Have you noticed an odd square icon cropping up on more and more packages and advertisements? It almost looks like a bar code that’s been scrambled into a cube of nonsense. Well, these matrix-like squares are actually codes – QR codes to be exact – and were first used by the auto industry in 1994 to track car parts during the manufacturing process. They were found to be extremely useful because of their fast decoding capabilities and high storage capacity.
Today, however, these two-dimensional barcodes are used for a much larger variety of things, including commercial tracking, transport and entertainment ticketing, product marketing and product labeling. They’ve become especially popular for smartphone users in terms of mobile tagging where you simply take a picture of the QR code to get additional information or be directed to a website. In fact, this has become one of the latest marketing fads.
According to a recent infographic, QR code scans increased by 4549 percent between Q1 2010 and Q1 2011. The infographic also gives some interesting demographic information on who is most likely to scan QR codes – the research shows that QR codes are scanned mostly by women with a family between the ages of 35 and 44, using an iPhone. Perhaps this makes sense as the majority of scanners, 87 percent to be precise, expect to get some kind of deal or coupon when they scan a QR code.
Below, I’ve included some other interesting stats from the research:
- 11 out of 50 Fortune companies are leveraging QR codes in their marketing strategy
- QR codes are most scanned in Japan and then the U.S. (predominantly in New York)
- QR codes are most often used for coupons, product information, real-time updates, mobile payments, app downloads, and paperless tickets
- QR code are scanned 68 percent of the time by iPhone users, 26 percent by Android users and 4 percent by Blackberry users
- Of QR code scanners, 64 percent are female and 36 percent are male
- 56 percent of QR codes are found on product packaging, 46 percent in magazines, 45 percent on coupons, and 27 percent in newspaper ads
With this interactive way of discovering information and getting deals, it’s clear that QR codes are on the rise. Perhaps going beyond marketing and integrating QR codes into our PR efforts will be the next step. I could envision a QR code at the end of a byline to learn more about the author or a QR code within a press release to take readers to a specific page or download on a company’s website. How could you imagine using QR codes in your PR campaigns?