One of the burgeoning marketing tools that is really starting to gain popularity is the use of QR codes, quick response codes. These maze-looking images actually contain data that can be unlocked by smartphones and other devices equipped with QR code readers.
One third of all Americans own smartphones and according to the Pew Research Center, many are ditching computers because their smart phones are their main access to the Internet. That means that as voters and constituents migrate to increased smartphone usage, campaigns and politicians must have content ready for these new platforms.
I personally use the ATTScanner app that I downloaded from the Apple App Store. Whenever I see a QR code, I pull out my iPhone and use the scanner app to unlock the code’s content.
QR codes are fantastic because in a very limited space, they provide users extra content or insights they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. For example, earlier this year I visited the Santa Barbara Zoo. At each of the animal exhibits they had the typical placards that explain certain details about the species, but they also had QR codes on each sign. Upon scanning the codes, I found even more content such as funny videos of the particular animal at feeding time or other details that weren’t contained on the exhibit sign.
How to Use a QR Code
Here’s how I use my QR code scanner app:
1. Open the app on your smartphone.
2. Hold it up to the QR code. Some apps require you to take a photo of the code and then it will unlock it. My scanner automatically read the code then opens either a web site or a YouTube video.
3. Interact with QR code content. In this image, you can see the code took me right to my web site. (Tip: You can also place QR codes on business cards if all your information won’t fit on a regular card.)
In a way, QR codes remind me of the “Easter eggs” that programers place on DVDs or video games. It’s a little something extra that’s kind of a treat for those really interested in digging deeper.
How to Create a QR Code
QR codes provide an easy way to generate content. In less than 1 minute, I was able to search for a free QR code generator, enter the URL I wanted it to unlock and create the image.
Here’s the QR code I generated using quirfy!
If you have a QR code reader, you can see this code leads directly to a video welcoming people to my Facebook page.
Political Applications for QR Codes
So what are the political applications for using QR codes? Think personalization. In something the size of a postage stamp, you can have all sorts of information or calls to action.
For example, a candidate could place the code on the walls of his campaign headquarters. When visitors arrive, they can scan the code and receive a special welcoming video from the candidate since he can’t be there all the time. Or perhaps the code contains a how-to video so volunteers can hit the ground running.
QR codes would be particularly useful on those ubiquitous mailers that inundate voters in the weeks leading up to an election. A QR code on the mailer could ask the recipient to volunteer, donate, or take further actions to aid the campaign. Or it just leads the reader to a video greeting from the candidate.
I’ve seen some people recommend using QR codes for TV commercials. However, unless the viewers has a DVR and can pause live television, they probably aren’t going to have enough time in a 30 second ad to run to the TV and hold their phone there long enough to read it. I think mailers, campaign signs and other printed materials are more appropriate.
What other ideas do you have for incorporating QR code into your campaign or communications with constituents? Let me know via the comments section below. Be creative and remember personalization is key when using QR codes.