My First QR Code Scan Experience

March 24, 2011

Will lead you to awesomeness

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m driving to work (great lead, I know). I’m taking the same route I always take and, as I often do, drive by a Chino Latino billboard, check my rearview mirror and shake my head. Why, you ask? Because of those darned QR codes.

Twin Cities residents likely know the ones I’m referring to. They’re the square barcodes inside the image of an eyeball with the instruction to “snap often.” Here’s the Hennepin Ave. billboard (courtesy of City Pages). I frequently check my mirror and express a little frustration because I want to get my phone out to “snap often,” but I never seem to have time to without holding up traffic/getting rear-ended.

After missing the chance to access the code for the umpteenth time, I decided right then on my commute that I would become a QR code ninja later that night. And that is basically what happened. After Googling a few things and using this Optimal Resume post as a resource for some of the process, I did the following two-minute drill to create the code you see above:

1. Identify the URL to direct people to. In my case and for the sake of this post, I went to Flickr Creative Commons and typed in “awesome” and selected one of the first images I saw.

2. Shorten the link. I then visited Google’s URL-shortener and shortened my image’s link. After I shortened it, I clicked on the ‘details’ link that appears after the ‘clicks’ column. This led me to a page where, in the upper-right hand corner, I found my code and its short URL.

3. Test it. To do this, you have to download a QR reader like NeoReader or Google Googles on your smart phone. I have the latter and use it from time to time. I ended up scanning the code on my laptop, and my phone directed me to that awesome (literally) picture. Pretty simple.

I first saw one of these codes in a resume – which I still think is a cool way to stand out as a job candidate – and have been familiar with how they can be used for awhile, but I never had scanned a code or uploaded one until this week. It’s easier and quicker than I thought, and I hope some of you found the guide helpful, but I still have a bit of a grudge with a lot of QR code marketing.

I think it’s intriguing, but my criticism is that the important consumer education component has been widely missing. I get that being an early adopter can come with the cool kid effect, but without proper education and when most non-marketers still have no idea what QR codes are, I don’t really think the ROI is quite worth the cost in most cases at this point.

While it’s hard for Parasole (Chino’s parent company) to educate people from billboards, they do a good job of it in the restaurant with flyers, and even posters in the bathrooms. Natalie Zmuda points out in Ad Age that endorsements by big players like Target, Best Buy and Macy’s may bring QR codes prevalence. She also notes that Macy’s is emphasizing educating consumers before prompting them to scan codes, so I think we may have a better idea about the future of QR codes by the end of this summer.

In closing: Do you scan QR codes frequently? Do you still hear a lot of “huh?” from others when it comes to the topic?