Infinitely enlarge imprint areas with quick response (QR) codes.
Sound like a bold statement? Not really. QR codes can link a promotional product to mobile device functions such as a web browser, e-mail or phone. This allows the product recipient to interact with your client’s web content, send an e-mail or dial a phone number by scanning an imprinted code.
QR codes can be applied to just about any of the larger flat or slightly curved spaces on promotional products via pad printing, screen printing, embroidery, laser engraving, oxidized machine engraving or four-color process. There are probably some other methods that work, we just haven’t tried them yet. (I’d like to try a QR code via frosting on cookies.) There are some size limitations, which I’ll cover later in this article.
To get a feel for how QR Codes work either:
1. Grab your smart phone, search for an application by typing in “QR code reader” and download one of the applications (many of them are free). I searched for “QR code” in the app store on my iPhone and came up with 140 apps ranging in price from free to $1.99.
2. Download Microsoft Tag from www.gettag.mobi.
For purposes of this article let’s use Tag Reader by Microsoft. I chose that solution because its tags can be rendered in either color or black and white, and its website allows you to track, report and manage tag scans for your clients. (Hey, you can bill your clients for this service.)
Wikipedia says a QR code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The letters stand for “quick response,” as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed. Two-dimensional codes are common in Japan, and QR codes are currently the most popular type of two-dimensional codes. Most current Japanese mobile phones can read this code with their cameras.
Currently, Google’s Android and Nokia’s Symbian mobile operating systems come pre-loaded with scanning software that can read QR codes. iPhone and BlackBerry users can download scanning applications from the Apple store and Messenger Service, respectively.
The QR Code And Promotional Products
Okay, so how does all of this stuff work with promotional products?
We have a client who is in the auto parts wholesaling industry that has proprietary door hinge replacement kits. These kits reduce hinge replacement time by 75 percent and it’s sometimes difficult to explain the repair to potential customers. My client shot a video and posted it on YouTube. We took the YouTube URL of the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Syn8VS_xMR0), converted it to a QR code via a website and added it to the design of a counter mat. For tracking purposes, we added unique tag versions our client could use in print ads.
Before the counter salesperson goes to retrieve the customer’s purchase, he or she explains how the customer can scan the image and get a video of the installation instructions. For people who see the above in a print ad, when they go to http://gettag.mobi the website automatically determines the type of cell phone and downloads the correct version of the reader.
Applying The Code To Products
So, how do you create these codes and get them on a promotional product? You’ll have to sign up for a free Microsoft Live account to log in. Hang in there with me on this, it takes a few steps but it’s worth it:
1. Go to http://tag.microsoft.com/consumer/index.aspx
2. Click on “Create Tags” (under “Create Your Own Tags”)
3. Click on “Tag Manager” (Lower left-hand part of your screen) and you will see this menu:
4. Click on “Create A Tag” (Upper left-hand corner).
5. You’ll see this menu:
6. Type in the tag title (Your company name).
7. Paste the URL of your website or YouTube video into the URL field.
8. Click on Save.
9. Click on Render and you’ll see this menu:
10. Click on “Render my Tag in black and white” for a one-color imprint, otherwise, click on Render and your QR code will be created.
11. On a MAC, your QR code will appear as a pdf (you can select other file types) in downloads and can be saved as an eps file that can be sent to your supplier.
12. On a PC, save it to your desktop and it can be imported into your design.
When adding a QR code to a promotional product, always get a pre-production sample (not a virtual sample) and test the code with as many different QR readers and mobile phones as you can. This is the only way to guarantee the QR code works. Make sure the size of the tag that fits the imprint area also works. If the tag is too small, the camera must get really close to capture an image and the shadow cast by the camera may make it difficult to scan.
For reporting, go to item No. 3 above and click on Reports. At press time there were seven different reporting options. You can print out the reports each month and present them to clients as proof that the promotional products you have suggested to them generate traffic.
This report shows one scan of one QR code on July 6 and July 12.
There isn’t enough space here to cover all of the options, so I suggest you find some “me time” and explore what QR codes have to offer you and your clients.
Special thanks to Tama Underwood, Dwayne Long, Nick Ford, Cheryl Becker, MAS, and Bruce Perryman, MAS, for their contributions to this article. QR code is a registered trademark of Denso-Wave Incorporated.