I recently won the Democratic primary for a third term as “Shadow” U.S. Representative for the District of Columbia. Unlike my previous two elections, this time I had signs printed and worked with some tireless volunteers to attach them to street poles all across the city. It’s a bit of trip to be driving someplace and then see your name on a sign while you are going to store to get some milk. It’s even cooler when your 3-year-old-daughter sees the sign from her car seat and says, “Daddy, that’s your sign!

Obviously, physical signs promoting a candidate are as old as politics itself, however being the technology guy that I am, I wanted to do something that was a little bit on the cutting edge – so I incorporated a quick response (QR) code into the sign. In case you’re not familiar with them, QR codes are the square, pixilated images that are designed to be scanned by smart phone cameras that will then direct the mobile device to a web site or other digital asset. For example, here’s the QR code I used on my signs.

I’m beginning to see QR codes show up on display materials and print advertisements, but I’m claiming credit as the first politician to use QR codes on a street sign. (If I’m not, let me know.) However, at some level it was a little too “bleeding edge” – a lot like having a web site address on your campaign signs in 1996. People sort of knew what it was. . . but didn’t really know what to do with it. However, those who had scanned QR codes before, and knew what they were, appreciated the effort to connect with them.

You can see here how I incorporated them into the sign:


What’s great about using them in a political campaign is that it gives people who are waiting for a bus or standing on a corner waiting for the light to change a chance to connect more deeply with your themes and messages than they ever could by looking at a sign. My QR code directed people to my web site, where they could read more about me and the work I’ve done. Other approaches could be to have a special welcome message or video only for people who scan the code.

I’m already thinking of ways to use QR codes in issue campaigns, and I excited to see how they can expand and deepen the reach of my client’s messages. There are some really creative people out there experimenting with special designs for QR codes – for example the cool stuff being done at QRarts.com – and I can’t wait to see what’s next.