What’s the deal with QR codes?


When strolling through shopping centres or queuing for a cappuccino, you may have noticed the increasing popularity of little square signs featuring black and white patterns – rest assured, it’s not a resurgence of those 90s ‘Magic Eye’ pictures.

The ABC of QR
QR (or ‘Quick Response’) codes are barcodes for your mobile phone, turning it into your own digital scanning device. Printing a company’s website in an ad has become so 2009 – it relies on people having to remember the address for later, or to manually type it into their browser. Crazy talk for today’s fast-paced, ‘want it now’ generation!

Instead, a QR code lets the reader immediately bring up the company’s website, simply by waving their mobile phone magically over the little box – adding an element of fun to encourage brand engagement. All that is required is a smartphone or tablet, with a downloaded QR Reader app.

QR Readers allow for a ‘30% error margin’ when scanning, meaning the patterns can be cleverly customised beyond just boring black and white. Think a True Blood QR code dripping O negative, or one designed to look like that old chestnut, Pac-Man.

Use of QR codes is evolving – many brands are setting up customised ‘secret’ sites that provide exclusive content to viewers, such as links to competitions or a preview of the newest fashions. Sambag recently used a customised app (Aurasma) for the launch of their latest line, bringing to life the campaign photos in their real-life displays – adding a whole new meaning to ‘window shopping’.

If you can think it, you can QR it
•    Can’t decide which superhero DVD you should purchase? Simply scan the front cover to watch the trailer, or some nifty behind the scenes footage.
•    Want to see all those Oscars after-party photos? Scan the page of your favourite gossip magazine to launch bonus content.
•    Short on change? Why pay for you coffee when you can set up a mobile phone account that generates your own QR code that you can scan at the counter to pay?
•    Feel like sending a special friend a musical mixtape? Spotify lets you generate a playlist with a unique QR code that you can send as a mobile greeting card.
•    Don’t have time to queue for hours at your university bookshop? Coop Bookshops across Australia have created virtual stores – covering their outside walls in the QR codes of the top 25 second and third year course textbooks, letting students scan and shop with their mobiles.

The future is QRirky
Given how quickly digital fads come and go, it is difficult to predict whether QR codes will continue to rise or be replaced by something even more quick and responsive. But one thing’s for sure; seeing as you need a handheld device to scan, you probably aren’t going to reach your target audience by trailing one behind a plane at 10,000 feet… unless it’s for a skydiving repeat offer (See more of the 10 Funniest QR Code Fails).

One comment

  1. Anthony Metzen says:

    I redid our cubicle signs to have our name displayed inside a QR code, so it’s human readable but still able to stay within the error correction limits. The reason for the QR? Well it contains our name, phone number and email address. While not terribly useful (as they seem to know who we are already, as they DID find us), it’s a conversation starter for other uses of the code.

    BTW… you didn’t mention that the code could be a method to inject something malicious into the phone/tablet.

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