I've been seeing QR codes everywhere, and after reading about it this past summer in a David Pogue column explaining new technology trends. QR codes are, as Pogue writes:
those weird, square, pixelated black-and-white bar codes that are cropping up on billboards, movie posters, signs, magazine ads and business cards. Nobody ever bothered to explain them. (They’re QR codes — quick response bar codes. You can scan them with your iPhone’s or Android phone’s camera, using a special app that translates it into an ad or takes you to a related Web page.)
So earlier this summer, I downloaded an App that "reads" them, and our family has been finding them everywhere. We were at the grocery store at the beach, and there was a QR code on the box of watermelon. One of the kids scanned it and it had a mobile-ready recipes, information. It was cute!
One of the things we all noticed about the QR codes is usually how useless they are--they bring you to a web page that might not even be mobile-ready, so you can't even read it, or just not that helpful. Many marketing pros and others have written about this on the web, and even highlighted the many unhelpful or just plain bad QR code "landing pages."
As we kept discovering them, the good, the bad and the ugly QR codes, depending on where the code "landed" you, I thought, why couldn't this be an opportunity to invite people to prayer? Or find a way to spread the word about something Catholic?
So I proposed to my editor that we put a QR code in the Catholic Post. Fortunately, he's always up for trying out new ideas. It would be related to my September column featuring 9/11 books, but "land" people who scanned the QR code at a page with the prayer of Father Mychal Judge. The Catholic Post Book Group is mobile-ready, so the prayer is easy to read on a phone or other mobile device. I actually back-dated the post/prayer to September 11 last year, since my column reaches some people before my column posts on the blog. The only thing that annoyed me is that a photo of me appears also on the mobile-ready blog, (since I am the blog author), and I couldn't figure out a way to get rid of that. Here is the QR code I generated using one of the many free sites that offer QR codemaking:
My thinking was that a person who might not read the Post normally might see the QR code (at their parents' or grandparents' house, perhaps?), and, if they were familiar with using them, still scan the code for fun, as we have done so much in our family in recent months. And then perhaps that unnamed person would pray the prayer, or at least be inspired to read more of the Post and learn more about the Faith.
Before the Post QR code printed, our local parish bulletin featured a QR code, a pretty cool one with the "Word on Fire" logo in the middle, which landed my iPhone at the promo video for Father Robert Barron's Catholicism series. I was so glad to see this great use of a QR code, better than pretty much any of the ones to promote a product that I have seen.
I am hoping to do this again in the future, perhaps along with my October column on books about Teresas, landing at a prayer by St. Therese or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Any suggestions on a good prayer for that?
What do you think about QR codes? Do you use them? Do you think they have the potential to be a tool for evangelism?