Tag : qr-code

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121: Will StarStar Kill the QR Code?

Maybe you, too, have seen an advertisement that directed you to call or text **[brand name].  I have, and I wondered how that worked.

Turns out, that’s a service called StarStar, provided by a company called Zoove. So, now, instead of trying to get a phone number that spells something, you can skip the phone number entirely. The basic premise is that the caller types this code into their phone to call or text the advertiser. StarStar forwards that call or text to a phone number of your choosing.


In addition to a communication shortcut, StarStar can deliver various kinds of digital data (apps, coupons, gift cards, contact information, songs or videos, etc.) to the dialer’s phone or redirect them to online venues for purchase, voting, sweepstakes, opt-ins, etc.

Unlike your phone number, it doesn’t have to have a certain number of characters or work with a certain area code. You don’t have to force any acronyms, abbreviations, or phrases to fit what’s available; and a lot of company names are still available.

Unlike a QR code, it doesn’t require scanning; so, you can see the code anywhere and enter it somewhere else at a different time. Thus, it’s a better solution for billboards and other outdoor signage. (This is a much safer shortcut option for your vehicle graphics than a QR code, too.) Also, if used just as a communication shortcut, it should allow flip and brick phones to participate—not just smart phones. As a designer, I can attest that an alphanumeric code is a lot easier to make attractive and indigenous in your advertising than a QR code (or even Microsoft Tag).

The Zoove website makes it super easy to obtain the exclusive rights to a single code or several—for both personal and business use. Like URL’s, there’s only one of each shortcut available. So, the earlier you get one of these, the easier it will be to have a succinct code to advertise in the future.

Auction marketers could create different StarStar codes per auction—like some auction companies do with unique URL’s. You could also generate one for different kinds of FAQ’s or for use at different trade show-type events—like hash tags on Twitter. You could use different codes in different media to track media inquiries, too.  I don’t know . . . maybe even generate a custom one for a valuable prospective seller and include it in your proposal.

At soluations starting at $3 per month, it can be a cheap solution for a lot of situations.

Not all shortcuts are wise to take, but this one might be beneficial to explore.  I’m still playing with mine: **biplane

Taking It Personally

If you are a sharing your faith, you can create a shortcut to the truth you’ve found by removing obstacles religion has built over the years.  If you don’t know what might be offensive or unattractive, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

My pastor did this decades ago, interviewing unchurched people for a postgraduate research project—interviewing those outside the church what they don’t like about American church.  At the end of the extensive polling, he purposed to create a church as much as possible without those obstacles.

The result has proven to be a community where even people who don’t like church as they knew it find God more inviting, more personal, more practical.  The environment became a refuge not only to the unchurched but also to refugees of the over-churched epidemic.

The challenge for me is to follow that example on an interpersonal level—to live a life that makes Jesus seem as desirable and approachable as he, unmatched, is. I want to be a shortcut to Jesus.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

78: Take Your QR Codes to the Next Level

Microsoft Tag and the QR CodeYou know how it is.  After you buy a car, you see that make and model everywhere.

I’ve had the same thing happen with quick response (QR) codes.  After over a year of selling QR codes to my seminar and Facebook audiences, I now see them everywhere—on ads, signs, packages, and point of purchase displays—even on a car.

It’s about time, really.  It was 17 years ago that Denso-Wave (a subsidiary of Toyota†) created its “QR code,” their licensed name for a two-dimensional bar code that has since been made generic like Kleenex has for tissue.  Only in the past five years—with the rapid adoption of smart phones—have QR codes grown into the consumer market and then into advertising.

Go to Biplane's Facebook PAgeIn 2007, the same year that Apple released the first generation iPhone, Microsoft divulged it had taken the two-dimensional bar code to a new level with its “Microsoft Tag.”  Like QR code, Tag is Microsoft’s licensed name for their version of a “high capacity color bar code” (HCCB).  Just as the iPhone pushed the envelope for telephony user interface, the Tag changed the ways in which quick response codes could be used.

