Editors note: This column was first published June 17 and is republished here with permission from Ryan George of Biplane Productions Inc.
By Ryan George
I rarely recommend cutting corners in advertising, but there’s one marketing short cut that’s been taking Europe and East Asia by storm: the QR code. The “quick response” two-dimensional barcode is just now burgeoning in the States, as smart phones grow in popularity.
The QR code is not your momma’s bar code. It can hold over 350 times the information that a standard linear bar code can—information like web links, auto-dialed phone numbers, text messages, and email addresses. You’ve seen similar technology in non-marketing situations like a USPS machine-printed stamp or a UPS shipping label. The QR code, though, is an internationally-standardized format, primarily directed to mobile phone users—where a camera and an app will turn a scan of the square into an open web page, a queued email, or a dialing call.
Retailers have hung QR code signs in their windows for after-hours-only sales or to take shoppers to the respective product’s information page in their online catalog. Advertisers have turned Times Square-style digital signs into giant teaser ads with a QR code for full information. Business card printers have already implemented QR codes into their product line, so that people can view your web site or call you—just by scanning part of your business card with their smart phone. GM has implemented a QR code into their Volt window stickers, so that car buyers can see full vehicle specs on their mobile devices. I even saw a photo of a Tesla Motors Roadster with a QR code wrapped on its trunk deck, as part of a new national scavenger hunt game that uses the QR code.
The size of the square code graphic can vary with the medium. As long as the image can be captured, the QR code can work its magic. You could print these on your property signs so that drive-by prospects can take an interior photo tour from their car or get linked to that property’s page in the MLS or your web site. They can also be printed small enough to go on the mailer of your postcard—so that information you can’t fit in your direct mail piece will pop up on their iPhone or Droid. Within a decade, you might be able to shorten newsprint ads by replacing content with a QR code.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “It will be years before my buying public uses this technology. My market doesn’t have a demand for this—if it even knows it exists.”
That’s exactly why you should investigate the technology! You can let the world know that your clients get not only the best in current marketing practices but also the next generation of promotion. The codes are free to create and don’t cost any more than your current content to print on your brochures, signs, and vehicle wraps. By annotating its presence with a bright, little flag like “Scan this QR code with [name] app for more information,” you will generate interest in both your auction or property and the technology you’ve implemented. You can add a QR code paragraph in your seller proposals and even generate a QR code in advance for said proposal (with a hidden web page), as if to say, “Look! We’ve already created a QR code and web page just for your property.” Unless your competition is reading this article, I’d almost guarantee you a competitive advantage with such a claim.
Most of us remember what grocery store lines looked like before linear bar codes and the beeping red scanners. How much faster is checkout now? All of us remember when our local big box stores started offering self-checkout lines. While they don’t always make checkout faster, they give the sense of convenience. A QR code in your advertising will likewise let people help themselves—faster—to your marketing materials.
You’ll want to be an early adopter. Wendy Miller of Curran Miller Auction/Realty, Inc. (Evansville, IN) told me, “I recently learned about the quick response code concept at a real estate salesperson continuing education class. The instructor mentioned that several REALTORS® in his area were including a quick response code on the sign they placed on the property. When a prospect scanned the code with a smart phone, he was taken to a web site specifically dedicated to that property.”
Wendy already sees the benefit for her firm. She wrote, “As advertising costs continue to rise, we are actively seeking ways to market our auctions in the most cost effective manner. The quick response code could easily be included in signage, direct mail pieces and other print media to disseminate a tremendous amount of information in a very small space, which would ultimately save our clients money.”
The more ways you can get people connected to your advertising for the same budget, the more efficient your advertising can be. QR codes could grow into a key component of your lean, mean marketing machine.