Luckily, Black was not the only one in Fort Smith, Ark., with an interest in QR codes. Jennifer Boulden, the communications and event services manager for the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), was already experimenting with the technology.
“Our CVB has been using QR codes in our marketing since fall 2009,” says Boulden. “In our print advertising, particularly in the conventions and meetings industry, we will often include a QR code on our ads.”
She explains: “The code is embedded with the URL for our website—either for the main page, or for an internal page that would have a prohibitively long URL to write out. That way, when our potential customers are flipping through the magazine and see our ad, they can use the QR code to visit our website directly from their iPhone, Blackberry, or other smartphone.”
Boulden says the QR codes help set her ads apart from others and deliver visitors to her websites. “Because these codes are bold black and white graphical bar codes, and not something people are accustomed to seeing in our industry’s advertising, there’s a curiosity factor that comes to play, as well. ‘What is that?’ they wonder. We typically include some short text next to the code identifying what it is.”
With a little help from Boulden, Black decided these codes could be useful for park visitors, so he considered how best to deploy them. He says, “We needed a purpose for one. We’re only open from nine to five, but we have these wayside exhibit panels,” one of which is located near the park entrance. Black says that the panel “gives you a little map, and a little introduction. It was a great spot to put up a QR code, especially for people who come in after we close.”
To put his plan into action, he turned to Daniel Evans, a website coordinator for the National Parks Service. There are a number of websites that can generate QR codes for free, but Evans decided to use Google’s ZXing project. He describes it as a simple process that merely requires the ability to fill out a few fields. All it took was a few minutes and a printer to get the code up and running. Of course you must also produce whatever content it is you choose to link to the code, a process that, depending on what you chose to deliver to users, can be considerably more challenging.