In the past year or so, you may have noticed the black-and-white, bar-code-style squares on ads and elsewhere popping up more and more, and wondered, “What are those all about?”
Those are QR, or “quick response” codes, and they’re not necessarily new, says communication strategist Linda Pophal. “They’ve been around for quite a long time—originally developed in Japan by a Toyota subsidiary back in 1994 as an inventory-tracking tool,” she says. “But they’ve been seeing somewhat of a resurgence recently, primarily because of the emergence of mobile phone technology.”
Here’s how they work: A smartphone owner can download an app—and there are many to choose from—to scan the codes. Once scanned, a code directs the phone’s Web browser to a URL that is likely to lead to a website, a video, audio or a personalized message.
Often, QR codes are featured in advertisements to send marketing messages to customers, but those aren’t the only uses, communicators say.
Where it started
QR codes originated as a way for Toyota to keep up with inventory, and they still could be used for internal data management, Pophal says.