They’re popping up on merchandise, price labels, business cards and newspaper ads.

Black-and-white barcodes the size of a postage stamp are connecting people with smartphones to Internet sites, delivering immediate information and marking another advance in the world of the mobile Web.

Anyone with a smartphone can download a free QR reader application and scan the codes using the phone’s camera. The code then takes the user to a site with videos, coupons, special promotions, sweepstakes, surveys or whatever else the code holder is promising.

Real estate agents, auto dealers, property managers and nonprofits are among the early adopters of QR codes.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts also turned to QR codes for a marketing campaign for the Pablo Picasso exhibit.

Working with The Martin Agency, the museum created a portrait of the Spanish artist made entirely of QR codes.

The codes direct users to a page displaying the artist’s work and offering a place to buy tickets.

In New York City, the portrait is painted on the side of a building. And in several cities,  including Richmond, Washington and Philadelphia, there will be an augmented-reality feature to the campaign, where users scan the code and images from Picasso’s collection will appear on surrounding buildings.

The idea to use the QR codes was “to reach a younger audience and a technologically savvy audience,” said Bob S. Tarren, director of marketing for the VMFA. “We wanted to be relevant and have a progressive message.”

At Keller Williams Realty in Boise, Idaho, associate brokers Dawn Templeton and Janet Parsons have used QR codes in their advertisements in the agency’s real estate magazine. The codes linked to their websites.

“My head started spinning when I thought of all the cool ways I could use it,” Parsons said.

Both women said they plan to place QR codes on fliers and signs at properties for sale so potential buyers can scan them and take a virtual tour while they’re standing in front of a home.

“This is fast. This is easy. This is hip,” Parsons said. “It’s leading edge.”

Businesses often begin using QR codes by putting them on business cards. The codes connect to contact information or a company website, said Cahill Jones, president of BizPrint, a printing and marketing company in Boise that designs and manages QR codes for clients.

The next step typically is to get more specific with a QR that goes to a survey, a coupon or a page where customers can order items, he said.

“You’re catching consumers at the exact moment when they are interested in the product,” Jones said. “The uses are just unlimited.”


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