A QR Code is nothing more than an easy way for a phone to be handed a URL. Years ago, it was all done through SMS…but with SMS comes the specter of spam (and high cost for the marketer…SMS charges can be KILLER!) So, the QR code was born to leverage the power of the smartphone. Originally used as an add-on to posters and public print ads, the QR code has become an increasingly familiar site in US advertising. As the physical world and digital domains continue to collide through the mobile phone through services like Facebook Places and FourSquare, the QR code has become and an increasingly important point of engagement for more traditional marketers.

Here in Boston, a trip past an apartment rental office always generates a quick grab of a handy iPhone or Blackberry to grab the QR code to get all of the needed listing information on that magical studio with the dynamite view. A QR code allows the potential renter to see the entirety of this listing, including compelling videos and interactive features that cannot be leveraged in the real world. Further, the marketer has the opportunity to capture information about the visitor on the destination page. The QR code leads to content, and for that content, the consumer may trade valuable information.

The QR code, then, has become a powerful way to add content to increase sales and conversions, but also it becomes a funnel management tool for the marketer. Any consumer or potential lead that engages with the content, or leaves information on a digital form has clearly accelerated more deeply the buying funnel. The QR code becomes the fuel to provide customer acceleration. This accelerant is so powerful that the United States Postal Service is considering offering a discount to bulk mailers that incorporate QR codes into the mailings. While it may seem incongruous for the USPS to be offering a postal discount to support a digital engagement, it isn’t really. The QR code makes paper mail more valuable to the digital consumer. This is prescient thinking by the USPS in embracing the tie between the real world and digital domains.

So what can a QR code lead to?
There could be a video:

Or a Coupon:

Or a sweepstakes entry:

And a QR code can be put in print advertising, catalogs, mailings, product packaging, point of sale displays in retail stores, in-box stuffers, envelope stuffers, magazine articles, business cards, paper subscription forms, in-window advertising, drycleaning bag adverts, newspaper wrappers, train station advertising…whew…the list could go on forever.

The QR code is an easy bridge between passive and active engagement, and it could be an easy bridge between not buying and a sale.