QR codes help reach tech-savvy customers
by April Wortham
Nashville Business Journal
Published: November 4, 2010
Look closely at the corner of Middle Tennessee Medical Centers latest print advertisement and you’ll see a black and white box filled with squiggly lines. Its called a QR code, and its popping up in Middle Tennessee on everything from ads to business cards to T-shirts.
Short for quick response, the two-dimensional codes are the latest in mobile marketing. While national retailers have been early adopters, Nashville marketing and technology experts see potential for any business looking for a simple and inexpensive way to connect with customers who are increasingly using mobile devices to access the Internet.
“The possibilities, I dont want to say theyre endless, but its pretty wild the doors this is opening,” said David Jacobs, senior vice president and director of interactive for Nashville-based DSTombras, which created the Middle Tennessee Medical Center campaign. “It’s not a gimmick but a tool for marketers.”
In the medical centers ad, scan a picture of the QR code with the help of an app on a smartphone and youll automatically be directed to a mobile version of the hospitals website that includes videos, photos, a map and answers to frequently asked questions.
“To me, it represents a way to create a value-add in print advertising,” said Rebecca Climer, spokeswoman for Saint Thomas Health Services, which includes the Murfreesboro medical center and Nashville-based Baptist and Saint Thomas hospitals. “There’s also the fun factor. People want to see how it works, and its simple to do. The information is right there on their phones.”
That gee-whiz factor of QR codes is fueling their popularity. According to New York-based technology firm ScanLife, mobile bar code traffic has shot up 700 percent since the beginning of the year.
How can businesses use QR codes? Some possibilities: “Ryman Auditorium could put codes on posters that send consumers to a website where they can buy show tickets,” Jacobs said. “Merchants in Liepers Fork could create a QR code that leads to videos about the areas history, or the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau could promote festivals with codes that create a calendar event in the users smartphone,” he said.
“QR codes are not new. The technology behind them came out of Japan in the mid-1990s, and they’ve been ubiquitous in Asia and northern Europe for years,” said Bayard Saunders, a Nashville-based mobile advertising consultant. “They’re becoming increasingly common in major U.S. markets, but QR codes are still a rarity in Middle Tennessee,” he said.
“The smart media planners follow the consumer. And until more consumers start using it, it’s almost a chicken and egg problem: If consumers aren’t going to understand what it is, why would you take up space with a QR code?” said Saunders, who has begun carrying a QR code on a slip of paper in his pocket instead of business cards.
“That’s precisely why Crye-Leike Realtors is treading into QR codes cautiously,” said Keith Sullivan, chief marketing officer and vice president. Within the next few weeks, Crye-Leike will begin putting QR codes on the new listing cards for its agents. The codes will send home shoppers to a website that gives information about the property and alerts the agent that the person may be interested.
“But, for now, it will be up to the agent whether they want to include the code,” Sullivan said. While everyone has a phone, they aren’t all mobile smartphones, much less capable of reading a QR code, at least not yet,” he said.
“Its definitely on our radar screen, and we have seen it take off in some of the larger markets,” he said. “But we don’t want to make a drastic change until we see some (return on investment) in that.”
What traditional bar codes did for inventory tracking and management, some say QR codes are poised to do for mobile marketing. A few facts:
Sources: ScanLifes Mobile Barcode Trend Report; ABI Research
Making your own code
QR codes are as easy to create as they are to use. Several websites generate the codes for free, including Delivr.com, Kaywa and QR Code Generator from the ZXing Project. Choose what type of content you want your QR code to deliver such as a URL, text message or phone number type in the content, select the size QR code you want and click generate. Within seconds, a personalized QR code appears that you can copy and paste as HTML code or save as a permalink.
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