QR codes – you might have seen these odd pixellated hieroglyphs catching the corner of your eye in the U-Bahn, you may even have used them to sail through check in on your most recent Lufthansa flight or to take a virtual snoop round a property by scanning a real estate agent’s sign. Whatever your relationship with this new form of digital marketing, there’s no denying that the monochrome squares are starting to seep into the collective consciousness.
QR codes explained
QR (or Quick Response) codes are 2D barcodes that, when scanned with your smartphone will unlock a host of information and images straight onto your mobile. For advertisers this presents a brave new world of marketing potentials – QR codes are cheap, printable and can unlock content limited only by your imagination.
While Germany may have lagged behind some other territories in terms of utilising QR codes, the digital marketing landscape is changing, especially in Berlin, a hotbed of early adopters.
Michael von Roeder, veteran of the mobile industry and CEO of bookletmobile – a Berlin startup that neatly marries QR codes and a simple self-publishing client that has its sights set on changing the face of mobile marketing – explains what all the fuss is about.
“We’re essentially a publisher – we allow clients to create their own “online booklets”. These are cheaper to create than a full-scale app and easier to maintain than a website – you can create a bespoke booklet for every new event or campaign.”
How do QR codes fit into your business?
“The idea was really a side-effect. We began in 2011 as a simple publishing tool on our website and then we started to think about offline promotion and how we could connect this to digital content – QR codes were the obvious solution.
Once the client has created their booklet, we give them two QR codes for their present and archived campaigns. They can then choose to add the codes to any promotional material – posters, fliers, their website, etc. A third QR code is a sticker that can be placed on their window or premises – this means that we can pin them on our interactive map.”
Why Berlin for this startup?
“There is a unique collection of early adopters here – and a thriving creative scene. Most of our first clients are art galleries – we have 40 that currently use the service. You can publish a booklet on your gallery and then update when you have a new vernissage.
Also – if you log on to the site when you’re mobile, you’ll see all the galleries and outlets (initially around Mitte) pinned on a Google Map – then it becomes a live mini-guide to the city.”
Do you think QR codes will go mainstream? Or is it just for the tech cognoscenti?
“The short answer is that we don’t know yet. What we *do* see is that advertisers and companies are using it increasingly. And when customers see it more, they become more aware of its existence and eventually see it as useful.
The airlines and Google’s experiments with QR log-ins are great examples of how this kind of technology is offering useful services.
We’ve already seen our customers experimenting with concepts we hadn’t even thought of, from gallery brochures and fashion collections to special-offer coupons, CVs and holiday photos. We even have a dentist that uses his QR code on his door sign so that people can scan to find out what services he offers!”
What is the future of mobile marketing?
“I can’t predict what the actual technology will be, but people will always need an integration between the real and virtual world and right now QR codes are a great solution.
I’d love to see barcode scanning integration built right into smartphone cameras – that way you don’t have to download a separate app, so that it’s more accessible for non tech people.”
What’s next for bookletmobile?
“In 2012, we want to perfect our current technology and expand our user base – we currently have 150 clients, and we’re aiming for 1000 this year – and then we’ll go after further investment. Berlin is a small, but viral scene – if one gallery sees that another has a QR code, then they will want one too, hopefully.”
Read our 5 Tech predictions for 2012
Image credit: Flickr user lydia_shiningbrightly