What the heck are these boxes?

In recent weeks, we've been using QR codes as part of our communications process. Since our church doesn't lie along the "early adopter" portion of the adoption curve, it's been difficult to find a way to use tools like these.

The questions we've asked is, what's the best way to use something like a QR code? They don't make a lot of sense. Many people don't even know how to use them. And, to be honest, there's this sort of "mark of the beast" underlying fear on anything resembling a barcode. Oh, and they're really ugly.

But it's still a really great tool for the mobile platform. A QR code can get you to a website or resource in only a tap or two.

These are our rules or considerations for using a QR code in marketing.

It can launch into a mobile-friendly site.
When we were collecting questions for a Q&A series, we started a Tumblr blog (since the mobile interface is automatic) and we added a QR code when we reference the series in posters and newsletters. People could scan the code, and intanstly ask their question. We'll also use a code for our promotion of Financial Peace University. The team at Dave Ramsey (I guess Lampo) has created a brilliant mobile site where people can register for our class and purchase their kit. Brilliant!

It links to something of value.
A Denver-based bank chain has a bunch of posters around our airport. Their ads have three QR codes, each of which leads you to a public domain ebook. You could link to an app in any app store or marketplace. We use a QR code when we promote our YouVersion Live events. By linking to YouVersion's download site, with only two or three taps, our people can have the Bible on their phone. That's awesome!

It plays a video.
Some things can be communicated more effectively via video. Post a video online and use the QR code to load and play it. Our team hasn't used this yet, but it's option for us. If you're looking for an interesting use, here's the world's first animated tattoo.

It's part of game.
At STORY11, someone had the brilliant idea to create a QR code scavenger hunt. Posters with the codes where hidden throughout the building, and each one had a photo or a riddle that led you to the next clue. It was pretty slick.

It can add an event to your calendar.
This is a more recent idea that I'm excited to try. I want people to scan the QR code and have a button delivered that will allow them to add the event to their calendar. How cool would that be?! I know it's possible, but I haven't figured out the logistics yet.

Don't forget to explain what it is.
After three conversations with staff members (in one afternoon) explaining what a QR code is and where it came from, we decided that we should really explain what these are. Below is the text we use on any poster that has a QR code, and a sample of what the most recent posters look like.

These are QR (quick response) codes. We are using them as a way to rapidly connect you to websites, videos, or other content. Just use the camera on your smart phone with one of these recommended apps: RedLaser for iPhone & Android and QR Code Scanner Pro for Blackberry.

We tossed around the idea of a separate poster or ad that explained it, but that's useful ad that would be wasted. I'd hate to explain why I had to bump a ministry or event to promote how to use a QR code.

We landed on adding the banner along the bottom of every poster that has a code (no need to talk about it if it isn't there). Our explanation text talks more about how and why we're using the codes, rather than the details of where it came from or what it does.

While it might be fun to know that they were developed by a sub-contractor of Toyota to track a vehicle's progress through a factory, it's not really that important to most people.

Side note: I was really impressed with Macy's design using a QR code just before the holiday season. I'm glad someone found a way make them look good.

Feel free to use our text and ideas, and share your creative solutions for QR codes, or someone that made them look good (I can't get over how ugly they are)!