Linking Consumers to Your Cause with QR Codes

QR Codes provide a quick and easy method of getting information about your cause to consumers. Imagine you visit your local supermarket and at the register you donate to a local food pantry. On your receipt is a barcode with a message saying that you can learn about the cause you just donated to by scanning the barcode with QR reader on your smartphone.

In your car before you leave the parking lot, you quickly download the app to your phone and scan the barcode. It links you to a one-minute video on a food pantry like no other. It’s run out of a local hospital.

The pantry started by feeding a few thousand patients every year. In 2009, it fed 75,000 men, women, and children. The video closes with an image of a food line that snakes down the hallway and around the corner. It is after all the busiest day of the year, the day before Thanksgiving.

Wow.

How QR codes work

Causes are using RFID tags or QR (Quick Response) codes, as they’re the most commonly called, to add context to gifts and personal history to donated items. QR codes are offline hyperlinks that direct cellphone users to online content. This 2D barcode can be read by a free QR reader app that you can download in the iTunes or Droid app store.

Once you’ve scanned the QR code, it can redirect you to just about anything: a web page, call a phone number, calendar event, contact info (such as a vCard), e-mail address, SMS text message, and even geolocation information.

For example, City Harvest, a New York food bank, is using QR codes on advertisements in print, phone kiosks, transit shelters, and on Facebook. With QR codes, cellphone users can go directly to the City Harvest website, read facts about City Harvest, view a video illustrating City Harvest’s work, and make a donation online.

These creative and eye-catching codes were used in a campaign for New York’s City Harvest.
These creative and eye-catching codes were used in a campaign for New York’s City Harvest.

You can use a QR code last year on a pinup to direct supporters to a cause's website. Think of QR codes as offline hyperlinks taking people where you want them to go online without the hassle of entering a URL.

The QR code on this pinup was the first of its kind. It directed users to an event website.
The QR code on this pinup was the first of its kind. It directed users to an event website.

Think of the potential for cause marketers to make transactional programs less, well, transactional and more meaningful. When you pick up a coffee mug at Starbucks that supports Product (RED), you can scan the QR code to hear the story of an African man who benefited directly from the life-saving HIV drugs Product (RED) provides and Starbucks funds.

Donors scanning QR codes for cause content won’t happen overnight. But adopting QR codes will build a stronger charitable and emotional connection among causes, businesses, and consumers.

And like location-based marketing, it’s best to get busy with QR codes now.

A quick guide to QR codes

QR codes are easy to make. You can create your own QRstuff.com or Kaywa.com or use Google’s QR creator Create Qrcode Appspot. If you’re uncomfortable making your own, your local printer can create and affix one to any item.

You can use a QR code anywhere, even online instead of a traditional hyperlink! But remember, QR codes are best thought of as offline hyperlinks.

You can even tell how many people have clicked on your QR code. The same site where you created the QR code generally allows you to track and measure clicks on the code. Check this out before generating a code. Some tracking services can be accessed only for a fee.

You can use QR codes on many of your pinups to promote events and cause marketing partnerships. Simply direct the QR code to a dedicated event page, your organization’s home page, a partner page, or Quora page that you’ve created for a specific program you want to promote.

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