What the heck is a QR code? Think of it this way, with the new smart phones most people have you can send them a ton of good information about your organization in just a few seconds. It really doesn’t cost you anything! If you have a free bar code reader app on your smart phone you simply take a quick picture of the goofy squiggles of a QR code and instantly your information appears on their phone. Way cool! (Try the QR Code above with your smart phone!)
QR codes (short for Quick Response) are similar to the barcodes used by retailers to track inventory and price products at the point of sale. Key differences between the two types of codes are the amount of data they can hold or share with your audience. Standard bar codes are linear one-dimensional codes and can only hold up to 20 numerical digits, whereas QR codes are two-dimensional (2D) matrix barcodes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. Their ability to hold more or your information and their ease of use makes them practical for our pages of information on the digital signage. By scanning or reading a QR code with your iPhone, Android or other camera-enabled Smartphone, you are able to link to digital content on the web, activate various phone functions including email, IM and SMS and connect the mobile device to a web browser. These desirable functions are easily achieved by properly creating a QR code. It’s a simple process of entering the appropriate data into the QR code generator. The capability of QR codes to connect people with each other and to multimedia digital content is very useful for our digital signage clients and the campus audiences, alike.
Our digital signage team calls the information we can deliver to our viewing public “the payload” or “the package” in that we can only stuff so much limited and scant information on a single page in our loop of information on the digital signage monitors. But by augmenting that brief information with a simple QR code we can deliver far more information to our viewers if they are motivated to get more information from the initial digital signage message.
QR codes are catching on quickly in media. We are using them on some of our digital signage pages right now and the response is very good… but we don’t over-use them. We also subscribe to a QR code generation service that allows us to track usage metrics of individual QR codes from our digital signage pages. We can use them to determine the efficacy of a specific marketing campaign we are promoting on our digital signage. We have even used them for simple “voting” opportunities on certain promotions, so that our students can cast a simple vote for one of several t-shirt designs or which poster was deemed the best in a design contest!
Regarding the spatial design and sizes of inlaying QR Codes within a content page within your loop of information, check out this link from the cicciideas blog… http://cicciideas.com/?p=589 This is an excellent research piece on distance from digital signage correlated to the physical size of the QR Code graphic on the display signage. (George Cicci was a Professional Technologist on our team, our lead Graphics Artist and recently completed his Master’s Degree in Integrated Marketing Concepts at West Virginia University and now is Executive Creative Director at Waynesburg University. His research on this topic was valuable to us in determining the efficacy in using QR codes on our digital signage network.)
You need to understand HOW someone will USE your QR code via digital signage if you want to maximize this useful technology. With most digital signage situations and venues you need to consider the length of “dwell time” your audience will have in front of your signage and displayed QR code. (Think of someone walking from Point A to Point B vs. someone sitting in a doctors office waiting room. This example is of two very different “dwell time” lengths and the ability to manually act upon the QR code.)
Next you need to consider how long your audience has for a “draw time” (think about the Old West gunslingers)… the time it takes them to actually draw out their smartphone, load their bar scan reader application, take a picture of your QR code and then look at the information. This means your QR code needs to be displayed on the content page of your digital signage for at least 30-60 seconds! (QR codes on some digital signs need to be tested at various locations once placed inside buildings or underground where cellular data connections may, or may not, be usable due to the blocking of cell signals by the building infrastructure. Below is an example of one of our content messages employing a QR code.)
Finally, the “payload” or “package” of information they received for their effort MUST have a significant value to them as a consumer of this information. Merely taking them to a website is most likely not going to buy you much goodwill. I suggest the “payload” for them be a coupon, discount or other incentive that gains them something of perceived value or convenience. (For goodness sake, make sure your website is a mobile website. You will aggravate your audience if they have to jump through too many hoops attempting to navigate a non-mobile website.)
One thing that I am very cognizant of is how many QR codes we employ on our content pages. Too many is too much! Not every page of content needs a QR code. Use QR codes strategically in a call to action or marketing campaign. I also place a high value on our content designers beautiful artwork and do not want the QR code to diminish their designs. Clutter is not content.
Malicious QR Codes are also possibilities, here is an interesting post about it with a very interesting infographic! http://usa.kaspersky.com/about-us/press-center/press-blog/malicious-qr-codes-how-they-work-demo
Are QR Codes Losing Their Magnetism? Here is an excellent article from Mobile Marketer (April 25, 2013)