Despite spotting the QR code a 13-year head start, the Tag has grown in popularity; and multinational corporations are now implementing them—in lieu of QR codes—into their advertising.  As shown in this inset, biplane clients have been using both smart phone shortcuts next to each other on their mailer panels and larger ads.

Biplane Client SamplesWhy should you consider adding Microsoft Tags to your advertising?

As with several QR code-generating sites, Microsoft enables its registered users to track how many times a particular Tag has been scanned.  It even charts it on a graph to show you which days during your marketing campaign were drawing the most use of the Tag (and supposedly even location of scans—haven’t tried that part yet).  Thus, the Tag provides just another way to track the effectiveness of your various media.

The Tag comes with programmable start and expiration dates.  You can set it to continue indefinitely or to end at a designated time after your event.  If you have special information that will be released at a specific time, you can set the code to work only after that time.  QR codes can do at least part of this, just not through all code-generating sites.  Unlike QR codes, the Tag will allow you to change your data source—the destination at the other end of the scan—during the campaign, conveniently allowing you to change your advertising message.

Colorful Presentation
While you can change the black portion of a QR code to any high-contrast color and even float it (without the white spaces) on solid-color backgrounds, it’s still a uniform color.  The Tag can be generated in four- or eight-color configurations, while still working in grayscale, too—for your newsprint advertising.  With some advanced tools, you can even give your Tag custom backgrounds (including logos and photos) and even custom scannable shapes.  It definitely will not be confused with other bar codes.

While most of your audience has probably yet to adopt either the QR code or the Tag, your use of them illustrates your position at the leading edge of marketing technology.  If you have room to use both, I’d recommend both.  Since the Tag requires Microsoft’s proprietary app, the two different codes won’t interfere with each other.  (The Tag requires some white margin around it; so, leave space in between it and your QR code.)

Scan me for a happy surprise!The QR code can currently be loaded with more kinds of information than a Tag—location services, social media connections, emails, Paypal “buy now” links, and even WiFi logins.  So, don’t replace your QR code with a Tag.  Instead, maybe have something different on the other end of each, using them to compliment each other.

The Microsoft Tag isn’t yet a must-have tool in your marketing toolbox, but it gives you another way to prove you’re a step ahead of your competition—or at least, that you’re more colorful.
For the past several years, my favorite Bible study environment has been TruthWorks.  Not a class, not a service, it’s just a bunch of people from multiple stages of our collective spiritual journey—all of us circling tables in groups of three to seven people.

Right now, we’re wading through the book of Acts at a pace of roughly a chapter per week.  I took an entire semester of the same 28 chapters in college and didn’t see but a fraction of what we’ve found over the past few months.

It’s not that we’re trying to find grayscale out of the Bible’s black and white by searching for nuances that create differences and debates.  Theologians have been doing that for centuries; and Christianity, especially in our nation, has splintered far from the unity that God asks of the New Testament church.

No, what we’ve found is the color in the Bible—where it comes to life, where it interacts with our immediate circumstances.

I’ve heard over 5,000 sermons and Bible lessons in my life—many of which I’ve watched through the equivalent of a portable black and white television.  In TruthWorks, though, I’m exploring the Bible on a 1080p HD 60-inch display.  I’d love to tell you how we do it.  So, don’t hesitate to ask.

[footer]† Source: Wikipedia.
Stock image of elevator buttons used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

60: A Short Cut May Do You Good

QR CodeI rarely recommend cutting corners in advertising, but there’s one marketing short cut that’s been taking Europe and East Asia by storm: the QR code. The “quick response” two-dimensional barcode is just now burgeoning in the States, as smart phones grow in popularity.

The QR code is not your momma’s bar code. It can hold over 350 times the information that a standard linear bar code can—information like web links, auto-dialed phone numbers, text messages, and email addresses. You’ve seen similar technology in non-marketing situations like a USPS machine-printed stamp or a UPS shipping label. The QR code, though, is an internationally-standardized format, primarily directed to mobile phone users—where a camera and an app will turn a scan of the square into an open web page, a queued email, or a dialing call.

