QR codes were first created by Toyota to track vehicles in manufacturing, offering a small barcode that can be quickly decoded. That was in 1994, and now, almost 20 years later, QR code technology is experiencing a revival — but not in the automotive industry. The small, square codes are ubiquitous, showing up on everything from flyers to beer bottles, allowing anyone with a smart phone to quickly scan and find out more information with the code. The possibilities for their use are endless, from marketing to the college classroom, offering a fun and exciting way for students to use technology for learning.
Jimmy Fallon’s recent QR code moment and New York City’s QR-linked building permits are two more notches on the belt of early adopters. But were these just blips or an indicator of things to come? Will QR codes ever become part of everyday life or be relegated to “only-in-Japan” status?
I believe the answer is yes, QR codes are coming to an advertisement or object near you, and sooner than you may think. Here are the reasons why, along with suggestions on how advertisers can catalyze this movement by making QR code campaigns as useful and rewarding as possible.
Why QR Codes Make Sense
When you see something that you want information about, you no longer have to make a mental note to look it up later on Google. You can simply point your smartphone at the object and obtain the desired information without typing or speaking. In essence, the QR code has become the shortest distance between curiosity and information retrieval.
The beauty of QR codes is that they are an open-source and freely licensed standard. They cost nothing additional to add to printed materials and can be scanned by free readers on all smartphones and even some feature phones.
Meanwhile, here is what businesses, institutions and individuals can do to make QR codes an effective part of their marketing arsenal.
1. Optimize for Mobile
Advertisers who embed desktop URLs in a QR code are missing the point of real-to-mobile interactivity. People interact with their mobile devices with significantly shorter attention spans than they do on their desktops. Once a QR code is scanned, the resulting view should be thumb-interactive, easy to read, and purpose-driven.
2. There Must Be A Payoff
A QR code is like a scratch-off card — people have to apply some effort to engage, so the payoff better be worth it. Content emanating from a QR code needs to be useful or an easy redemption of an exclusive reward.
3. Be Patient and Stick With It
By experimenting with QR codes early, advertisers can become adept at engaging with users on a mobile basis, so that when QR codes do hit the mainstream, they will be ready.
College Learning with Technology
With QR codes, they’ve made learning even easier and many of these ideas can be also be applied to your workplace.
Information & Enhancement
QR codes are great for sharing information, and we’ll explore some of their uses here, as well always they can enhance learning.
Link to supplemental materials in your own textbook Make sure your valuable resources don’t get lost in a forgotten folder: slap a QR code right on your textbook so it’s handy for you to find later.
Classroom calendar On your syllabus and handouts, link to your classroom’s calendar with a QR code.
Mobile reminders Make it easy for students to remember assignments by creating QR codes to automatically add events to their calendar.
Interactive periodic table By putting QR codes on posters like the periodic table, you can share more information about what you’re displaying, like details about the elements.
Post assignments for the week Keep students updated on the weekly schedule with a QR code that will take them to a website with the assignments for each week.
Link to book reviews Any time you assign a book or a reading, set up a QR code linking to book reviews.
Share exam details If you’ve prepared a review for students to use, link it with a QR code for easy access.
Lecture Wouldn’t it be great if you had all the time in the world to share YouTube videos, readings, and other relevant information right in your lecture? With QR codes, you can share all of these resources and more.
Highlight videos If you’ve got a YouTube video you want students to watch, but don’t want to use valuable lecture time to show it, link it through a QR code in your slides.
Pre-teaching Before class starts, students will be waiting in the classroom. Why not post a QR code of a video, website, or reading you’d like for them to check out before you get started?
I’m sure this is just the beginning. If you’ve got a great idea for a QR code for marketing or communications, or if you’ve seen something in the wild, please feel free to share it.