BKV Blog

The Untold Story of the Barcode

By Séverine Dehon in Direct Marketing on March 25th, 2010

Last week, while I was proofreading a postcard, something came to my mind: do we realize how important barcodes have become in our marketing process? The answer is probably not! We are so used to seeing barcodes on so many product packages, ads, and direct mail pieces that we don’t realize their importance. So I want to tell you the untold story and potential of the barcode.

The modern barcode was invented in 1948. The concept was really innovative: the information was represented by symbols, and the code was based upon the spaces between the lines. The barcode was interpreted by a first-generation scanner. The first commercial application occurred in 1952. This invention quickly became a success, and soon standardization was required.

Nowadays, there are hundreds of types of barcodes, depending on your industry. As a Direct Marketing agency, the most important barcodes are USPS4CB (Intelligent Mail Barcode) and the QR code.

  • The 4CB code consists of 65 bars and is used to track domestic mail in the United States. Can you imagine Direct Marketing without the ability to track mail? Moreover, some locations use this barcode to sort their mailer, keep track of their inventory and calculate the response rate.

  • The QR code is the Quick Response Code. With the advent of Mobile Marketing (and Augmented Reality), they have become more than a trend: QR codes are a must! When you scan a QR code with your smartphone you are redirected to a website that is fully adapted to the campaign’s goals. The potential is unlimited. A QR code enables smoother transactions within your marketing mix. It is a connection between the material and the media world. QR coding and planning have become an art in recent years, and are becoming so important that soon creating QR marketing campaigns will become a science.

I find it really interesting to see how a solution to track items has evolved into so much more. I don’t think that the inventors of the barcode were aware that they created something that would lead to two revolutions: the first in the inventory industry and the second in the marketing industry.

That is the fascinating untold story of the barcode.

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