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What on Earth Is a QR Code?

QR codes are fast becoming more and more common and they are a perfect (and FREE) tool fQR code exampleor arts organizations to engage audiences.  

QR codes (the QR stands for "quick response") are bar codes that allow you to link them to an event, website URL, bit of text, or virtual business card. Scanners for these codes are free and can be downloaded to any smartphone. (I use one called NeoReader but a simple web search will reveal tons of others that are good as well.)

QR codes are also free to produce.  My favorite ways to make them are to use the and URL shorteners. When you shorten the URL, it will automatically assign it a QR code that also can be tracked so you can tally how many times it was scanned. 

But, you ask, how can a nonprofit arts organization use this newfangled technology? Well, remember when you got your first Facebook page and then you started putting a little Facebook icon on your marketing materials or listing the URL? Well, it is just that easy. Any site that allows you to make a QR code will allow you to download said code so that you can put it anywhere. Here are a couple of examples of great uses of QR codes:

example ad with QR code
1.  The Cleveland Museum of Art- Check out this poster which is part of their latest marketing campaign.  Very compelling, no?

Here is what Kesha Williams, their Digital Communications Manager has to say about it:

"The Cleveland Museum of Art chose to use QR code samples because we wanted to try this innovative technology as a refresh of our How Do You See It? Marketing campaign. We saw the QR codes as creative way to offer access to our collection objects during the summer visit season. We recently re-opened our Ancient Greek and Roman art galleries after a five-year hiatus during our construction project."

AND this sort of use is super simple to create yet is perhaps more compelling than a traditional poster.

ad from Tosca with QR code2.  Palm Beach Opera - Palm Beach Opera is using QR codes on all of their advertising and collateral materials for the 2010-2011 season.This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to integrate QR codes into your existing marketing.

This is a portion of the back of a rack card that was printed with season information. Check out the QR code in the bottom corner.  Scanning this code takes you to additional information about Palm Beach Opera’s upcoming season.



QR code on phone pole3.  Vancouver Opera- The ever-so-hip marketing team at Vancouver Opera used QR codes posted around the city to promote their production of Lillian Alling.  This, like the Cleveland Museum’s, is a VERY compelling use of a QR code.

So, how can your organization use QR code to further its mission? If you are someone who attends arts performances, how would you use a QR code if you saw one?  Perhaps in a program book where it is linked to behind-the-scenes information about the performance. Or maybe as a sign in the lobby with a link to the next event that can be easily added to your calendar.

The possibilities are endless and limited only by our creativity.

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