really, companies have nothing to lose by incorporating QR codes into their strategic plan—they’re free to generate and QR-enabled apps are free to consumers.

The Bad
There are a number of drawbacks to evaluate when considering the effectiveness of QR marketing. First and foremost, you need people to clear the hurdles to access your online information. Potential customers need to:

1) Use a smart-phone with a camera that is advanced enough to capture the code
2) Download one of the many code reader apps available
3) Scan the code correctly (not always an easy feat)
4) Interact with your online landing page

That’s a bit of work that could weed out those with only a passing interest. Also consider that prospects are most likely to use the Web browser on their phone to access the embedded URL. That means you should have a mobile version of your Web page available. The other part of the equation is critical. Businesses need to make the scan worthwhile with a sound online marketing strategy. Driving people to a standard Web site won’t cut it. For the best results, there has to be a big payoff in the way of a special discount, exclusive content or relevant tips.

The Ugly
Some businesses may be hesitant to disrupt a pristine layout with what looks like a chessboard on steroids. Well, fret not. There are design firms that will perform a QR makeover to give them an artistic flair. From names and logos to more organic treatments, it’s now possible to conceptualize the pixelated patch. Of course, companies shouldn’t veer too far off the beaten path with elaborate designs. People’s eyes have become trained to seek out the distinctive QR code look. Wouldn’t want it to get lost on the page or screen.

The Future
eMarketer reports that smart-phones are projected to be in the hands of 43% of mobile users by late 2015. Scanning will certainly gain momentum as the masses get acclimated to the technology. It’s critical for almost all types of businesses to consider incorporating QR into their strategic planning models, or, at the very least, have an understanding of what QR coding can do for them. It’s already reshaping the way people respond to various channels of marketing communication.

Businesses aren’t the only ones making the most of this ingenious innovation. Individuals are also promoting their own causes by putting QR codes on clothes, temporary tattoos, cakes, business cards, even resumes. Yes, Quick Response is making its mark on our lives as well as our purchase behavior. And it appears that we’re only at square one.

To learn more about QR codes and to learn about best practice landing pages, click here.

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