Barcodes have been around for years, but something has changed. No longer are they lots of stripes but they are square and dotty and are called 2 Dimensional. There are multiple formats and the winning format is far from clear. However there are large companies trying to make their format the standard, with the inevitable lock-in.

But there is a lot of support for independent QR (Quick Response) code made popular with the rapid growth of the Android phone which supports it natively.

Simply changing shape and format of the barcode is not significant. Sure it allows more information to be stored, but the critical issue that more and more people have smartphones with cameras. With freely downloadable QR Code reader software any person can take picture of the barcode and it is translated into a URL, phone number SMS or email that is automatically opened on the smartphone.

Creating a QR code couldn’t be easier with a range of websites and software applications available, so a QR code can be printed or put onto a website.

This has opened up a wealth of possibilities for marketers, sales and also, bizarrely, for process professionals. Here are 50 examples from These are very creative and fun, but after the list is a fascinating example from Carphone Warehouse / Best Buy Europe

  1.  QR Codes on bus stops, train stations and subway stations. A quick scan would give you realtime information on when the next bus, train or subway would arrive.
    2. Posted next to paintings and sculptures at museums. Great for visitors who want to learn more about the artist, the time period, and the reaction to the photo.
    3. As part of a personalized direct mail piece. Each QR code can go to a PURL (personalized URL (Uniform Resource Locator)).
    4. On historical sites and on walking trails. Sure, a plaque is fine for grandma, but I’d like to delve deeper, whether with a wikipedia entry, or an video of a local historian explaining the significance of the site.
    5. At video kiosks. QR codes can appear as people interact with your kiosk, whether it’s at the mall or your place of business.
    6. On For Sale signs. Whether residential or commercial, for sale signs could include codes that had all the information a sell sheet includes, plus video walkthroughs.
    7. Email newsletter signups. Build your subscriber base by having quick links to an email signup box.
    8. E-learning. Have your QR code generate an email that starts an autoresponder, sending daily emails filled with lessons and related information.
    9. Next to packaged food in groceries. Give shoppers quick access to recipes that include the ingredients they see on the shelf.
    10. In a jigsaw puzzle. This would create some real engagement as the user would have to put together the puzzle before scanning the image.
    11. On produce. You could include information about the farm, organic vs. conventional growing, best by dates, etc.
    12. Buying coffee (or anything else.)
    13. On bottles of wine. It would be nice to be able to get info about the vineyard, and maybe buy a case of that bottle I enjoyed at the restaurant.
    14. On tags for sustainable clothes. Is that piece of clothing really sustainable? Let’s quickly scan and see it’s story.
    15. For conference signage. Next to the name of the upcoming sessions in each room would be the QR code so you could get the full description, speaker bios, and see if there’s any room left. And to leave feedback.
    16. On conference name tags. SXSW has been doing this for at least a year or two. Why trade business cards when you can just scan them. Now, don’t you feel all TSA?
    17. Written in calamari ink on diners’ plates. You can’t make this stuff up.
    18. On jewelry. Examples abound.
    19. As part of interactive maps. Check out this example from Town Graphics.
    20. At the bottom of all newspaper and magazine articles. Then you could quickly get to the online version and see the comments that other readers had left.
    21. On liquor bottles. Linked to drink recipes; this would be especially good for new drinks you’re bringing to market.
    22. On building permits. New York City is already doing this.
    23. On the fliers that you find under your windshield wipers at the mall. One example might be an offer for a car wash; the URL would give you the discount code and directions to the car wash offering the deal.
    24. On the safety bar ads on ski mountain chair lifts. These days, everyone on the mountain seems to have a smart phone, and they’re going to be a captive audience for 5 – 10 minutes, sitting on that chair going up the mountain.
    25. Inside elevators. If I ran a dry cleaning service or something else that helped busy executives out I’d advertise inside elevators in tall buildings.
    26. In bar bathrooms. I often see Home Runners and cab companies advertising above the urinals in bars. Why not make it easier for patrons to get a safe ride home, rather than drunk dial a wrong number?
    27. Within a video game console to share avatars. Nintendo is already doing just that.
    28. To get more people to sign a petition. Like the one for cleaning up the BP mess.
    29. At bars, clubs and anywhere else music is playing. Sure, Shazam is a great tool for finding music, and often you can even buy the track you discovered at iTunes or Amazon. But in a loud club you may not be able to suss out the song. If a QR code appeared above the DJ’s head, you could quickly scan the code and purchase that new song.
    30. On the backs of tractor trailers. Because “How’s My Driving?” with an 800 number is so last decade.
    31. On wedding invitations instead of RSVP cards. Scan a QR, save a tree. And a stamp.
    32. As a temporary tattoo. Link it to your Facebook profile or Twitter account.
    33. On a laminated card for trade shows. Instead of dropping a business card in a fish bowl. Booths win because they’ll get all the pertinent info, and the event could give away prizes to the people who get scanned the most.
    34. To encourage community feedback. The library in Groton, CT, does just that.
    35. As wallpaper. Well it’s better than the wallpaper in our bathroom when we moved in to our house.
    36. On the bottom of flip flops. The imprint they make on the beach…until the tide comes in.
    37. On coffee cups from your local coffee shop. Plenty of advertising opportunities here.
    38. On posters linking to free books. 1st Bank is giving away free copies…of these out-of-copyrighted classics. They also have other boards that link to free sudoku.
    39. On a ball field. Have you seen what the groundskeepers can mow into the outfield these days? They’re artists!
    40. On a human billboard. Think “Eat at Joes.”
    41. As wrapping paper. One company is already customizing this with unique videos attached to QR codes.
    42. On trade show booths. Scan a picture, (be entered to) win a free iPod.
    43. On recipes in magazines. Quick link to videos, reviews and feedback at the website.
    44. For self-guided tours at factories. Scan a code, learn what that dohickey does.
    45. Posted on car windows in dealerships. Perfect for after-hour shoppers.
    46. Scratch and Win cards. It’s not enough to have them scratch off the card, make them scan that card to see if they’ve won.
    47. On movie posters. QR code takes them to a preview of the movie.
    48. On cocktail napkins. The code could take networkers to the sponsor’s site, the beverage’s site, or some networking site with photos, so you can connect with people after the event.
    49. In TV ads to make them interactive. Here’s an exampe from AXA.
    50. Business cards. ‘Nuff said.

