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As you are out and about, walking around the world, if you ever bother to look up from the screen on your iPhone, you've probably seen a QR code -- a black and white square with three ringed black squares in the corners and a bunch of seemingly random white and black pixels scattered all over it. They look like pixelated bar codes almost. QR stands for quick response, and the senseless little black picture is a code that can store a Web page URL or short text message.
Incorrectly, I thought QR Codes were just the point-and-shoot version of http://bit.ly -- a one-way link to take me to your webpage.
It turns out that the real marketing magic from these little pictures comes from using the right type of reader. Most QR readers so far have been developed as above, uni-directional, but the interesting bit is how new software makes QR codes bi-directional, meaning a potential customer can alert the advertiser of his interest and identity when he clicks, forward his contact info to them or ask to be called by a salesman right away. And all this is easy, the way we like it as marketers, point-and-shoot, then click.
I was actually at a conference for the very old fashioned textiles industry this weekend in NYC -- http://furnituretodayonline.com/conferences/htt/context/2011/index.html -- where a company called SYNQWARE was presenting its QRSYNQ reader -- http://www.qrsynq.com -- that delivers all of the above.
The idea here was to use these codes on product labels (take me immediately to the online reviews about it before I buy) or at trade shows (point-and-shoot at my booth to bookmark my company, send me your e-business card or ask me to call you). The other use I liked was to learn that digital print shops can customize these for catalogs, meaning each one we send to your house has its individual code - once you scan it, we get a message, alerting us that you're a potentially good lead.
From a marketing point of view, this is as powerful as the iContact/ConstantContact emailing message systems, in that a marketer gets enough feedback to allow potential customers to self-identify as good leads. In my business, that's very good stuff!