In a culture where 3-D movies, XBox video games, and iPods dazzle our senses, the use of print media can seem like a rather boring entertainment option. However, technology has actually unleashed a whole new life for the printed page. Welcome to the age of QR codes, or “Quick Response” barcodes, which allow you to transform lifeless paper into an exciting, sensory experience.
A QR code is a two-dimensional barcode that creates automatic links to multi-media or text files, such as video, audio, documents, website pages, etc. To access the information, you simply scan a QR code using a camera-based smartphone, such as an iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc. According to Neilsen, at least 51% of all Americans will carry a smartphone by the end of 2011. Plus, there are free apps that enable phones to easily scan QR codes. Search your phone’s app store for a “QR reader.” I recommend the free app called i-Nigma.
With QR codes, authors, publishers, non-profits, and businesses gain a new ability to make their printed material, such as books, newsletters, and postcards, literally come alive. For example, I’ve listed nine ways you can use QR codes to capture people’s attention, enhance their reading experience, and generate higher revenue:
1. Launch a mini-website
When people browse through your books, newsletters, or marketing ads, why not give them several reasons to take action in that very moment? For instance, place an interactive website in the palm of their hands. Offer compelling features, such as videos, quizzes, store locater pages, behind-the-scenes info, and sample chapters that appear within seconds. Make browsing your book or newsletter a persuasive multi-media experience, rather than just flipping through pages. For a great example, scan the code to the right to launch the mobile mini-site for the book, SuperFreakonomics.
2. Video trailers
A trailer is essentially a video commercial designed to give the viewer information about your product or service along with a compelling reason to buy. For example, publishers can place QR codes on their book covers that invite readers to watch a video message from the author. Imagine the connection that viewers will feel when they can hear the author’s passion and purpose for writing the book. QR codes provide a new way to convince your target audience to buy in the middle of the purchasing process.. Scan this code to watch a great book trailer for bestselling author, Christopher Reich.
3. Chapter enhancers
QR codes can also energize the individual pages and chapters of a book or marketing brochure. For instance, you could place a code at the beginning of a chapter that plays a video or audio message from the author describing the key focus of that chapter. In contrast, you could add a QR code at the end of a chapter that links to supplementary resources, follow-up material, or group discussion questions. For example, scan this code to watch a case study from Seth Godin relating to Section 2 of his book, Unleashing the Ideavirus.
4. Retail sales material
When businesses launch new products, they’re competing against thousands of other options that line the retailer shelves. Thus, it’s easy for shoppers to feel overwhelmed as they walk the aisles. However, imagine making your product stand out from the crowd and command attention. Businesses can capture consumer interest by placing QR codes on their retail sales material, such as posters, shelf displays, endcaps, and catalogs. As shoppers browse the store, they’re able to watch videos or download exclusive information that helps peak their purchasing interest. Even better, they can take what they viewed on their smartphone and show it to friends, thereby spreading word-of-mouth. Scan the adjoining code for a sample of a publisher “shelf talker.”
The versatility of QR codes is part of their marketing brilliance. Imagine boosting sales by giving readers a coupon they can use immediately, or directing them to selected retailers with special pricing. For instance, shoppers could scan a QR code that creates a message, such as “Take 15% off your purchase at the register” or “Click this website link for an extra low price.” Heighten the purchasing process by giving consumers an automatic incentive to buy. Scan the adjacent code for a fake coupon that I created as a sample.
Need a fresh way to draw readers to your product or service? Create a contest using QR codes. I recently attended a trade show where an exhibitor displayed nine QR codes continuously rotating on a video screen. Visitors were invited to select one of the nine codes and scan it with their smartphone. If you scanned the right code, you won a prize. If you scanned the wrong code, you received a message that thanked you for playing and gave a website link to learn more about the exhibiting company. You can use this same concept to create exciting contests both in-person or online. For example, place QR codes on your products or website, but make only one of them the winning image. Get readers buzzing about your contest by making them hunt for the winning code.
7. How-to Audio and Video
Some people learn better by watching a video, instead of following a list of instructions. Use QR codes to offer how-to audio and video that coincides with your product. For example, you could take a cookbook to a whole new level if the reader scanned a QR code that launched a culinary demonstration directly from the recipe page. You could even provide a code that downloaded a detailed shopping list directly to the viewer’s smartphone…talk about value-added convenience! Scan the QR code to the right for an audio sample of me giving a how-to presentation.
8. Product Updates
Once a product goes to market, it’s difficult to add updated material that occurs after that product is released. With QR codes, however, you can supply customers with the latest updates on a specific item. For example, a non-fiction book about politics could display a QR code inside the back cover that gives the reader constantly updated material about the author’s status in Washington. Or, your company brochure could display a QR code that links to latest news, service updates, or behind-the-scenes access to upcoming products. In essence, your print materials always stay up-to-date.
9. Social Media Conversations
Products that sell best are usually items that make people talk. Conversation is the foundation for word-of-mouth. QR codes can help businesses stimulate large-scale conversations by connecting customers to social networking sites where people are discussing specific products, such as a Twitter feed, Facebook page, online forum, or blog. Don’t make readers search for the conversation. Use QR codes to drive them to the conversation. For example, scan the adjacent code to view people talking about one of my clients on Facebook.
The day is gone when print media must languish behind the advances of new technology. Instead, your physical marketing items can now serve as conduits to dazzling, state-of-the-art marketing experiences. The versatility of QR codes has opened a whole new range of possibilities, and the widespread adoption of smartphones will only accelerate the progress. Use the above ideas to kickstart your creativity, and transform your old, static, print pieces into multi-media promotional power tools.
Note: I’ll wager a guess that you liked this article because the QR codes turned the content into more than just words on a page. You engaged in reading, watching, and listening. This is what the public wants, so it’s your job to make it happen.
Here’s the cool part: The cost to create and use QR codes is very inexpensive. Plus, you can even track how many times people scan your codes and monitor the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. When you combine the high-value, low-cost, and tracking capability that QR codes provide, their incredible value quickly becomes apparent.
If you’d like to learn more about incorporating QR codes into your marketing strategy, call 1-800-267-2045 or email: Rob@StartaWildFire.com for expert assistance.
By the way, you can also use QR codes to create virtual business cards. Scan this code to display my business contact information and load it into your smartphone’s database.