You can even get t-shirts printed with QR Codes, presumably linking to the wearer’s Facebook site so you can check them out rather than walking up and talking to them.

All very exciting. But we’ve seen a far more valuable use of QR codes. For making peoples lives easier and less frustrating at work. The client is Carphone Warehouse Best Buy Europe. The have documented all their business processes and links to systems, forms and documents. This allows them to make them available to every member of staff. Every process diagram, or storyboard (which is a step by step guide through the diagrams) has a unique URL. They have branded all this process content How2.

So now the team are looking at all the problems and frustrations in the workplace and seeing if they can solve them by giving staff access to the answer, which is invariably a process, document or system in How2. The access is via a QR code stuck to item.

For example. You are having a bad day and it only gets worse when you need to photocopy the ID of a new customer and the photocopier is out of paper or toner. Where do you find the spare toner cartridge, how do you load it, which form do you use to order a new one, and what do you do to recycle the old one. Simple. There is a QR code on the photocopier. The person can take a photo of the QR code using the free app on their smartphone that takes you via a URL to the correct page in How2.

But this idea could be extended. What do staff need to do when evacuated for an earthquake or fire? Where should they assemble? When can they go back into the office? What do they have to do before starting work again? Most people when they leave the building will have their phone and company ID. Why not print the QR codes linking to the procedures on the back of the ID card?

Why don’t my United, Virgin and BA Card frequent flyer cards have QR codes on the back that take me to the correct page on their website for bookings and for check in, or a QR code on the side of a self-service check-in terminal to call for assistance?

All you needs is a little ingenuity, a printer, and information management system which enables you to capture information where the URL does not change when versions of the content changes…. and some information that is valuable to your end users.