Amateurs borrow.


You, on the other hand, are a paid professional and thereby ethically bound to steal a good idea when you see one. Where QR codes are concerned, there’s plenty to steal. Last year saw some remarkably clever efforts, with the 2D matrix codes appearing on everything from dinner plates to live cows. Here’s a quick scan of some of the best…


1. The Webcam—A northeast regional glass maker installed a webcam in their shop so people could watch glass being made. They created a QR link to the webcam, stickered it onto their catalogs and mailers, and at one point reported a five percent scan-through rate on the catalogs alone—about five times the response of a good mail campaign.


2. Gorilla [sic] Marketing—Zoo Records, an alternative music store in Hong Kong, promoted its stable of indie bands with QR codes assembled into the shapes of animals. The animals were posted throughout the city, and each code returned information about a specific band with a sample of its music. Between the mobile purchases and social media postings, more than half of the 14 bands sold out their albums in the first week.


3. The Video—QR links to video are fast becoming a staple for delivering complex messages. The trend is particularly strong among healthcare providers, where tough times are squeezing traditional media budgets. One Nebraska hospital posted QR links to a video tour of its birthing center. Specialists now link mail and print ads to videos where they can introduce themselves personally. One Colorado hospital even posted links to its Facebook page in all delivery rooms, so patients could upload photos and videos of the blessed event. Presumably after the delivery.


4. Currency—To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the Royal Dutch Mint produced five- and ten-Euro coins imprinted with QR codes that link to an online memory game. The game site itself is not mobile optimized (ahem), but then the coins should be in circulation long enough for the problem to be rectified. One observer suggested selling the rights to the landing page, which could change every month according to the dictates of the high bidder. If you’re not too nervous about breaking the law, you could accomplish the same by rubber-stamping QR codes on dollar bills.


5. The Retail Kiosk—Gotta love this for initiative. Tesco, the #2 Korean grocer, couldn’t afford to build stores, so they built scannable kiosks in the subways instead. Riders browse photos of food while they wait, scan their choices and order for home delivery, which arrives just in time for dinner prep. Sweet. This is a large-scale application, to be sure, but the idea translates to just about any retail window, exterior wall or bus stop.


6. The Scannable Like—No need to steal this one. At Likify.com, they’re giving away QR codes linked directly to a LIKE button for your Facebook page. You can include your own logo in the code itself and even return a coupon when the user LIKEs you. Restaurants and bars are building sizable fan bases and distributing coupons directly to customers, saving themselves the cost and the hassles endemic to programs like Groupon.


7. The Coded Cow—One enterprising French farmer actually spray-painted QR codes on his cows. When visitors scanned the codes, they were sent to an online bingo game where they could win free products from the farm’s dairy store. And while a herd of Holsteins might not be your number one media choice, the novel placement of QR codes can become a important part of the brand itself.


The list goes on. Trucks, kids, trees, rocks—almost anything can serve up a unique brand experience. Stealing isn’t mandatory, or even particularly necessary once you know the basics. But with smartphones now outnumbering traditional handsets, you’ll need to learn them soon.

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