Color, Customized QR Codes at the National Stationery Show

MAYBOOKSQRCODEThe weather here in New York City may be dreary, but inside the Javits center the atmosphere is anything but. Shocks of color and laughter pepper the floor of the National Stationery Show, as buyers and purveyors of greeting cards and gifts greet each other with hopeful nods. The former looking for the next big seller, the latter, the next big placement.

With the exception of Hallmark, the major players are represented, but the majority of the show is boutique lines; husband and wife teams, solitary letterpress operators peddling their art in trendy clothes and sensible shoes.

The growing consumer need for digital to physical connection coupled with a convention center full of hot designers and paper products is sure to be fertile ground for the QR code, right? This was the question that lead me through the doors. Unfortunately, the story here is not the proliferation of the code, but the lack thereof. At a show like this, a badge emblazoned with PRESS draws a lot of attention; which meant I explained the mission of The BarCode News approximately 1,000 times. As a member of the press, I am used to asking the questions, but this weekend I was doing the answering: What's a QR Code?

My disappointment was tempered by the few uses of QR Code I did find. Happening upon one in the vastness of the Javits Center was like discovering an oasis in the desert. My joy at discovering one matched only by that of the person behind it, eager for the recognition and attention. While I had hoped to discover new stationery solutions incorporating QR codes, there were none. What I found were hip proprietors using the technology to differentiate themselves with their marketing.

ebookcodeA couple booths had a QR code displayed on their banner or in frames on their tables. These codes resolved to the company website, or in one case to an iBook version of the company catalog. Full Colour Black, an edgy card company from the UK, puts 2D codes resolving to their website on the back of their cards and bookmarks.

There were two companies very prominently using QR codes in their marketing. I'm going to cover one today and one tomorrow.

The first is MAY BOOKS. This company's use of QR code was difficult to ignore. A banner patterned with a unique pink QR code containing the company logo covered one wall; in front of it posed two lovely, raucous ladies holding fake mustaches to their faces.

MAYBOOKSCODEMAY BOOKS is produced by a husband and wife team; function meets whimsy. With Mica’s creativity and Jonathan’s practicality, function and design breed to produce remarkable offspring. The company's books are as lovely and practical as their QR code marketing. I was pleased to discover a sample in my Press Kit. The beautiful canvas-covered book has a delightful feel and is quickly filling up with article notes. Their newest line is the Diary Collection, featuring color interior pages to keep those important moments in life organized.

Me How did you make that pink code with your logo in it?

Mica I'm not telling.

Me Come on.

Mica Well, I'm a designer. I wanted to make a code that was pretty and had my logo in it. There was a lot of trial and error. I kept emailing it to people to make sure it worked. I also had to test it on several apps to make sure it could be scanned.

Me Do you plan on incorporating the code into any of your products?

Mica Don't think so...marketing is so organic and I want to keep the product clean for my customers so they are free from any extra fluff but I'll definitely incorporate it into eblasts, FB/twitter promos and other marketing efforts that build our brand and keep up with the trends!

The best part of this story is that Mica May was unaware of the pioneering work she had completed in producing the customized QR code. Word from the blogosphere is that the QR code has some built-in error correction (up to 30 percent), and by a process of trial and error a QR code can be customized— like Mica May's. Of course,  another option is to utilize Microsoft Tag, a company whose proprietary codes tout customization as one of its key differentiators.

Mica May and her customized code represent a marriage of creativity and technology that is at the heart of the QR code revolution. The power of the code lies not simply in its bridging of the gap between physical and digital; its usage is a badge that declares “We are Innovators.” When I asked her why she chose to display the code so prominently in her booth she said:

“I think the concept behind QR codes is genius, but being a designer, I just couldn't bring myself to slap a big black square on my materials because it didn't fit in with our brand.  I figured out a way to change the colors and add in my logo and still make the link work.  For the booth, I created a trellis style pattern using the custom code and our logo as an entire wall to create a social media photobooth for the buyers.  Stationery is a tough business right now, so we wanted to create an experience for the buyer that let them know we were staying ahead of the curve as well as give them a break from thinking about order forms.  We believe that building relationships is the most significant part of the show, so we wanted our booth to be a place where we can personally connect with our buyers and let them know we are human and we are simply having a blast, doing what we love.”

Enough said.


If you liked this article, also try reading:

Will RFID Join QR Code in Coolsville?

The Point of Sale News, an online magazine dedicated to the retail industry.


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