Column: A plan to scan

How to engage your market with QR codes

Social media, smartphone technology and user-generated content are a few things that are changing the landscape in marketing, creating new patterns of influence in consumer behavior, for businesses and organizations.

One emerging trend are strange pixilated boxes appearing on magazine advertisements, pamphlets, in-store promotion signs, merchandise, business cards, and a ton of other things. If you haven’t seen these strange matrix doo-hickeys, you soon will because they’re going to be a hot marketing tool for advertisers and businesses in 2011 (mark my words) and the opportunities are endless.

Books with scan codeWhat is it? They‘re called Quick Response codes or “QR codes” – barcodes on steroids, if you will. They are very similar to the standard UPC code you see on the back of almost every retail item on the shelves, but can store up to 7,000 digits of website, text or phone numbers in a two-dimensional space. Nifty, huh?

QR codes originated overseas and were first used to track auto parts, but have since been incorporated in many innovative and imaginative ways. They have been extremely popular in Japan and Europe for a few years, and have finally arrived onto our shores.

How do you create a QR code? Simple. There are several online sources that produce QR codes by typing in a web URL, text, phone number, or email address in the QR code generator box. The two that I use are Kaywa QR Code ( and delivr (

How does it work? Download a free barcode reader onto your smartphone – Tag Reader or NeoReader (iPhone), QuickMark or  Barcode Scanner  (Android), QR Code Scanner Pro or ScanLife (Blackberry) .  Scan the QR code stored information. It will instantly link you to a business’ website, a customer service phone number, a special YouTube video of the product, text that can be forwarded to your friends or whatever the QR code creator wants you to see on your smartphone. There are countless ways you can use QR codes to expand your business’ or product’s information.

Here are a few examples how Vancouver businesses can use QR codes:

•  Car ads.Dick Hannah Auto Mall places an ad in the newspaper of their 2011 inventory sale. Next to the picture of the featured automobile is a QR code. Scan it with your smartphone and it links to a YouTube video of the vehicle’s features.

•  Product information. Local sports apparel company, KGS Custom Shirt Company, adds QR codes to their shirts hang tags that direct consumers to their website and learn about the product and proper care.

•  Libraries.The Vancouver libraries can attach QR codes to the back of book. After scanning it, audio of the author or librarian reads a synopsis of the book. Finding a particular book can be used at the library by placing a QR code on index cards (do they still use those?) or computer screen. Scan it and a map of the library appears on your smartphone with directions.

•  Art walk. Galleries should place QR codes next to art pieces during Vancouver’s Downtown Association First Friday Art Walk. Uploading an audio or video link of the artist describing the inspiration behind the art piece – making the connection more personable and charming.

•  Selling a home. Realtors and sale-by-owners can take advantage of this new technology by posting a QR code on the “for sale” sign or flyer. Potential buyers can scan the code and it will upload a virtual tour of the house onto their phone

•  Fundraising. Nonprofit organizations, like SHARE of Vancouver, can add QR codes onto their mailers or newsletters that link to their donation or volunteer page.

You see, QR codes are fun!

As the smartphone market skyrockets, so will the use of QR Codes to convert users from a printed medium and/or traditional advertising to the interactive world of online media in new and engaging ways. 

So the next time you see a QR code, scan it and see what lies ahead. You’ll be surprised.

Noland Hoshino is the CEO and co-founder of Bcause Media, a marketing firm that specializes in helping small businesses strengthen their brand and increase productivity by connecting with current and potential customers in the social media world. You can reach him at (360)-607-4462.


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