November 23 2010

Georgia McCabe has spent her 30 year career at the intersection of photography and digital technology.  As an author, speaker, trainer and social media and photography evangelist, her perspectives entitled  “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Friends…or Enemies” appears in print in a new book entitled The Relationship Age, by social media guru Mari Smith. Georgia is a frequent guest blogger for professional photo printing lab.


QR Codes have long been a consumer “item” in Japan and they are making their way into the rest of the consumer world.  The applications for this technology are endless, but here I want to focus on how photographers might use them to increase the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.

If you are like most American consumers and don’t know what I am talking about, let me first give you a high level description of what a QR code is and what it can and might do.

QR codes, short for “quick response,” are two dimensional barcodes that have been found on mass manufactured Japanese products since the mid 1990’s. Common UPC barcodes have revolutionized grocery checkout lines here for almost that long.  UPC identifies each and every product during checkout and automatically enter description and price into the cash register. QR codes are similar, but rather than being constructed from a series of vertical bars and spaces, they are instead composed of a small 2 dimensional array of boxes and spaces. Because of their design, while UPCs can carry about 20 characters, QR codes can carry at least 4,000 characters.

But why would anybody besides a cashier really care about these machine readable formats? Enter today’s modern camera phone. After simply downloading any number of free code translation applications, anyone with a camera phone can just “take a picture of the barcode” and the phone automatically displays all encoded data. Now, I really don’t care about the UPC code for a can of soup, but QR codes can carry a lot of much more useful information. Your smartphone can turn the apparent jumble of random pixels into a stored contact, link you to a web site or even send an email or SMS message…all by just pointing the camera at the code in question…no typing required! There is a growing number of web sites that allow virtually anyone with a computer to enter their own data and create their own customized QR code. You can print them on flyers, postcards, business cards, t-shirts, stickers, and even embed them in your email signature!

After a recent post on the H&H Fan Page about QR, Matt Hupe, from 1000 Words Studio, responded with a copy of his business card which includes his contact information as a QR code!  Here is some of Matt’s experiences and tips to use QR technology.

1.  You need a card with great design and feel. One that conveys your quality right from the start. Use a premium thickness with UV coating and rounded corners.

2.  You always want a call to action and that’s where Matt got creative and added a QR code that can be read by iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. It carries his studio information, his website link and a message offering “a free 8×10 with your first purchase.”  It all worked on my Android using “Barcode Scanner.” I effortlessly added him to my contacts and my phone offered a map to his location, to dial his phone or even to send him an email.

3.  Since QR codes are still in their infancy, Matt says that you have to give the client a little bit of a clue as to what to do with them.  He did this by placing a short message next to the code that says, “Scan me for a deal!”  When he hands out his card he tells potential customers that there is something cool included and that they can get something for free if they scan it and show the hidden message when they use his service. It’s a high tech treasure hunt. When they scan the card and get his info, they get enticed with the offer of a free 8×10. Matt says that many even ask for another card for a friend.

4.  To make you own QR code you can go to Qurify (http://www.qurify.com), ZXing (http://zxing.appspot.com/generator/)  and Kaywa (http://qrcode.kaywa.com.)  ZXing is cool since it allows you simply to also embed a URL, phone number, text and a ready-to-send SMS message in a single QR code. Keep in mind that the more information you embed, the smaller the pixels will be.  And don’t forget to do you own QA.  Test it out yourself to make sure that everything works as intended.

5.  Of course you will need a QR app for your smartphone.  Go to you application store and search “QR Reader.”  I use a free Android app called simply “Barcode Scanner.”

Install it, launch it and follow the directions…it’s that simple!

I am extremely excited about the possibilities for using this in a wide variety of ways. I am presenting at two conferences this month and I am going to make up some Avery labels with my QR code and place them on my badge…even put them at the end of my presentations! When I meet someone and they ask me for my card I am going to have them scan my badge with their smart phone, and they will get all of my contact information and hopefully click my Fanpage link and become a fan!

So go get a reader application for your phone and find the hidden message in the QR generator screen capture above!


 

2 Responses to “Image Marketing with a New Twist”

  1. Google sent us a favorite places badge last year to put in our window, and it had a QR code on it. I personally haven’t used my cell phone to scan any, but I’ve talked to a few of our high school seniors who say they do quite frequently. I think it will be the next generation that will really give this technology a chance in the US.

     
  2. On the Android, the built in app Google Goggles will read them.

     

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