The Next Generation of QR Codes

QR codes are everywhere. I see them on banana stickers, in coupons, on brochures, and in many other print advertising formats. Almost everyone with a Smart phone knows what a QR code is and how to use it. Just when I was getting used to QR codes, along comes another new enhanced technology similar to QR codes but with more features.


The other day, I was reading a print magazine. Many of the pages of the magazine contained a small logo that read “layar”. There was a small inset in the front of the magazine that introduced this logo and stated that the publication had been digitally enhanced through the use of layar.

The instructions for using layar were very similar to a QR code: download the app, take photo of the page using the app, and watch the digitally enhanced editions (video, etc.). Curious, I decided to learn more.

Layar is similar to QR codes. It is called Augmented Reality (AR) and it layers digital information directly on top of print items. When a page is scanned with the app, the additional information is displayed. The app has social networking integrated right into it so that users can immediately share what they are viewing with others through their social networking sites.

Layar is definitely the next generation of QR codes. However, unlike QR codes, it is not free to create. So, the good news is that the layar app will also read a QR code.

You can learn more about layar by watching this video.

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Are Your QR Codes Clear?

A realtor once told me that holding open houses to try to sell a house is a waste of time. She stated that usually only curious neighbors come to open houses.


I must admit, there is something to her thoughts. I am one of those curious neighbors. I like to check out the houses in my neighborhood that are hosting a sales open house just to see what they look like inside. Fortunately, with the Internet, I no longer have to go physically into a house that is for sale to satisfy my curiosity. Now I can usually take a virtual tour online.

The other day, I came across a beautiful house for sale. On the flyer, it had a QR code. Wanting to take the virtual tour, I utilized the QR code and ended up very disappointed. First, the QR code did not link to a virtual tour of the house; it simply linked to the realtor’s website home page. Second, after I had searched the realtor’s website for the house I was looking for; it did not have a virtual tour, just the three pictures that were on the flyer.

There is a lesson to be learned from my disappointment: Make sure your QR codes do not disappoint.

In other words, be clear with your readers what your QR code is for and where it will take them, and then deliver on that promise.

Don’t point your QR codes to a generic site such as the publisher’s home page or the author’s home page. Be sure to point your QR codes to a specific place that has to do with your book and tell the reader where the QR code will take them.

If your QR code is to your Facebook page to engage more fans, then let your reader know that. If it is to a trailer of your book, let your reader know that. If it is to a site where your reader can immediately purchase the book, then let them know that also.

The clearer you are about your QR codes, the better return you will have for using them.

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Smart Books

QR codes have been around for a while now. They are being used on all sorts of print promotional materials from business cards, to billboards, to real estate “For Sale” signs. These codes allow individuals to immediately link to additional information and resources on the Internet.

Publishers have begun to incorporate QR codes into books’ covers. Many publishers are using these codes on the back cover copy to either link to the book’s video, the book’s testimonial page, or simply the book’s website. I recently reported on a comic book cover that “talked” (see “Talking Book Covers”) through the use of a QR code.

Now Publishers International has developed what they are calling “Smart Books.” These books provide a unique link between print and digital information. This publisher is embedding QR codes right into the pages of their educational books.

PI QR CodesIn these Smart Books, fact-packed pages teach kids while the embedded QR codes in the pages help to expand the learning experience by linking readers to videos, quizzes, and games. All a reader needs is a smart phone or tablet (with Internet access) with a QR code reader installed to access the digital information embedded in each book. In addition, the books can be enjoyed with or without a QR code reader.

This expanded use of QR codes is interesting, although not entirely new. Melville Publishing House announced in 2011 that they were producing “Hybrid Books” featuring QR codes embedded in the text linking readers to “extras” placed on the web (see “Hybrid Books“).

I think this hybrid or smart book strategy probably works best for children’s books, but travel books, cookbooks, and historical books could all easily incorporate QR codes in the text, linking readers to additional pictures, videos, and helpful tips.

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Creating a QR Code Campaign

An ebook store recently used QR codes to run a unique campaign to get mobile device owners to learn about the books they offer for sale. The ebook store, Four Directions, based in Hong Kong, printed QR codes on cookies.

QR Cookies

The QR code took the mobile device owner to a free trial copy of an ebook. To increase consumers’ awareness, Four Directions distributed the cookies throughout popular cafes for one week and encouraged the businesses to hand out the cookies for free.

This campaign was titled “Eat What You Read.” After all, consumers could get the free ebook by scanning the QR code before eating the cookie.

The company reported that they felt the campaign was successful. After handing out 8,000 cookies for a total cost of about $5,000, the Four Directions reported that their website traffic increased by 45% and their sales rose by 12% during the week of the “Eat What You Read” campaign.

While you may not be willing to shell out $5,000 for a large QR code campaign, what “Eat What You Read” demonstrated was that QR codes can generate some measurable success when used in unique and creative ways.

It is worth considering how you might be able to run a creative QR code campaign to promote your next book on a smaller scale. The possibilities are really endless.

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QR Codes are Changing the Face of Advertising

QR codes are quickly becoming an integral part of marketing. If you have not yet started using these little symbols in your marketing, now is the time to start.

QR codes allow individuals with smart phones to immediately connect with your message and act on what your print material is saying. No need to wait until they get to a computer. No need to type a URL into their phone. Someone simply needs to use the camera on her smart phone to instantly call you, visit your website, order a product, or even send a tweet about your products.

Watch this video to see how QR codes are changing the face of advertising and get some ideas for how you can use QR codes in your own marketing efforts.

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