B-to-B Insights: The Death of the BRC

QR Codes are the culprit—and how B-to-B marketers can integrate this mobile response device

When I was starting out in marketing in the late 1970s, the standard response device in direct marketing was the business reply card (BRC). With the advent of PURLs (personalized URLs), use of the BRC declined dramatically. Many argued that the BRC was an unnecessary component of a direct mail package. Why waste a piece of card stock when the prospect could just go to a URL?

Now, the rising popularity of QR Codes has further driven a stake into the BRC’s heart. Why fill out a BRC with a pen when you can respond to a promotion by scanning it with your smartphone in about a second?

Deciphering the Code
According to a study published by comScore, more than 55 percent of Americans are now smartphone users, and most are between the ages of 24 and 35. The gender mix is about 50-50. One in every five American smartphone users scanned a QR Code in a retail store in 2011. And 57 percent of those who scanned QR Codes in 2011 did so at home on their mobile devices.

The more data you put into the code, the smaller the dots (the dark pixel squares) become, as the QR Code adjusts itself to increase its data storage capacity. And, as the size of the dots decrease, they become harder for the scanner in the smartphone to “see,” so the QR Code itself needs to be made larger in order for it to be reliably scanned. Here are seven other factoids and tips to help you decipher QR Codes:

1. The density of the code is described by a version number that is based on the number of rows and columns of dots. A Version 1 QR Code will have 21 rows and 21 columns of dots and the version number will then increase by 1 for every 4 extra rows and columns. So, for example, a Version 2 QR Code will have 25 rows and columns, a Version 3 QR Code will have 29 rows and columns, right through to a Version 25 QR Code that will have 117 rows and columns.

Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of 80 books, including “How to Write and Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.
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