Let’s back up. What is a QR Code?

The other day I’m raving away about the QR Code and how it might change the face of marketing for about 5 mins to one of my friends when he interrupts me and asks… “What is a QR Code?”. I’m honestly surprised when I hear this question but it is a valid one. When you get wrapped up in something you find exciting or interesting it is often easy to forget that not everybody is on the “same page” with ya. And after realizing I now have to explain what it is and THEN repeat my story I felt I better do the same for my blog before moving to part II of QR in retail… So, What is a QR Code?

One Dimensional Bar code

Most of us know a bar code from the products we purchase at the store. Scanning this typically just means a price to most consumers but they play a vital role in tracking inventory and sales. These codes are read horizontally and contain a string of numbers that identifies this particular product. The limitations of this type of code is that it is linear and the more complex the string, the longer the bar code must become; your average bar code holds 15-30 characters.

The Quick Response Code was developed by Denso-Wave in Japan around 1994. Its first application was for the manufacturing industry. By creating a code that not only could be read horizontally but vertically as well, these two-dimensional bar codes provided a large amount of data in roughly the same amount of space. There isn’t anything special about QR Codes except they hold much more data than a standard bar code; approximately 7,050 more characters.

QR Code vs. Bar Code

While lasers are a much more efficient method to scanning bar codes, the advancement in digital camera technology pushing three to five mega-pixel cameras into smart phones have made them a viable way to scan. It was only a matter of time before it was introduced into the Japanese and other consumer markets.  Japan is still the super QR capital of the world in sheer volume of scans, partly because many phones in Japan come with a standard QR reader, but Europe and U.S. are slowing adopting.

Today, a mobile phone camera and a QR reader can take us to;

  • Web sites
    • Social media
    • Videos
    • Pictures
    • Mobile sites
  • Share contact info
  • Call a phone number
  • Convey plain text
  • Send a text message

I like to think of my phone as a random experience waiting to happen. A conversation with a friend, a billboard, or just a random thought may spur my curiosity. Normally, I go to my phone and type it in search and begin a little exploring. I see QR Codes as an extension of this process for marketing to a consumer. Scanning a code can introduce the consumer to a whole new environment and how they engage with a brand and its products while learning a bit about their consumers. For at least a few posts I’ll be diving into this area a little further to explore more specific ways to utilize QR Codes within marketing efforts.

Do you still have questions on QR Codes? Ask away in the comments. This is also a great and in-depth article on QR Codes.


About T.J.

New graduate from Boise State University with a BBA in Marketing and a BBA in International Business. My mission... Find a career and pursue a fulfilling life of both experiences and friendships View all posts by T.J.

4 responses to “Let’s back up. What is a QR Code?

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