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Those funny looking boxes are popping up everywhere, but what purpose do they serve?
Taking a look at QR codes

QR codes at a glance

What: A QR code is short for "quick response code" and is able to encode much more data than other scannable codes, such as UPC codes. Like a barcode, the pattern on the QR is unique, using the ‘fingerprint’ to take users to a predetermined Web page.

Purpose: Codes are used as a way for consumers to access more information. Codes are often included on print ads and on other promotional materials as a way for people to access a company’s website or to enter a contest. This can be beneficial for companies that have long website names or sections of their site have long URLs that would be hard to remember or type out into a phone browser.

How to scan: An application (or app) on smart phones or other electronic devices are needed. These are often free or can be downloaded for a small fee. A camera is needed to use these types of apps. Simply search for "QR code reader" in your app market to download one and follow the directions of the app to start scanning.

They are small, square and sort of resemble a piece of pop art. Or an empty crossword puzzle. But small as they are, they carry a lot of clout.

Although barcodes have long been used to help cashiers check out customers quickly, a new generation of the coded boxes are popping up everywhere from storefronts to event flyers.

Chances are you’ve seen these funny looking symbols, known as a QR code, on advertisements across multiple platforms. These codes can be seen on pages of magazines, on websites, TV and even on the side of the drink cup from your favorite fast food joint.

QR codes, shortened from quick response code, are described as a "barcode on steroids" by They are used in a two-dimensional format to encode data, much more data than can be carried by a traditional UPC barcode.

In advertising and marketing, these codes are being used as a way to direct consumers to a Web link. The user simply scans the code using a downloadable application (or app) on his or her smart phone or another digital device — tablet, iPod, etc.

Within a few seconds, your device will bring you to the link set in the code. Some businesses — like the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce — simply use the code as an easier way to access the company’s website.

Others, like Jennifer Dees and the town of Braselton, use the code in multiple facets.

"We have them to take individuals from everything from our Facebook page to the events page, to our projects in process page," said Dees, the town manager and clerk for Braselton.

Dees said Braselton began using QR codes in January of 2011 when their Web page company president asked her if they would be interested in using them for marketing purposes.

"I had to Google ‘QR code’ to find out what they were," Dees explained. "Once I saw what they could do and how fast they were being implemented, I thought we should give it a try."

The results she got surprised her, and the town of Braselton has been using QR codes in its marketing efforts ever since. According to Dees, Braselton’s codes are scanned more often when ads containing them are run closer to Atlanta.

The Downtown Development Authority of Braselton has seen the most success when it comes to how often promotional materials are scanned.

"They put one on their marketing materials to direct people to ‘like’ our Facebook page," Dees explained.

Even nonprofits, museums and historic sites have embraced this new technology. The curators with the African American Heritage Site on the campus of the Sautee Nacoochee Center have placed a QR code on their brochures, which directs visitors to their website and informational videos.

Even artists and musicians are handing out cards with QR codes, taking fans to their website for their latest track or image available for download.

For Amber Halper with North Georgia Pediatric Dentistry, QR codes have been used as a way to embrace new technologies and marketing strategies.

"We want to try and stay on the cutting edge, and I think we need stay ahead of trends that can help us reach people," Halper said.

Halper noted that the marketing company North Georgia Pediatric Dentistry goes through is big into using the codes, so they wanted to give it a try.

"Our biggest thing is that people can be able to find us online, whether that’s by searching on the internet or using the codes," she said. "I think that giving people more chances to access something is always beneficial."


Times reporter Brandee A. Thomas contributed to this article.


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