My first experience using QR codes came at SXSWi.  I loved the ease of using a bar code to enter a new contact’s info.  I download a QR reader, pointed my iPhone to the QR code on their and presto, chango the info was entered into my address book.  When I got back from the convention I started to notice QR codes appearing on the pages of some of my favorite magazines.  Maybe they had been there all along but now I knew what they were and I had the tools and the apps to use them.  I simply scanned the code with my smartphone and now I could capture the story, tip or ad and story to store on my iPhone.  The next thing I know, I’m tagging codes at retail shops to find the best bargain on an item in my area.  I’m tagging products at Target to see if the store I’m currently at has the best deal or to see if I should travel to a Target a little further away to save a boatload of money.  Clearly, QR codes are the wave of the future and they are “so hot right now”! Codes and Barcode attachments are quickly becoming de rigueur for social campaigns. Let’s take a critical eye to these fancy-shmancy things and figure out where their value lies. Here is my run at defending this trending medium to hopefully convince you why they are here to stay.

What is a QR code? Basically, a QR code (or Quick Response Code) is a geometric-looking, two-dimensional visual code (seen below) that, when scanned, accesses hidden information. There are many different QR code applications for any platform, even basic SMS phones. Regarding the one-dimensional barcodes you see everyday, certain applications like Stickybits, allow users to scan and attach photos, URLs and/or comments.

Even though QR code technology is available to all types of cellphones, the true value is in smartphones. Only on smartphones can we carry over the customer’s curiosity to explore the digital space and provide a completely branded and bespoke mobile experience.

Over the past year or two, there have been several successful campaigns utilizing QR codes. Digital coupons have seen a rampant spike (as illustrated in Fast Company’s Infographic) and QR codes have been at the forefront of the trend. Transmedia storytelling in marketing campaigns, especially for the entertainment industry, has embraced QR codes as a way to extend the story into the digital realm. Even the music industry has begun to use QR codes as a means to provide users with exclusive content and virtual backstage passes. These case studies are the foundations to using QR codes and barcodes in creative ways.