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The Evolution of QR Codes

Someone in our company asked me the other day if we could print a QR code on posters which would be displayed throughout a trade show. When people scan the code, they would be directed to an online version of a PowerPoint presentation. I thought, “Why not? We can do that.” We’ve used QR codes in the past to link to websites and YouTube videos, but it hasn’t been something people get very excited about. Or perhaps, not many people knew about them.

A QR (Quick Response) code is similar to a barcode, but can hold at least 100 times the amount of information than what a typical barcode can hold.

They have been around since 1994, developed by a Japanese company to help track vehicles during manufacturing. They were introduced in the U.S. sometime around 2010 when the first QR code scanner app was released for smartphones. As the technology evolved, the code began to contain more and more information.

Although the use of QR codes has been popular in Asia, they have had a difficult time defending their reputation here in the U.S. Users thought they were too difficult to use, they were afraid malicious code could be transmitted when they use their phone to scan, putting their phone data at risk, or they simply didn’t understand what the code was and how it worked. Then companies began finding innovative ways to use them. Phone cameras improved, making the scanning process easier. In turn, they have made a comeback. Perhaps, they were a little ahead of their time when they first came to the U.S.

The second wave of QR codes started when Snapchat CEO recognized its potential. Snap launched their own version of QR codes, called Snapcodes, to offer an easy way to add someone as a friend on Snapchat. Not only can you do that, but you can scan a code to unlock filters and lenses and open websites. Snapcodes, since then, have become popular on other social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Angry Birds used a QR-like code to engage their audience into 30-second mini games when users visited participating retailers displaying the scannable code.

As consumers want to know more about the products they are purchasing, companies are looking for ways to get that information to them. One company is doing this with SmartLabel®. Scan the SmartLabel® QR code on a product to get nutritional information, ingredients, allergens, origin of the product, usage and safe handling instructions – more information than what will fit on the printed label of the packaging.

Walk into a Best Buy store and you’ll notice many price tags have a QR code on them. Scanning the code takes you to a website with more information about the corresponding product, along with product reviews.

The code on a package label could share recipes to be made with the product, along with recommendations for pairing other products with it.

By providing a QR code in a direct mail piece, business card or postcard, you can provide users with the following.

  • A coupon or promotional offer
  • Information on a Facebook promotion
  • More detailed information than what will fit in a print ad
  • An instructional or informative video
  • An online form to sign up for an event, contest or sweepstakes
  • An online employment application

Imagine the possibilities!

Why do I work at AWG? I appreciate having the opportunity to use my creative and web development skills to assist our retailers in marketing their stores. AWG is a reputable company and the marketing department consists of a great team, working together in a fun environment. Plus I love to eat! I especially like trying new products.