by Karen Cini
Article originally published in the Malta Independent on Sunday on 11 December 2011
If you have always overlooked the power of a tiny barcode, think again. The world of advertising and communication has reached a new level thanks to the introduction of a little square of data with symbols fused together much like a barcode.
These Quick Responses codes, better known as QR codes, have opened an interactive window that directly connects a company, an ad or what have you, to an individual via the use of a smart phone.
In spite of being an ingenious advertising tool, efficiency rather than publicity was the main contribution towards this conception. Created in 1994, QR codes were first used in the Japanese automotive industry to simply speed up the process of hunting down parts of vehicles during the manufacturing process.
So what is all the rage about these codes? Their main appeal is the large amount of data that can be decoded from them and the rapidity at which this is done. From a marketer’s perspective, QR codes are basically a pot of gold as they can “bring” an advert to your own hands. Once you scan a QR code with a smart-phone you are directed to a webpage related to the object examined – the opportunities from there are endless.
Strategic Communications, a marketing and communications company in Malta, has been using QR codes since March 2011. Owner and director Dott. Fabio Giangolini states, “We have introduced the use of QR codes in Malta with an advertisement published in a local magazine. A few days later, we also placed a QR code within an advertisement on a billboard situated in a pedestrian area in Sliema.”
When asked about how the Maltese public responded to the introduction of QR codes so far Dott. Giangolini says that people have been very interested and intrigued. “Since QR codes were something new to Malta, we organised an informative campaign on how to use them. Our first advertisements featuring QR codes actually included a few lines explaining how to use the codes.”
He further explains that, “We were confident that QR codes would be as much of an instant success in Malta, as they have been worldwide. Shortly after we pioneered their use in Malta, we started receiving requests from companies seeking our assistance to integrate the codes in their advertising campaigns. The first of our clients to use a QR code was Estetika and this was soon followed by Athenaeum Spa, Prac-tic and Pulse Fitness Studio.”
So are QR codes just an exciting novelty or will they become part and parcel of the advertising industry? “We are pleased to realise that just after a few months from their introduction, QR codes became a consolidated reality. With regard to their future in Malta, a lot obviously depends on the smart phones’ penetration on the local market. Forecasts for the year 2012 envisage that the popularity of these phones will keep on increasing.”
According to research done in the U.S.A, around 14 million American smart phone users scanned a QR code or a barcode in June 2011. Interestingly enough, 58% of these users scanned the codes from home – this may indicate that their accessibility and swift access to a fountain of information may be favoured when compared to actually typing in a link or using a search engine on the web.
As Dott. Giangolini artistically portrays it, “In my opinion QR codes are an exciting way to infuse soul into a printed advertisement. Whereas the advertising message used to be confined to a page, now we can expand the communication’s horizons and involve the readers in an interactive experience, which entails the visualization of video adverts and TV commercials directly on their smart phones. I would not be surprised if, in a few years’ time, our smart phones would be built in a way to project a holographic image when a QR code associated with a specific product is scanned. When technology and creativity meet, only the sky is the limit!”
You can download the QR application from the Strategic Communications website (www.strategicmalta.com) and also immediately test it by watching a promotional video directly on your smart phone. If you want to be on the other side of the show, creating your own code via a QR code generator is also possible. Therefore, if you have a device equipped with the correct reader application along with a wireless network, you too can become part of this sensational cyber world of communication and interaction.