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PORTLAND, OR, United States – When I say QR codes, do you know what I’m referring to? These two dimensional bar codes have been around for ages and show promise, yet they have not been popular or widely used, at least not here in the United States. However, this all seems to be changing as more brands, marketers and other parties are jumping on the bar code bandwagon. I was just at a conference where I saw more quick response (QR) codes than any other event.

So, what’s new about QR codes and why are they all of a sudden seeing a resurgence? QR codes are really quite simple, being that they are merely a barcode that can trigger a number of actions on your mobile phone. QR codes can be used to exchange contact information, launch a hyperlink, open an application, or even spawn a phone call. With a QR code ‘reader’ application, any phone, regardless of model, can be used to show Internet content in a variety of different ways.

QR codes can help save trees, making marketing and conferences more sustainable. One huge way we can help save trees and perhaps our own backs by not having to lug heavy bags around is to have QR codes for marketing materials, rather than printing off thousands of brochures, have attendees scan a code and bookmark your app or webpage for future reference.

Augment my reality. An historic site in South Carolina is using QR codes visitors in an interesting way. Rather than giving you a headset to go along with your virtual guided tour, a QR code pulls up a webpage that contains useful and relevant historic information on that site. By using your phone, you can add much more context to places you happen to be visiting this summer.

Plaster the city with codes. A marketing company in Asheville, North Carolina is wanting to make Asheville “America’s first coded city” by plastering the cities’ businesses with QR codes. The link would go to a site about that business with hours of operation and more tidbits about what sets that business a part. This is where the marketing company is in a nice situation – they can give out the codes and also consult the businesses on how to build a strategy around the QR codes.

QR codes are attractive to businesses and marketers because of a low cost of entry to bring relevant info to mobile users. Writing an application for a multiple platforms is expensive and exhausting, but every phone with a camera and a QR code reader app can be a recipient of a QR code. A simple code combined with a mobile-focused website brings instant relevance to data-hungry in a cost-effective way for publishers, businesses and anyone wanting to get a message out.

In the very short future, near field communications (NFC) will be a very prominent way to use a tap to get around bar code scanning, but until most Americans have a phone featuring NFC, QR codes seem to be the way going forward. I have NFC on my Nokia Astound and while I’m happy to have the latest and greatest, the usefulness isn’t there yet because there isn’t an ecosystem around NFC as of yet.

I’m personally seeing more QR codes here in US publications, mainly in advertising in magazines and on billboards.

Do you utilize QR codes for any purposes or do you think they’re useless? Please discuss below!

Photo credit: DenverJeffrey