Ok, you have probably seen them and if you have the proper app you may have even scanned one using your mobile phone. QR codes or 2D barcodes are like product barcodes on packaging where a series of lines or squares (in this case) represent information. In the case of QR codes this information is used to connect the person scanning the code to a website or other internet address, display text, send a text message or fill out a virtual address card (Vcard).
The QR barcode was developed in 1994 by Denso-Wave a subsidiary of Toyota as a way to quickly scan a larger amount of data than a typical barcode could store. It is now a worldwide standard and its uses have grown from its manufacturing and inventory control roots to a potentially useful marketing tool. It is worth a look to see if QR codes have a place in marketing your art.
A QR code can:
- Can store up to approximately 4300 alphanumeric characters depending on the size and number of squares in the matrix
- Easily store URL or web address or other links
- Contain information on a vCard, email or text message
- Be easily scanned with a mobile phone platforms the phone’s camera and a scanner apps. In many parts of the world mobile phones are QR ready out of the box.
Your mobile phone is also a QR Scanner
Once you have downloaded one of the many QR Scanner apps into your mobile phone you run the app and then take a picture of the QR code with your phone’s camera. When the camera locks onto the code and captures the picture it will display the information contained or website address. You can then proceed to read the information, visit the website or receive a text message.
Some examples of how others are using QR codes:
- To enable easy user connections to websites and other digital content with just a click of the user’s mobile device
- Inventory control and tracking of parts in a manufacturing operation
- Online ticketing where you purchase tickets for an event or movie online and a QR code is sent to your mobile device – the image of the QR code serves as your ticket. When you enter the venue you show them the code on your mobile device which is then scanned in lieu of a paper ticket.
- In magazine or newspaper advertisements to direct the reader to a site to find out more.
- With coupons and direct mail pieces
- Billboard ads, displays and signage.
- Contests or sweepstakes where the winning code is contained in certain pieces
- Virtual couponing where a coupon or special offer is sent to the mobile device
- In the real estate industry on yard signs
- There are now funerary services that will attach a QR code to a grave site headstone where the QR code leads to a website that tells the story about the deceased.
- Just about any advertising medium where you want to get out more information, capture your audience’s attention and track your results.
How artists can use QR codes
One of the cool things about using QR codes is that if you can get someone to scan your code you already have their attention – this is a big step in any advertising or promotional effort! Once you have their attention, QR codes make it easy for you to have further communications with your audience. With QR codes there is no writing down or remembering a particular website, advertisement or product, a quick scan takes care of that. QR codes can bridge an important step in getting your audience’s attention and turning that into finding out more. Here are some ways artists can use QR codes:
- Direct people to your website, online store, YouTube videos, social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter.
- Give people physical directions to a show or event using Google Maps
- Create codes for individual pieces artwork to help you keep track of inventory
- On your business card
- On your brochures or promotional materials
- In your printed ads, signage, posters, and flyers
- In video advertisements and digital displays – QR codes can be read from digital displays and projectors
- In a gallery placed on your signs next to your individual artworks with a message something like this, “To Learn The Story Behind This Piece and the Artist Please Scan This Code” – Think Virtual Gallery assistant!
- On your artwork (I’m thinking of the QR codes on the back but a few artists are placing them on the front of their artwork in the signature area)
- On your packaging, wrappers, bags or tags
- Any place where you want people to easily be able to connect with you
Creating a QR code
There are several ways to create your own QR code and many are free. If you search the internet for QR codes you will find many sites that offer an online service to create your QR code. You simply enter your URL, message or other content and it creates a QR code graphic which you can download and use in your marketing materials. Take note that some of these services will direct the person who scans your QR code first through their website and then on to the one you specified (redirects). Most of these companies are really in the business of keeping track of and generating statistics on your QR code usage – for a fee.
There are other web services who simply offer QR code generation without any redirects such as http://beqrious.com. In case you don’t have a smart phone with a QR reader app you can still decode (read) your QR code by uploading its image and using a tool such as this Online QR Code Decoder.
The mobile marketing opportunity for artists
The growth of mobile devices is skyrocketing in the US and within a few years most cell phone users will have a powerful mobile device capable of reading QR codes. By many estimates, the use of mobile devices to access the internet has now surpassed the use of desktop computers to access the internet.
Trends in the mobile industry include:
- Many apps available for entertainment, shopping and just about anything else you can think of
- May become people’s main connection with the virtual world replacing the laptop and desktop computer
- Websites now need to be “mobile ready” and provide a great viewing experience on the smaller screens
- The US is now catching up with the rest of the world in using powerful mobile devices
- Prices are dropping and even the lowest priced phone is “smart” and soon everyone will have a smart phone
- People in the US will become more familiar with QR codes and their use may become an everyday occurrence. Right now the usage of QR codes in the US is small although it continues to grow at a rapid pace.
The bottom line(s)…
Now is the time to take a look at using QR codes in your art business. Like any other marketing tool you need to make sure that QR codes are a fit for your brand and will be likely be used by your customers and prospects – experiment and see what works. If you would like to learn more about building your art business and selling more art I invite you to check out my book – The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox. Good Luck!
Neil McKenzie is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver where he teaches “Marketing the Arts”.
Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto