So you’ve seen QR codes and heard of them, but still don’t know what they are exactly? And maybe too embarrassed to ask? Well, look no further! Here’s a quick, basic overview of what QR codes are, how they work, and how to apply them to your marketing initiatives.

QR Codes are two-dimensional barcodes and can be printed on any type of collateral, direct mail, signage, buttons, stickers, posters, banners, tags, promotional merchandise, apparel-virtually anything! When captured with a smart phone camera, a QR Code reader triggers an “event”-sends user to a specific Web site, displays an exclusive discount, shows a map, gives business card-type info…whatever you want.

Here’s a sample of a QR code. If you have a smart phone, you may already have an app that will let you scan this. If not, you can download a free scanner to your cell phone at www.beetagg.com, www.scanlife.com, and a host of other places.

In this case, the QR code took you to a company Web site, but there are lots of other types of sites you can direct people to; for example:

• Print a QR code on every single mail piece near the return address info. When a guest scans it, the Web browser on their phone will take them to your casino’s Web site.

• Print a special QR code on every event mail piece. When guest scans it, it takes them to info about that event-all the details, the rules… it could even allow them to RSVP for the event online.

• A couple is driving around looking through a local magazine or newspaper. They see an ad for your casino. There’s also a QR code on the ad. Next to or under the QR code are simple directions on how to scan. The wife uses her Blackberry to scan the code. Instantly the Web browser takes her to a special offer from your buffet exclusively for those who scan the code.

• Print a QR code on your gift of the month item. Earn 100 points, get a mug. The mug can have QR code that leads to URL showing other promotions/events for that month.

• A customer is walking by one of your casino’s retail shops, but it’s closed. They have to leave town the next morning, but really like what they see in the window. There’s a QR code with instructional signage outside the store that say, “Scan this code to get more info about our apparel.” The person scans code and it takes them to your store’s Web site and could offer them a special discount by entering a special “offer code” that can only be seen by scanning the QR code.

• A customer orders special coffee drink at your casino’s coffee shop. The cup has a QR code on it. The customer scans the code and up pops all the calorie/nutritional info for your different coffee drinks.

• Print a QR code on the back of all your business cards. The recipient can scan the code and automatically save all the information on the front of the card into his/her cell phone.

• Put a QR code on posters for this month’s headline or lounge entertainer. The QR code can take those interested in the act to information about upcoming entertainers.

• Put a QR code on buttons for employees to wear especially if you’re promoting a huge giveaway. When a guest scans the button code, it takes them to information about that promotion/giveaway.

• Basically, every month your newsletter or direct mail loyalty piece should have a QR code on it somewhere-even if it just takes guests to your casino’s Web site.

As you can see the opportunities are endless. Smart phone applications like this are gaining in popularity and give you yet one more way to reach your audience.

Your casino should be utilizing QR codes in some form or fashion, if you’re not already. Certainly, you recognize that everyone uses their cell phones/smart phones to do everything these days. QR codes give your customers another way to interact virtually with your casino news, promotions, updates, and initiatives. And QR code utilization shows that you are willing to deliver information to them in a way that is fast and efficient for them.

One last tip-if you incorporate a QR code into any direct mail piece in July or August, the U.S. Postal service will give you a 2 percent discount on postage. Be sure to ask your printer or agency about this.