Hip to Be Square

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You’ve definitely seen them.

Perhaps you’ve seen them on a business card, an M&M’s magazine ad, in Times Square, or even on the bikini bottoms of a British beach volleyball team.  They are those little square boxes with the black and white squiggly patterns inside of them.  They look like a miniature crossword puzzle on steroids.

Scan them with your smartphone and, bingo, you get something back immediately on your cell phone.  It’s the latest mobile marketing craze and they are called QR Codes.

A QR Code is a specific matrix barcode that is readable by bar code readers that are easily downloaded to smartphones.  QR Codes have been popular in Japan and Korea for many years, but marketers in North America are just beginning to realize their potential.

When a user scans a QR Code with his smartphone, he might receive a video about the product, more detailed information than is available on the packaging, or even a shortcut to download an app.  Virtually anything that you can put on a web site can be received when a consumer scans the QR Code.  It’s easy to see why savvy marketers are using them.

According to the first ever study of their use by ComScore, 14 million Americans used a QR Code in a recent month.  That’s 6.2% of the total American mobile phone population.  Users tend to be young adults (53.4%), male (60.5%), and high income (36.1% earn $100,000+).  Simply put: QR Codes are most likely to be used by the market segment that advertisers covet the most.

While QR Codes are certainly sexy and fun to use, marketers should not rely on them exclusively for their promotion.  For most marketing efforts, it is important to also offer a text message marketing promotion as well since texting provides far greater penetration, at least for now.

One of the other raps against QR Codes is that ordinary black and white codes don’t provide sufficient branding.  One company’s QR Code, therefore, looks like all of the others.  Some companies are alleviating this concern by the use of “Custom QR Codes” which provide the company logo or brand within the QR Code itself.

Sometimes it’s hip to be a square.

Bob Bentz is President of Advanced Telecom Services (Wayne, Pennsylvania) which provides mobile marketing solutions such as mobile web sites, apps development, text message marketing, and Custom QR Codes to businesses and organizations.  Follow Bob Bentz on Twitter (@BobBentz) or Bob Bentz Linked In account.

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