QR Codes: Marketing Fad or Fancy?

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Conference Track

Sport Marketing

Publication Date



Used actively for over a decade in Japan, Quick Response codes (QR Codes) have begun to catch on in the US as a viable tool in the marketer’s toolbox. QR is a registered trademark of Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota (“How QR Codes”, 2011). However, by not exercising their patent rights, this technology has gained more widespread use in recent years. Today, it is commonplace to see QR codes in print, tv and multimedia digital content advertisements. Yet, the question remains whether QR codes are a passing fad or the new fancy of marketing platforms. QR Codes are two-dimensional versions of linear bar codes, used for years by retailers to track inventory and price products at the point of sale (“How QR Codes”, 2011). However, what distinguishes QR codes from bar codes is the amount of data they can hold or share. One-dimensional bar codes are limited to 20 numerical digits, whereas two-dimensional QR codes can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. This fact makes it potentially more useful and robust for both businesses and consumers. Another unique characteristic of QR codes is that their digital content can be shared via various social media i.e., Twitter and Facebook, as well activating various “smart phone” functions, including email, Short Message Services (SMS), and connection to a web browser. To tap the power of QR codes, one needs only a smart phone e.g., iPhone, Blackberry, or Android, a freely created QR code, a free downloaded scanner or reader application (app) program, and a little imagination. From a marketing perspective, QR codes enable sharing of relevant information about one’s product or service with others through social media outlets, which helps marketers build “community” with their customers, as well as potential customers. By connecting QR codes in this manner to the market, special offers can be taken to new landing pages and email opt-ins lists can then be created. Thus, a “call to action” among multimedia connected consumers can be generated. QR codes may also become part of a business’s attempt to build community off-line as well, as they can be linked to specific blog posts that have previously demonstrated proven levels of “activity”. Finally, QR codes can assist businesses track “hits” to their web pages, as they most frequently are linked to URLs as “bounce-backs”, thus providing immediate analytics for future marketing and promotional plans. Some useful applications of QR codes include placing them on one’s business cards, brochures or other marketing materials, the sides of trucks and trailers, product tags and packing, convention and event marketing, restaurant menus, event ticket stubs, and point-of-sale receipts. One of the current uses of QR codes is as digital boarding passes for the airlines. The marketing campaign of the Cure Starts Now Foundation in support of brain cancer research used QR codes to link to their landing page, where one’s contact information is exchanged for a coupon for a free scoop of Elena Blueberry Pie ice cream, named in honor of the little girl who died from brain cancer (“QR Codes”, 2011). In “2-D Codes: The 10 Commandments for Marketers” (2011), Jamie Turner, chief content officer of the 60 Second Marketer, explains that many companies are using QR codes as novelty items instead of using them to drive real, tangible revenue to their businesses. His “10 Commandments suggest smart solutions to vexing problem of how to best use this technology to maximize sales and the customer’s experience with one’s product or service. In short, QR codes must be able to deliver a value-added component to the customer’s experience to become a mainstay staple in the marketer’s digital tool box. If not, this new marketing platform may instead become a fad in both the digital, as well as the physical world of product and service marketing. In the sport marketing field, QR codes are just beginning to take hold as a viable means of communicating with patrons and fans. NIKE, Anheuser-Busch, and Miller Brewing are using QR codes in their marketing campaigns with colleges and the NFL. They are beginning to appear in print and video messaging for individual colleges as well, with TCU, WVU, Cincinnati among a growing list of schools that have attached QR codes to football fan guides, postcards, video advertising clips, season ticket renewal campaigns, among others uses. This presentation will more closely examine this innovative marketing tool, it’s application potential for business and sport, and help determine if this unique messaging medium is a passing fad or indeed the fancy of marketers in the future.

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