QR: Thinking Outside the Speckled Box

beyond_qr3By B.L. Ochman, publisher of What’s Next Blog

I was a big, early proponent of QR codes, but they are history. Invisible ink and augmented-reality apps are replacing clunky QR codes.

The new technology is superior in that you don’t have to take a picture of the code, which then records your contact information and sends you to a website, video or document, or sends you a text message with a Web address. With the new apps, you just run your smartphone over the content and get the enhanced features immediately.

Here’s a sampling of the new technologies that will surely supplant QR codes.

The Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun has launched the AR News app, which enables kids to scan articles with their smartphones and reveal more kid-friendly versions of the current-affairs coverage.

The app was developed by advertising/PR company Dentsu, which was challenged to create a new way to make newspapers appealing to younger readers. Articles suitable for children are printed with blue borders. Using the AR News app, readers who place tablets or smartphones over those articles reveal a simplified Japanese alphabet for those still learning to read, along with animated characters and graphics, pop-up headlines, and explanations that make the topics easier for children to understand.


Blippar is a new mobile app that allows users to literally “pull” information, entertainment, offers and augmented reality 3D experiences from the world around them simply by holding their phone up to a marker. No clicks, no delays, no codes: just instant gratification.

Another new technology, Touchcode, is an invisible electronic code printed on paper, cardboard, film or labels. It adds interactivity to just about any product. When you touch your smartphone or tablet to it, tickets sing, toys come to life. You can confirm the authenticity of a brand or add interactivity to just about any product.

Besides the awesome video technology, the concepts and demonstrations in this Touchcode video are extraordinary. Items imprinted with Touchcode’s invisible ink look no different from standard print products … until you touch them with your smartphone.

Yet just as with QR codes, these new technologies are only as good as the rules companies follow in their use. Here are the “no brainers” that marketers continue to ignore when it comes to QR:

  • Make it easy for consumers to use.
  • Explain how it works in easy-to-understand language.
  • Employ it only when it can add something unique to the user experience.
  • Make sure content or ads that contain it won’t be put in places where cellphone service is unavailable.
  • Make the apps available only for situations when using them makes sense.


It will be fascinating to see whether these new technologies are used both creatively and effectively. The potential is unlimited.


ochmanB.L. Ochman, president of WhatsNextOnline.com, has been helping blue chip companies incorporate new media into their marketing mix since 1996. She contributes to AdAge Digital Next and is a frequent conference speaker.



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