January 27, 2011

A Little Lesson I learned about QR Codes and Mobile Video

2D Barcodes or QR Codes are all the rage.  They are the trendy marketing gadget of 2010.  For those unfamiliar, patterns of a QR code simply translates into a string of characters; there are no licensing required, much like the way you can generate a UPC code to represent a string of numbers without licensing.  The lengthier the characters (up to 4,296), the more complicated the QR code becomes (hence the larger the QR Code needed for a better scan).  For marketers, unlike a URL which is owned by the marketer, a QR code can't be owned... its just an alternate way to embed characters (and its benefit is to allow smartphones or devices to scan in the said characters set quicker than typing).  Many marketers embed different messages or URLs into QR Codes when used as marketing material and many are using it to launch a short clip of video to add a rich media element to an otherwise plain print media (in magazines or billboards).

When I first played around Mobile QR / Video concept for work, I simply embedded a .MP4 video into a QR code.  Then I got a little fancier by encoding the URL into a bit.ly shortner so my QR Code pattern is less complicated.  I quickly ran into an issue with compatibility.  It turns out, .MP4 is good with iPhones and late model Androids but older Androids or BlackBerry devices doesn't always render the video format.  Thankfully, we work with a video platform provider and they've quickly come up with a solution for us.  They've essentially created their own version of bit.ly URL for me to embed into the QR code, when a mobile device reaches that URL, their platform will detect the device and find the most common denominator of video format and serve it up.  In some cases, they would even serve a YouTube clip given that majority of handhelds out there have a default YouTube app/player.

In short, if you are a marketer and starting to dabble in QR codes for Video and do not have the budget to pay for a video platform service provider for your ecommerce business, encoding a YouTube URL might be your best bet since it is free and most compatible.  For those with deeper pockets, push your video platform providers to give you the ability to generate unique QR codes based on your marketing source (ie. different codes by print ads, or regions or stores, etc...).

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