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QR Codes: An Overnight Success That Took Decades

Help your clients as well as your own station to take advantage of this popular tool

Quick: What does the “QR” stand for in the phrase “QR code?” 

C’mon, I gave you a hint! 

It stands for “quick response.” It was created in 1994 by a Denso Wave employee named Masahiro Hara who had the idea while playing “Go.” 

He realized a grid system could hold much more info in a single code and could also be read from multiple directions, angles, and distances — thereby speeding up the manufacturing process of Toyota vehicles. Now, QR codes in China are used for everything from business cards to mobile payments.

The adoption of QR codes in the United States has been anything but quick, but during the pandemic — when people didn’t want to touch cash or push buttons on a card reader — the QR code became a hit. According to Forbes, QR scans reached 26 million in 2023, a 433% increase compared to two years earlier. 

In 2023, Nielsen Audio stated that listener engagement through QR codes increased by 35%. Nielsen also says that QR codes can increase brand recall by 30% in television shows and consumer engagement for TV commercials by as much as 30%. 

This is relevant to you if you’re creating a TV spot to advertise your station, whether on TV, digital pre-roll or in-stream video; your commercial should include a QR code to further promote the station.

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Radio delivers

So, how can radio stations benefit from QR codes? 

Let’s start with our clients, especially in small and medium markets. In-store QR codes — on a poster or end display with a station logo — can drive consumers either to loyal listener deals at the store or to a one-time discount not connected to a club. 

Got a station e-letter? Each one should contain a QR code with a special offer for something free at a participating sponsor! 

On your social media channels and website, QR codes are the fastest way to drive ticket sales to events and concerts, to drive listening to one of your podcasts, or to simply communicate detailed information about any topic you choose. For example, you can offer your listeners more information about recently reviewed restaurants in your city; or if you’re running a radio marathon to raise money for a local hospital, a QR code could be scanned to drive donations. 

Do you have a radio station app that live-streams? A QR code is a great way to get people to download the app from Google Play or the App Store. So whenever you do remotes or appearances, make sure to display your station app’s QR code prominently to increase those downloads.

Maybe someday RDS will carry QR codes on car radios, or there’ll be another direct-to-car delivery method. Imagine if every song, promo and spot airing carried a QR code. Passengers in cars could respond in the moment, further demonstrating what we’ve always known: Radio advertising delivers!

[Read More Columns by Mark Lapidus]

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