Suddenly, they’re everywhere. On print ads. On direct mailers. On posters. I’m talking about those crazy-looking markers that resemble barcodes, only on steroids. They’re called QR codes (quick response codes), and they’re giving new life to a marketing medium once pronounced dead.
Created in Japan, where they’ve been popular for years (who knew?), QR codes enable you to make print-based marketing materials interactive. How does it work? Using a smartphone, you take a snapshot of the QR code, or tag, which has been encoded with specific information. You’re then linked to an online experience such as a Website where you can get more information, or a digital destination that goes way beyond the URL.
For instance, suppose you see an ad for a new movie in the newspaper. If the ad has a QR code, you can scan it with your smartphone and immediately watch a trailer. Or if you’re leafing through a magazine and an ad for a shoe catches your eye, a QR code can show you the nearest retail outlet with the lowest price. And a company like Starbucks could offer a free cup of Joe to those who get a special code by scanning one of their ubiquitous newspaper ads.
All of this is good news for B2B medical device companies who use trade publications as the backbone of their media campaigns. Clients frequently ask us why they should spend money on a journal ad. They’ve heard all the talk about the print medium being dead, and sometimes question their own strategy. We respond by showing them in-depth studies conducted by leading market research companies like HCI, MRI and Harris Interactive proving that print is not only alive, but also one of the most effective ways to engage their customers. (These studies have been nicely summarized in a 2009 Nuclear News Advertising & Marketing Guide (PDF).
Now, with new technology like the QR code, good old-fashioned print can be even more effective and persuasive. Imagine the possibilities.
Put more action into your call to action
Let’s say you’re creating a journal ad for a new instrument. By including a QR code, you can automatically direct customers to the specific area of your website that features the instrument. Now they don’t have to key in a long URL to get there, or click through your entire site. You can get them focused quickly on what matters most.
Get your product video in front of more eyes
You just created an exciting new product video that shows off your truly unique mechanism of action, and you want to send it to customers in a snazzy new mailer. Since QR codes cost next to nothing to create, it’s more cost-effective than sending a CD. You could also include the code in a journal ad or brochure, and instantly connect customers to your video.
Learn more about your customers
Every time a QR code is scanned, it can provide important tracking information about your customers. You can learn where in the country, or world, the code is being scanned, as well as how many people are scanning it. This can help you determine the smartest way to spend your marketing dollars. For example, if most of your scans are coming from one part of the country versus another, you can shift your spending accordingly.
Of course, there are barriers that could slow down the speed of adoption. In order to make the technology work, you have to download a special QR reader to your smartphone. But it’s free, simple and only takes a few minutes (available for iPhones here). That’s why for more and more companies, these tags are it.
Tod Brubaker is an associate creative director / copywriter at Seidler Bernstein. He has extensive experience in general consumer and medical B2B advertising and communications. Tod’s work has won numerous industry awards, including Cannes, Addy, Rx Club, and top honors for print from the Johnson & Johnson James E. Burke Marketing Excellence Awards.