Quick Response Codes and Beyond: Interactive Marketing Takes it to the Streets

By Tuesday September 28th, 2010

A Quick Response (QR) code is essentially a bar-code, a two dimensional image that contains encoded data that can be read by scanning the image with the appropriate application or device. Where does this technology fit in modern interactive marketing?

A Quick Response (QR) code is essentially a bar-code, a two dimensional image that contains encoded data that can be read by scanning the image with the appropriate application or device. Initially developed in 1994 by a Toyota subsidiary to track the path of auto parts through the production process, it has since grown to widespread use in Japan and, more recently, has begun to show up in other markets. What sets QR codes apart from standard linear bar codes, seen on every product in the grocery store, is the amount of data that can be stored in the image. Instead of the 12 numerical digits held in a basic Universal Product Code (UPC), a QR code can store 7,089 numbers or 4,296 alpha numeric characters. That’s enough data storage capacity to hold more than this whole article worth of text.

These codes, originally created for use in data and inventory management, have recently been making unlikely appearances in creative and marketing applications. Placed on posters and print collateral, the marketing team for Tim Burton’s 3D masterpiece “9” used QR codes to send users straight to the movie trailer on their mobile device. Ralph Lauren used them in magazines for their US Open campaign to send potential customers to an online shopping portal featuring the US Open collection. The code you see here can be scanned with an app such as QRreader for the iPhone, and will take you straight to the Brolik mobile homepage.

As is the case with many new technologies, QR codes are plagued with a case of too many competitors and no basic standards. Scanning QR codes with the wrong type of reader program would be synonymous to putting a VHS tape in your Betamax player. This is the same type of disorganization that eventually led linear bar-codes to the UPC symbology (or standards) that we use today.

A non-unified front isn’t the only problem QR codes face when trying to find a lasting place in our interactive marketing toolbox. A slew of new technologies and applications being developed for our mobile computing devices form a stiff competition for something with such a niche application. The image recognition technologies that are being used in many new apps use a slightly different method of instantly sharing information with users. One such application allows the user to take a picture of a CD, book or DVD, which it automatically recognizes, and search an online database for the best priced vendor for that particular item. This technology could be used in the same way as QR codes, to deliver instant-response content to users based on scanning a movie poster for instance. Furthermore, an idea like Augmented Reality would allow users to point their smartphone camera at a movie poster and see extra graphics and content come out of it in full 3D. This means, for instance, that the poster could contain a video player that plays a teaser or promo for the movie.

With the speed of development for new technologies and the ease with which they can be integrated into our everyday life, the only limit we face in the interactive marketing industry is our own creativity. These ideas have a myriad of applications in reaching our target audience, on their computer or on the streets, we just need to figure out how to use them.

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About the Author

Matthew is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Brolik. As CSO, he manages the digital marketing team, helping Brolik’s roster of clients achieve their online marketing goals. When he’s not coming up with his next big campaign idea, you might find him in the recording studio or enjoying an IPA with a funny name. Check him out on Twitter.