First came cell phones and eventually text messaging and camera phones.
Once smart phones took over people could connect to the internet in a swift tap of the screen. And remember when apps, or applications, were all the rage?
Now smart phone users can scan bar code-like images to either view or import information directly into their phone.
Initially used to track inventory in Japanese warehouses, these QR (or quick response) codes date back to 1994, but only recently became popular for every day use. Locally, the trend is currently taking off.
A QR code is a specific matrix bar code (or two-dimensional code) readable by dedicated QR bar code readers or camera phones, according to one online description. The code consists of black modules arranged in square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, a web address or other data.
Bill Jakes, a Realtor with Exit Realty Bob Lamb and Associates, said he's already included his own QR code on the backside of his business cards. He explained that with certain phone apps, users can read the code, which lists all of his contact information, and then save it into their contact database.
The next plan Jakes has for QR codes is to put one on the outside of each information box in front of homes that are for sale.
"So if there are no more flyers, you can just scan (the code), and boom, the information is in your phone," he said.
"I've been reading a bunch about realty trends, and one says that 80 percent of people will be searching (for homes) on mobile devices in the next year. Everything that was on computers is going to the phone. We'll be carrying our 'computer' with us everywhere we go, basically. I've been trying to stay current on marketing trends, and this seems to be one that not only Realtors are trying out."
He's right. Middle Tennessee Medical Center launched its QR code campaign back in September 2010.
"We started it with the Built Around You message, and now we're using it for our heart survivor campaign," hospital spokeswoman Angie Boyd-Chambers said. "Each code takes you to something different, rather than just the website. Built Around You code takes you to our new commercial, and the digital signage in our lobby takes you the story we did with New Channel 2 on the daVinci (surgical robot)."
In the works is also a code for the emergency room that will offer a "What to expect in the emergency room" tutorial.
"The key to QR codes is to take people to something different, not just the website," Boyd-Chambers continued. "Always take it to something, and then you can always have a call to action that will take them to the website later."
This concept isn't just for the large companies. Small businesses like Bill Taylor's Bushido School of Karate are using them, also, according to Chris Hazelwood, account executive with Griffith Indoor Advertising. He said many customers are using them on next month's ads.
Runners will soon be able to sign up for their spot in the Murfreesboro Half Marathon, according to race director Melinda Tate.
"So many of our participants are wired, and this just makes it easier for them to be able to scan a code and go directly to our website or registration site or watch our video," she said. "We want to make it easy, and that's what this is all about."
QR codes will be used in all of the race's print campaign, but Tate says she's got more in mind than just local advertising.
"I was thinking of having the QR code printed on T-shirts, so people can wear them at other races. As somebody is walking – or running – by, they'll see this bar code on adverting our race and can scan it with their phones," she explained.
"We're a small organization and don't have the funds to come up with our own apps, so for now, this is going to work." MP