Mobile marketers have used mobile barcodes as a powerful means of reaching consumers directly. We place barcodes on magazine pages, in-store signage, and TV screens. But in our excitement, we mustn't forget that mobile barcodes need to be based on a strong strategy that encourages consumer interaction.

The primary benefit of mobile codes is clear: They enrich the brand experience by linking the physical world to the digital. Though half of smartphone users have scanned a quick response (QR) code, getting consumers to understand the value of codes and to continue scanning them remains a challenge, according to a recent Chadwick Martin Bailey survey.

Mobile barcodes undoubtedly offer consumers a new and different experience. But a smart marketing strategy must be the driver behind every one of those jagged black-and-white boxes, else your mobile barcode campaign is just another gimmick that says to your customers, "We're on to the next big thing, but not quite there yet."

As with most any digital channel, relevancy is central to an effective mobile campaign. What works on Twitter, for example, may not fit the corporate blog. The same is true for barcodes.

The following tips—the seven R's—provide a strategic framework for developing a successful mobile barcode campaign.

1. Recite the code

Mobile barcodes are a strange-looking phenomenon to the average consumer, and even the most savvy smartphone users could use a short reminder about how to use them. Include instructions (usually below the barcode) for scanning, link to a scanner app, and hint at what happens when a user scans.

2. Redirect to a mobile site

Providing a convenient mode for navigating through your content shows your target audiences that you are thinking of them. Your audience is on the move, so why not be just as mobile? Menus and lists on mobile sites allow you to divide content into categories to help site visitors locate the information of greatest interest to them.

3. Reward users for scanning

Give consumers something in return for taking the time to scan a code. Exclusive coupons and discounts, VIP sales, contest invitations, instructional videos, or unreleased details on upcoming events and products all make scanning a QR code worth the consumer's time. Offering those perks will encourage your audience to scan for more exclusive content in the future, and it'll help you build brand loyalty along the way.

4. Reinforce its presence

The strategic deployment of a QR code leaves no room for random cameo appearances. Integrate the code across your campaign collateral to expand opportunities for interaction.

5. Review your security

The charm of the mobile barcode is its direct link to consumers, which is why you need to protect your code to ensure hackers can't redirect consumers to other content (e.g., a competitor's pop-up ad). Consider your barcode provider's security capabilities. Not all barcodes are created equal, and marketers need to evaluate prospective providers to ensure they are generating the highest-quality, most-secure codes.

6. Refine

Dozens of code generators make creating a mobile barcode a snap, but before you settle on one, check the creator's reporting analytics and update capabilities. Many generators offer usage stats that illustrate scan results, and some provide additional demographic and location details if the consumer opts in and grants permission. Some also enable real-time updates, allowing you to change the content the code links to at any time, without having to recreate the barcode and collateral. Also, consider a company that is dedicated to developing an entire mobile-marketing strategy and is committed to bringing to market applications that engage consumers at all phases of the purchasing-decision process.

7. Respect your consumer

A recent Nielson survey found that 48% of all US adults own a smartphone. That number is expected to grow dramatically. Market research firm IDC predicts that mobile app downloads will grow from 10.9 billion in 2010 to 76.9 billion in 2014. Though smartphone adoption and mobile app downloads are strong, if your target audience isn't among the group using smartphones and mobile apps, reconsider your strategy. Or, at least, include a URL in your collateral for those who don't have a scanning device (smartphone).

* * *

Mobile barcode campaigns can push the boundaries of traditional marketing, empowering marketers with context and content to seize unique one-to-one engagement opportunities.

As the ranks of smartphone converts continue to grow, relevant content will be key to driving mobile barcode adoption. A fully integrated campaign is a step in the right direction.

And that's what mobile barcode marketing is all about: using the electronic gateway provided by a two-dimensional barcode that delivers a call to action, informs your audiences, enlightens current and prospective customers, and enhances the human experience as it relates to your business or organization.

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Decoding the Code: Seven R's of a Relevant Mobile Barcode Campaign

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Igor Glubochansky is executive director of advanced mobility solutions at AT&T. He can be reached via