QR Codes: The Active Link Between Direct Mail, Web and Mobile

Most marketers talk about “integrated” marketing, but too often what results from an “integrated” campaign is a combination of banners, brochures, billboards, posters, postcards, Web pages, newsletters, email blasts, and perhaps even in-store displays. Each piece is designed to reach a prospect in a different media environment, and certainly all share a theme as well as similar text and graphics.

What can bring all these components together is the use of a dynamic link to propel the customer from a direct mail postcard or insert to a carefully designed or even personalized Web page. This is the space where Quick Response (QR) codes operate, adding a truly proactive and unifying dimension to your multichannel marketing efforts.

QR codes can be included on virtually any printed material, from direct mail postcards, flyers and brochures to billboards, invoices, and merchandise labels and tags. By themselves, QR codes are printed squares with a checkerboard appearance. However, in operation, they take a consumer from your direct mailer to your Web site or a specific Web page for in-depth information on products and services, to make an online purchase, or to a video demonstration, discount coupon or newsletter offer, 



The key to the rapidly increasing use of QR codes is the ever-expanding public embrace of smartphones. The recent Nielsen 2011 third-quarter survey of mobile users revealed that 43 percent of all U.S. mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone. The majority of subscribers under the age of 44 -- and 62 percent of mobile users ages 25-34 -- own smartphones. Typically, these phones are equipped with cameras capable of scanning QR codes, while a built-in or downloadable app “reads” the codes and instantly directs the smartphone to a designated Web site or Web page.

What can you do with QR codes to support your marketing effort? The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Here are a few examples:

*QR codes on postcards can direct potential buyers instantly to an online catalog, optimized for mobile device viewing, to review available products and services.

*If your product or service is best presented via an active demonstration, a QR code can direct your prospects to an online video.

*Hotels can include QR codes in direct mail to show conference facilities, video tours and dinner menus, and allow users to make inquiries online when their interest is high.

*QR codes can link to different pages at a company’s Web site to test a specific promotion or approach to see what is working and what isn't. Similarly, you can offer different QR codes to different target groups to test response.

*QR codes can be personalized by having them embedded with a personalized URL (PURL), which takes a user to a customized microsite. These can be made for every prospect on a mailing list.

To maximize mileage from QR codes, be sure to provide online content that adds value for the targeted consumer and makes it worth their while to scan the code. You might, for example, promise a discount coupon for visitors to the site, a brief video product demonstration, a secure online site for ordering tickets to an event, or a social media page that provides positive testimonials about a service.

Another consideration is that QR codes directed to smartphone users should link to Web pages that are optimized for display and navigation by these mobile devices. Web sites designed to be viewed by a desktop PC or Mac will be problematic for the mobile user and likely will contain too much information for easy access. It is also important to ensure that the mobile site is designed for multiple types of mobile Web browsers.

As a special benefit for marketers, QR codes can provide precise measurements of your campaign, including the number of scans a code generates, the time of day of the scans, and which mobile devices are doing the scanning. While useful for every campaign as well as for testing a particular concept or a new audience segment, when QR codes are used in conjunction with PURL microsites, this back-end reporting can be even more detailed and useful, and may provide specific information for targeting your next campaign.

QR codes serve as an immediate call to action at the moment of consumer engagement. They offer a bridge between the static direct mail piece and what can be a wide array of online information. When included on printed postcards, flyers, or brochures, they operate as a vehicle to deliver traffic to your Web site or to specific Web pages. And, of course, they make your sites instantly accessible to smartphone users, whether they’re at home, at work, commuting, just browsing their mail or actively looking to buy. QR codes provide an immediate, active follow-up means to establish a relationship with consumers and enhance the effectiveness of your direct mail campaign.

3 comments about "QR Codes: The Active Link Between Direct Mail, Web and Mobile ".
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  1. Steve Schildwachter from Enterprise CMO, LLC, January 23, 2012 at 10:52 a.m.

    David, thanks for pointing out a practical use of QR codes...but even better, the intersection of Mobile and Direct Mail. I added my thoughts here:

    Thanks for a good article!

  2. Rodney Brooks from ToTouch One, Inc, January 23, 2012 at 1:53 p.m.

    QR codes are not the only way to "integrate marketing" or "add a dynamic link" or be "proactive". Try speakEZ - To activate your offline media. See how easy and simple a Mobile Direct Response service can be. What are you afraid of...try speakEZ. Call from your mobile phone 1-877-450-8899 and Say "Q R This" and experience a different type of Mobile Direct Response.

  3. Joe Rucci from AR Mobile LLC., January 23, 2012 at 9:39 p.m.

    We are developing a new product that allows you to create a profile and share with friends. It's called Dittle and is both a QR code scanner/generator. We have a full description on our website...

    Best part is its free!

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