QR Codes Hold Huge Possibilities in Marketing

Filed Under (Marketing, Technology) by Rajesh Kumar on 29-09-2010

In some of the recent print ads, you may have noticed a rectangular object in the body, something like the one shown here.Chances are that you may have also noticed such undecipherable messages in posters, travel documents such as tickets, in wall banners and so on. Let’s try a closer look.

Greetings from Rajesh Kumar. Should you be in getting in touch with me(sic), please leave a comment behind.  You are right, the image retains an encoded message inside that is not intended for the human eye. In fact, these Quick Response encoded message is intended to be read by apps running on commonly available smartphones such as those running on Android, Apple, Blackberry or Symbian (Nokia) phones.

For purposes of this example, the encoded message can be seen by taking the mouse over the image.

It appears on the phone screen as shown here.


QR codes were invented by a Japanese Company (Denso), who hold the patent, but believed to have chosen not exercise it for common good. QR codes can be created by specialized software, which are also available as a service over the web.

What’s the big deal really?!

Because of its versatility, it has huge application potential in real life.

Hyundai i10 ad leveraging QR CodeIf you happen to see the Hyundai car ad in yesterday’s newspapers in India, chances are that you noticed this kind of graphic sitting inside the ad. In this case, the encoded message is a telephone number.  The hint to the reader is, go ahead and connect  with the advertiser on the phone number.


 Roger’s post talks about his discovery of a QR code in on a banner at the San Diego zoo next to a turtle enclosure.  It contains a URL to a page having more information on the exhibited species, the Galapagos tortoise. Roger has posted a nice picture of the banner he found there.

To read this code, one can install an app such as ZXing (pronounced ‘Zebra Crossing’) for Android phones available free at Android Market, or i-nigma reader (no cost),which claims to work across Blackberry, Symbian, Android and iPhone platforms. Once installed, the app uses the device on board camera to scan the graphic and decode the message, and even suggest the next course of action. Read on.

Some examples of potential applications of QR Codes in Marketing

The purpose of any ad is to get the target segment get attracted by its promise and take the next steps in the direction of purchase decision. Based on the level of involvement in different product categories, an ad may result in information requests, purchase enquiries or actual purchases. This is the ‘call-for-action’ of the ad and remains vital to the marketers. This is what arguably makes an ad successful or failure. QR codes aid the ‘call for action’ process.

Case 1: Call me

Call me - Phone Number Scanning this image by a QR capable application leads to a phone number.It not just reads the numeric value, but suggests options such as whether you would want to dial that number or add that to your contact book. Useful.

Case II: SMS me

Preformatted sms In such a case, you can make the job of a prospective customer easier by precreating a text message and enclosing the number as part of one image. Like we have done in the image here. Once scanned, the application asks for the user’s permission to send that message out. Somewhat like the message encoded on the right graphic that  says, “Hello there, can I test drive the car”. A mere concurrence will send the message out.


Case III: Email me: The fun gets better

Email Message Most of these smartphones have inbuilt email apps. It is possible to make the job of a prospect to get in touch with you even more easier, since people prefer to share their email ids more than their phone numbers. Once the phone acquires the data, it understands it as an email draft, and saves the prospect the task of typing out an email and the email id. An Android device, for example, could even give the sending the option of sending the email from his/her personal account or official account. Talk about choice!

In the above example, the message is :


Notice that a tap on send email will send this message out.

Case IV: Come to this location

Suppose you are conducting a fun event or a conference and issuing passes/tickets/invites for the event. It would be so much fun, if the participant just has to scan the image to open the map of that location so that it takes the pain of figuring out the driving directions by manually typing in the details on the browser.

CW-JLN Stadium

For example, in the image on the right, we have captured the location of Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Delhi, which would come so handy for the spectators holding the Commonwealth games tickets.



Case V: Save my card for later use

Would you like to give the contact details of a representative in an ad and let the prospect decide whether he/she would like to connect back to the advertiser – by email, phone, in person or by post? In such case a business card could come in handy. We created a business card based on the below data:

Tom Kumar

Example Inc,

Street1, Northbound Cheercity

Mod, 99112, Xanadu




Tom's Contact Card

This is how the phone reads the data.


In our example here, the device understands that it is a business card, and offers the following choices

  • Add Contact ( To phone book)
  • Show map (of the store location, for example)
  • Dial the number right away
  • Send email on the id specified in his/her own words.

Case V: Come visit my site or my social media page

URL Imagine you want the customers to come visit a page to know more about the product, or read reviews of your restaurant in the popular restaurant review magazine for fill in a response form. Customers may feel more disposed to act  if the action required minimum effort. Embedding the URL in the image may help do the trick of getting better response rate. The image below, which if scanned using a reader, will take you to my this blog. Upon reading the URL, the device asks whether the site should be loaded on the browser. Just click yes!

Case V: This is fun!

Greetings from Rajesh Kumar The QR code adoption is rising with the increase in the number of smartphones. It might surprise you to know that it can capture over 4000 alphanumeric characters. That is more than an A4 page typed in font 10. While you may not want to use the whole 4K characters, decoding a punchline message an on a desktop gift item or a print ad can be a great fun by itself. I am concluding this post with an image for you to have a got at it!

And nothing stops you from creating a cap or a T-Shirt with a QR Code on it, just to convey that you are ahead of the curve!!

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    About Rajesh Kumar. Rajesh is based in Chennai, where he works for Defiance Technologies in Marketing. The views on this blog are his own. Rajesh Kumar