Every month, the whole office gathers around the fireplace in the conference room to discuss one of our favorite topics: technology. No, we don’t do this because we are huge nerds, although I can’t claim that most of us don’t fall into that category. We meet because we realize the technology landscape changes hourly (it actually changes microsecondly, but as “changes microsecondly” isn’t a commonly accepted phrase, we’ll stick with hourly), and we want to stay ahead of the game.
At each technology meeting, we take turns presenting interesting, fun, useful, helpful, new (or any combination of these adjectives) tools and technology that we’ve discovered in the past month. We leave every meeting a little more informed about what’s current, and also impressed and excited by how much our jobs and everyone’s lives are evolving microsecondly.
We thought we’d make a segment on our blog every month to discuss one bit of technology we discussed at our meeting.
April’s focus will be something that’s been around a while, but that folks have really started to get into in the past year: QR Code. I’d venture to guess that most people don’t know what that is, so bear with me as I attempt a simple explanation. “QR” stands for “Quick Response.” A QR Codes are two-dimensional bar codes. It has other uses, but one major use you can expect to see in advertising is as a bar code that stores a URL. People with mobile camera phones that have a reader app and internet browser can take a picture of the QR Codes (or in some cases, simply scan the QR Code by aiming the camera at it), and the reader will launch the stored URL in the phone’s browser.
While this technology has had widespread usage in Japan in the past 5 years, we are just starting to see its use in marketing here very recently. Of course there’s a learning curve with the technology. Most early adopters of QR Codes include instructions for the user, as you’ll see in my examples below. But at this point in Japan, QR Codes can be found everywhere –billboards, magazines, train station posters, fast food packaging, building signage providing people with maps of the building–and people simply know to scan the code with their phones for more information.
Some examples that have caught some attention recently:
- QR Codes throughout the Detroit Red Wings program book . They show a video on the jumbotron that explains how QR Codes work. Then if fans scan the codes, they’re shown a pretty funny video about “Kronwalling,” with people checking random people all over the place, and ending with a call to action to visit their site OpenSkateDetroit.com . Two months ago the Mashable article reported the video as being watched completely through over 2,000 times…currently the view count on YouTube has it up to nearly 9,000, so we’re sure the complete watch count is now far higher than 2,000.
- A Kanye West billboard in Chicago , which allows you to scan for free ringtones and updates, or if you don’t have a QR scanner, you can just take a picture and email it to an address and content will be sent back to you.
- A building in Tokyo is completely covered with QR codes, and passersby can scan the building for info about the stores within, and with an iPhone app, people can see comments people in the building leave, check coupons, and see store information.
We created a QR Code table tent that will be on tables in the cafe at Sherman Hospital in the next few weeks. The cafe overlooks their geothermal lake–one of the largest geothermal lakes in the US. Curious diners can scan the QR Code to be taken to an informational page all about the lake. This may be our first of many future ventures into this medium.
As the blog poster points out in the Japan QR Code article, QR Codes create a direct link between print media and the web. They allows for print media to become interactive, and they are a far more elegant and reliable way to make trackable links. You don’t have to deal with the clumsy “/trackingword” redirect links anymore. Users don’t have the option to type in only your web address and miss the trackable link portion. They simply have to scan, quickly be taken to the correct page, and if you set it up correctly, you are given a reliable count of how many people scanned your link. It’s a win situation for all.
So if you have a smartphone, find a QR Code reader app and be on the lookout for code in magazines, on billboards, and even in TV spots. Perhaps within the next 5 years we’ll be scanning our fast food bags for nutritional info, train station boards to pass the time, or building maps for directional info as well.