Palmer Pearson, Industry Consultant

It is very hard to miss seeing those black squares with strange markings. QRCs (Quick Response Code—also simply called tags) have become extremely popular with marketing and sales teams. They appear on boxes and packaging of all sorts. From store fronts to magazine ads, QRCs have become the cost-effective way to get the word out. And although the original use was product advertising, their uses have grown wildly. Instant information in the palm of your hand that does not require a laptop or even a tablet is very valuable.

QRCs are two dimensional barcodes that encode information containing 4000 alphanumeric characters. Armed with a smart phone app, anyone can access the information they hold within. The steps to using them are quite simple: download a scan app from App World, Android Market, or the service that provides apps on your particular smart phone; scan code or take a snapshot of the QRC; and watch.

Creating your own QRC is just as simple as accessing one. First, download a free code creation app. Then link it to a website/webpage, and make it available. Code creation sites are found via a simple Google or Bing search. They will reveal many sites to choose from. Some of the more popular include and

Typically, QRC codes can be static: encoding url addresses, any kind of text, an email address or phone number, or dynamic linking to product videos.

Some of the uses where it can benefit Tech Pubs are obvious:

  • Product demos
  • Animated tutorials
  • Lists for the customer to follow
  • Greetings to your customers
  • Update notifications

The list is almost endless, and I am sure the many members of CIDM will show their creativity with future uses.

On a personal level, QRCs have been used on business cards that will take the holder immediately to a resume. Links to previous managers or cherished references giving video recommendations of how wonderful you are is also being employed.

On a purely non-business related vein, QRCs have been imprinted on thank you cards from newlyweds with a brief clip of them getting married or opening your specific wedding gift (and acting surprised that they just got their third single-cup coffee maker).

A most bizarre use of a QRC was referenced in an article from USA Today article on July 19, 2011. It appears that two QRCs were etched into a gravestone in the mid-west. The family deeply missed their deceased relative. So whenever they visited the cemetery, they would scan either of the tags. One brought up pictures of the man’s life in a slideshow format. The other was a video clip of him talking in happier times.

So it goes without saying, technical communicators can find many uses for QRCs. Looking for ways to make sharing information more useful has always been our goal. Remember, technically speaking, we do not want to lag behind the deceased with new technology.

About the Author
Palmer Pearson is a recognized industry expert specializing in team motivation, customer satisfaction and innovation. Palmer previously held the position of Director of Customer Experience at BMC Software responsible for leading the global Information Design and Development team. Palmer has also managed technical communication departments for Cadence Design Systems, Delphax Systems (a subsidy of the Xerox Corporation), Analog Devices and Data Terminal Systems. He serves on numerous academic and professional advisory boards and has been a frequent presenter at CIDM Best Practices and STC.

Palmer also chairs the Boston Innovation Council, a consortium of technical publications managers and directors. He holds degrees in Music, English, and Electronic Engineering.