QR codes are rapidly becoming the new interactive tool in the marketing and advertising space, showing up on Pepsi cans and even billboards in Times Square. As scanner technology becomes more widespread, QR codes will be seen more and more as an interactive medium between brands and consumers. Sounds great right, but what is a QR code?

In a nutshell, it's a glorified barcode. However, its usage can span far greater than that.  Using the right tools, marketers can now attach images, text or even video messages to QR Codes. Using QR Readers downloadable on smart-phone devices, consumers can scan these bits of code and see whatever message the advertiser places in front of them on their phone. One of the more recent examples of this is found in a Mashable article from last week. An activist group called "Women of the Storm" used a QR Code campaign, attaching a celebrity backed video to their ads helping raise awareness for the Gulf spill clean up. As more people use smartphones and as QR Readers become more "practical," these QR Code initiatives will most likely hit the mainstream.

So what does all this have to do with the promotional product industry?

For anyone who has had a pen, frisbee, t-shirt etc. with a company brand on it, you've had encounters with a promotional product. The main function of promotional products are to brand different products with a company logo to increase exposure of the brand. I never realized it until I started working for Hinda and going to trade shows, but it's a huge business. Sure these logos give brand exposure...but a QR Code addition would give more brand interaction. Imagine having a t-shirt printed out with your company logo.  What if below that logo you had a video or message attached to your t-shirt, enhancing the message of your brand and providing more engagement with your promo product recipients. Increased opportunities for brand engagement rather than just exposure could further the influence (and potentially deepen the pockets) of those in the promotional product business.

QR Codes are helping digital geeks (like myself) interact with the real world - outside of the computer. What do you all think? What other places do you see QR codes being effective?