The brick and mortar hyperlink

  • May 19, 2011

Matthew Caylor, Account Executive – Interactive, MANSI Media

QR Codes have become one of the new buzz words floating around the marketing/advertising industry. With speakers discussing these codes at conventions and articles popping up in trade journals, it seems as though these little boxes might revolutionize the industry.

Google Trends Report 

QR CodeIf you have yet to run into an evangelist of the QR Code, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. Quick Response (QR) Codes appear in print ads, on billboards, in retail locations and at numerous other places, as retailers seek to drive mobile traffic to websites, videos and social feeds or to prompt an action (send a text, make a call). Smartphone users can interact with these codes by downloading an application to their device and then utilizing their camera to scan the code. These codes bring a portion of the linkability that exists on the Internet to the brick and mortar world.

“I like to think of QR Codes as physical hyperlinks – like barcodes on the side of most products – that connect names, numbers, and other data to physical objects using the camera on a smart phone or other portable device,” Jonathan Blum of, said in “Roundup: QR Code Tools.”

While the technology is still in its early stages, it does have a lot of room to grow. According to comScore, in the final quarter of 2010, more than 65.8 million people in the United States owned a Smartphone (as a comparison, 76.2 million homes had access to an in-home broadband connection in Q4). With the majority of Smartphones capable of downloading an application to scan a QR code, the room for growth in the market is fairly large.

What can QR Codes do for you?

“We introduced QR Codes to our advertisers in February of 2011. In a recent survey by MGM Marketing, 32 percent of Smartphone users have scanned a QR code and 72 percent of those surveyed recalled an ad that contained a QR Code. This was seen as a great opportunity for our advertisers to bridge their print and online experience for their customers. Even without a customer scanning the code, we were sure to help our advertisers stand out,” Greg Davis, director of digital sales and marketing at The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, said.

Quick Response Codes can provide a new way to measure engagement with print advertising.  Traditionally, determining ROI was dependent on surveys, dedicated phone lines, ad specific codes or just a gut feeling. With QR Codes, tracking can be incorporated right into the ad as users engage their Smartphones, visiting the campaign-specific website or performing the desired action, while leaving a traceable path behind. Along with tracking capabilities, this new tool allows for immediate engagement. The user does not have to visit a brick and mortar to start working with the brand or, in the case of a solely digital product, visit a computer.

The Morning Call advertisement for Android App using a QR Code.If a newspaper is looking to drive a user to its new application (in the case of The Morning Call, Allentown, example presented here), utilizing QR Codes can bypass a number of potential barriers and steps. This streamlining eases the transition and can help with redemption of an offer.

While working with potential QR Code advertisers, it is important to remember a few points:

  • Be sure the client has a mobile-enabled website. Users employing this tool will most likely be on a mobile device with a smaller screen, and sending them to a non-mobile orientated site can diminish the experience or detract from the value of the ad.
  • Be sure to explain to readers what these new boxes are. Leverage the editorial powerhouse that is the newspaper industry to bring clear and concise information and instructions about QR Codes. At the same time, let the consumer know that the codes will be offering additional value (either through a special offer or ease of access). Equipped with this knowledge, the readership is much more likely to utilize these tools.

“QR marketing is right in the middle of a classic Web hype cycle with its claims wildly overstated by proponents. Like all marketing, it must be treated as a trial-and-error affair. Move slowly, and if you are not seeing results, drop it,” Jonathan Blum of said in “Roundup: QR Code Tools.”

Is your paper employing QR Codes? How have your advertisers responded? Let us know about your effort by emailing

Matthew Caylor is one of PNA’s resident experts and is available to speak at your newspaper about all things digital. To learn more or to set up an in-person visit, contact Matt at (717) 703-3040 or email

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