Retailers have hung QR code signs in their windows for after-hours-only sales or to take shoppers to the respective product’s information page in their online catalog. Advertisers have turned Times Square-style digital signs into giant teaser ads with a QR code for full information. Business card printers have already implemented QR codes into their product line, so that people can view your web site or call you—just by scanning part of your business card with their smart phone. GM has implemented a QR code into their Volt window stickers, so that car buyers can see full vehicle specs on their mobile devices. I even saw a photo of a Tesla Motors Roadster with a QR code wrapped on its trunk deck, as part of a new national scavenger hunt game that uses the QR code.

iPhone QR Code ReaderThe size of the square code graphic can vary with the medium. As long as the image can be captured, the QR code can work its magic. You could print these on your property signs so that drive-by prospects can take an interior photo tour from their car or get linked to that property’s page in the MLS or your web site. They can also be printed small enough to go on the mailer of your postcard—so that information you can’t fit in your direct mail piece will pop up on their iPhone or Droid. Within a decade, you might be able to shorten newsprint ads by replacing content with a QR code.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “It will be years before my buying public uses this technology. My market doesn’t have a demand for this—if it even knows it exists.”

That’s exactly why you should investigate the technology! You can let the world know that your clients get not only the best in current marketing practices but also the next generation of promotion. The codes are free to create and don’t cost any more than your current content to print on your brochures, signs, and vehicle wraps. By annotating its presence with a bright, little flag like “Scan this QR code with [name] app for more information,” you will generate interest in both your auction or property and the technology you’ve implemented. You can add a QR code paragraph in your seller proposals and even generate a QR code in advance for said proposal (with a hidden web page), as if to say, “Look! We’ve already created a QR code and web page just for your property.” Unless your competition is reading this article, I’d almost guarantee you a competitive advantage with such a claim.

Most of us remember what grocery store lines looked like before linear bar codes and the beeping red scanners. How much faster is checkout now? All of us remember when our local big box stores started offering self-checkout lines. While they don’t always make checkout faster, they give the sense of convenience. A QR code in your advertising will likewise let people help themselves—faster—to your marketing materials.

QR Code Ad

You’ll want to be an early adopter. Wendy Miller of Curran Miller Auction/Realty, Inc. (Evansville, IN) told me, “I recently learned about the quick response code concept at a real estate salesperson continuing education class.  The instructor mentioned that several REALTORS® in his area were including a quick response code on the sign they placed on the property.  When a prospect scanned the code with a smart phone, he was taken to a web site specifically dedicated to that property.”

Wendy already sees the benefit for her firm. She wrote, “As advertising costs continue to rise, we are actively seeking ways to market our auctions in the most cost effective manner.  The quick response code could easily be included in signage, direct mail pieces and other print media to disseminate a tremendous amount of information in a very small space, which would ultimately save our clients money.”

The more ways you can get people connected to your advertising for the same budget, the more efficient your advertising can be. QR codes could grow into a key component of your lean, mean marketing machine.

What do you want to pop up on people’s screens when they scan your life? Is it your love—maybe your drive or skills or accomplishments? How about your contributions to society or to the marketplace of ideas? Maybe it’s your heritage or internationality. If you’re a person of faith, might I suggest that it’s your Jesus and the evidences of what he’s doing in you?

Now, to stack another question on that pile, what are you doing to create that impression—better yet to make that an intrinsic part of your life? Most of us aren’t totally there. For the majority of us, the challenge is to keep that goal in front of us and then to break down that destination into manageable steps. If you want to be different next year, what can you do today to move toward that?

Maybe it’s to cut some friendships, some media intake, some purchases. For me, it’s usually more macro—sometimes writing a note, offering an authentic apology, or talking to God on a walk in the woods. Regularly, it’s closing the Facebook tab in my Firefox or consulting a mentor, reading nonfiction or taking my wife to a movie.

Our legacy is built with day-size bricks. Choose at least one small task to do today to alter your status quo. Then rinse and repeat tomorrow.

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