Making Printed Signs Interactive with QR Codes

Printing QR codes for signsYou can add interactive value to a sign by using QR codes. As a quick refresher, QR codes are matrix barcodes (in other words, they’re like grocery barcodes that look like Rorschach ink tests) that can read the information contained in the code – typically a link to a Web page – and send it to a consumer’s smart phone.

Todd Dofflemyer of Muddy Feet Graphics reports that more customers are using this interactive element, or some other attempt at interactivity, in their printed signage. As an example, a property management client of Dofflemyer’s has a text-to message included on the sign so the potential buyer can find out what units are available in that property.

QR codes for interactive signs
Instead of using a QR code so that smart phone users can find out what units are available at that particular property, this sign includes a "text-to" instruction to find that information.

“They weren’t quite ready to implement QR codes, but it would have been the perfect application. The QR code could be at Property A6 and the website can be updated to whatever the current availability is in A6. It’s an up-to-the minute accurate version of what’s available at that site,” says Dofflemyer.

The most common application of a QR code is to send someone to a website, preferably a custom landing page unique to that QR code. “From there the message is customized, and you can include multiple QR codes to get even more specific. For instance, you could have a QR code for a summer camp check-in sign with one QR code for boys to check in with and another for girls, or however they’re dividing their camp sessions,” says Dofflemyer.

The possibilities are almost endless for the information that can be shared through a QR code and then customized to fit a particular promotion or sales program. Dofflemyer adds that QR codes don’t require super-precise printing.

“They’re very forgiving and can be printed at virtually any size,” says Dofflemyer. “One of our customers wants us to print one for the side of a tractor trailer. It works because it’s relative to the viewer; when you’re 20 feet away and it’s eight feet tall it will be the right size in the smart phone. Scale and distance work together for QR codes.”

The idea to print QR codes adds value and margin to the sign without raising the cost of printing. “It makes a real good marketing pitch, because everyone basically has a digital sign in their pocket; all you have to do is tie into it. So instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on an electronic digital sign system, they can have an interactive sign for $500,” adds Dofflemyer.

Making an Impression, Leaving a Trail at Muddy Feet Graphics

Advertising with bus graphics

Muddy feet certainly do leave an impression and the muddier the feet the more impressions you leave. That’s Todd Dofflemyer’s philosophy, figuratively speaking of course, where the mud his company gets its feet dirty with is the diversity of products it offers its customers.

Dofflemyer, owner of Muddy Feet Graphics in Harrisonburg, Va., has an extensive history in the commercial printing world; he was instrumental in bringing one of the world’s largest commercial printers into the digital world from analog back in the 1980s. When he struck out on his own less than two years ago, he combined his experience in innovation with a studious view of trends in the graphics market that has helped Muddy Feet Graphics grow quickly in a short time.

Advertising with fleet graphics on vehicles
Muddy Feet Graphics used Simple Flo Wrap Vinyl, laminated with Simple Flo Wrap Gloss UV Laminate for an easy and ecomonical fleet project.

“We call ourselves a graphics company and not a sign company since we can put a logo on just about anything,” says Dofflemyer. That’s why printing t-shirts is an important component of Muddy Feet Graphics’ business. Though it represents only about 20 percent of the company’s production, it feeds the large-format graphics and sign side of the business and vice-versa.

Muddy Feet Graphics does not screen print, but instead goes direct-to-shirt with an AnaJet direct-to-garment inkjet printer. This process allows short, on-demand, custom runs that t-shirt printing has been trending toward over the past few years.

“I’d rather find a hundred people who need ten shirts, rather than ten people who need 100. People don’t want to keep a lot of inventory and potentially waste shirts, so we can customize their order so they don’t keep as much in stock,” says Dofflemyer. “When someone comes in to pick up a banner they see us making t-shirts and vice-versa, so the more things you have that are similar but not the same, the more opportunity you have.”

Another area where Muddy Feet Graphics is making inroads thanks to its logo-on-everything approach is vehicle graphics. Vehicle wraps have been slower to arrive on the scene in Virginia than hot spots like California and Florida, but once local customers saw the advertising value of it, more jobs began to roll into the shop.

“If it’s $2,500 for a vehicle wrap and you spread it across four years, the average lifetime of a fleet vehicle, it comes out to about $50 per month. Then, compare that cost and the overall effectiveness of a moving billboard to other media with less visibility and the price is easier for the customer to accept,” explains Dofflemyer.

Another trend that Dofflemyer has noticed and responded to is the more temporary nature of the requests that come through the door. For a recent bus wrap, Muddy Feet Graphics used a removable vinyl for the body of the bus and LexJet Simple Perforated Window Vinyl (60/40) for the windows.

“We used a removable vinyl for the bus project since the message will change regularly, and we used the LexJet window perf because we were having problems with the other window perf we were using.

Printing wall murals for bedrooms
Todd Dofflemyer, owner of Muddy Feet Graphics, says he's found the perfect wall mural material in LexJet Simple WallCal (6 Mil).

No matter how long I let it sit it was transferring to the unprinted area of the window perf and we found the LexJet material applies easier and I don’t have a problem with the ink drying,” explains Dofflemyer. “Now it seems that everybody wants a message that’s tailored to today that could change tomorrow.

You used to see a lot more metal real estate signs, for instance, but you’re seeing more step stakes. In this economy, that house will sit there for awhile so they want to change the message a lot. Everybody needs to be more aggressive so that message needs to change more.”

And that’s good news for everyone in the large format graphics market. Additionally, Dofflemyer has noticed that clients are including a QR bar code on more of their printed pieces to take advantage of smart phone technology. A banner can serve a dual purpose of getting a quick look-at-me message with a QR code that takes the curious to a website with more in-depth information.

“Digital graphics can be distributed in all kinds of ways and we’re finding that more and more of them are simply avenues to your phone,” says Dofflemyer.

With its focus on blending printed and purely digital technologies and being ever cognizant of what its customer base needs as progress makes its forward march, Muddy Feet Graphics is poised to make good on its tagline: Make an Impression, Leave a Trail.