QR Codes: It’s Hip to be Square


QR coding is the fastest growing marketing trend that no one has heard of, but even if you haven’t heard the concept explained, you have probably seen it in action.

The codes, like the one to the left, are small rectangular images that are essentially complex bar codes.

They were first developed by Japanese auto parts manufacturers to compile large amounts of tracking data into easily read codes. Since becoming popular, the codes are now used to link to everything from business cards, to videos, to entire websites.

The largest benefit of these codes is that they easily bridge the technology gap between print and digital media. Anyone with a smart phone (50% of America by the end of 2011) can have the ability to scan the image and be instantly linked to whatever data is placed on the other end. The codes are not limited to online sharing (though that method is certainly popular). The codes work just as well printed on letters, postcards, posters, even billboards. Anything you can take a photo of with your camera phone can become a portal to digital content, or even hidden text, such as a discount offer.

There has been a recent argument that QR codes will never replace text messaging as the primary mobile ad channel. Granted, the main argument against QR codes is valid. A consumer is required to download an app onto their phone before the codes can be decoded, while ANY phone on the market today can receive a text message. However, it should be pointed out that QR codes, and the apps to decode them, are free. Text messages are not. The codes also have an appealing, interactive element. There is little interest for a consumer receiving a text message, they read it, delete it, and that is the end of it. QR codes require a level of activity that draws on the natural curiosity of people.

The codes have dozens of potential applications, and it is very likely that the trend will only continue to grow. From July to December of 2010, the number of scanned codes increased by 1200%. With the codes being free, and taking up no more than a square inch of printed media, there are really no good reasons to not include them in your campaigns.


Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


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