What is OCR? How Your Brand Can Use Optical Character Recognition.

What is OCR? How Your Brand Can Use Optical Character Recognition.

In our increasingly digital world, artificial intelligence is becoming more and more sophisticated and easing the lives of technological early adopters. Look around your office, whether home or corporate, and count the number of smart devices at your fingertips. Probably more than you’d think, right?

Arguably, one of the more remarkable leaps in technology as of late takes place right in your phone. Optical character recognition or OCR is the process by which images of graphics or text captured by your phone’s camera are converted into digital files. Actually originating decades ago in the early 90s (yes, the 90s really were decades ago), OCR has been used to transform handwritten documents into modern digital formats. 

Thankfully, optical character recognition has improved beyond its capabilities from the early 90s, making it both more accurate and accessible. Today, OCR technology simplifies data collection and creates a seamless user experience for several aspects of promotional marketing. 

Brief History of OCR

Optical character recognition’s roots run deeper than you might expect, with iterations coming long before the 90s. The original OCR invention comes from the 70s, believe it or not. 

The 1870s, of course. 

Yes, you read that correctly. The very first official OCR invention is credited to American inventor Charles R. Carey, who invented the retina scanner. Text-to-speech machines of multiple variations followed over the next several decades. 

As mentioned above, OCR technology as we know it today proliferated the market in the late 80s and early 90s. In fact, the U.S State Department funded the development of the first optical character recognition scanner for passports. Price tag scanners followed shortly after, championed by Sears and Kmart, the industry giants of the time. 

Optical character recognition, unlike some of its early adopters, has stood the test of time and only gotten better with age. Today, OCR technology is as simple as snapping a photo with your phone, offering users instant, accurate readings of their data. 

How it Works

To simplify a relatively complex technology, optical character recognition works by analyzing the light and dark contrast created by letters or numbers on a background. More primitive versions of OCR, like those that came in the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, worked with specific fonts or characters, and could only interpret those. There’s even a font called OCR-A from the 1960s created specifically for this purpose!

Back then, creating a simple, standardized font for checks and other bank documents was easy enough and solved the issues of the time. The only problem.. Most of the world doesn’t use the monospaced and, frankly, boring font. Optical character recognition was limited by the capabilities of the time, therefore. 

As time has progressed and the technologies have improved, some visual recognition software can not accurately process several types of fonts and in some cases, an individual’s own handwriting. This is appropriately referred to as Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR). 

Offer seamless customer experience with OCR

Optical Character Recognition and Promotional Marketing 

Due to its increased use, optical character recognition has entered the world of promotional marketing and proven itself to be particularly useful. Savvy marketers have found applications with promotional campaigns like loyalty programs, rewards and rebates, and purchase incentives, to name a few. 

Support your brand’s promotional marketing efforts with a number of industry-leading digital services to boost its effectiveness and delight your customers. 

OCR to Support your Brand’s Promotional Marketing Strategy

All successful promotional marketing campaigns are founded on a strong, purpose-driven idea. At MRi, our unique IDEA approach (see what we did there?) supports brands, guiding them every step of the way, from identifying their purpose to analyzing their campaign’s results. 

Optical character recognition is just one tool in our wide belt that we use to help brands understand their consumers on a deeper, more comprehensive level. 

For example, using receipt scanning data collection, brands can analyze purchase history data to accurately determine which products preform well with their most valuable customers (and which ones don’t) and adjust their product lines accordingly. 

As mentioned, OCR is a convenient and accurate way of aggregating valuable customer data. Your brand can unlock important purchase history, location data, and much more with each scan submitted. Once you’ve collected some data, taking a closer look at what it tells you allows your brand to better understand your customers and more effectively target them in the future. 

Supporting your Brand’s Loyalty Program

OCR technology supports a robust customer loyalty program in a number of ways. Including the ability to instantly and easily convert physical items into digital files is hugely beneficial to the program as a whole. 

Many loyalty programs offer rewards or rebates to their loyal customers after a certain number of visits or purchases. Tracking this progress can be quite tricky. An archaic and unfortunately all too common way of tracking is to simply do so by hand. How many punch cards are sitting in your wallet getting wrinkled right now? Even one is too many. 

Offer your customers an easier and frankly, more fun way of tracking their loyalty progress by implementing optical tracking and visual recognition. Meet your consumer’s needs and offer them instantaneous digital rebates and rewards with advanced OCR technology. With visual recognition as an aspect of your brand’s digital rewards program, users can simply snap a photo of either a product, receipt, QR code, or really anything you can think of in order to receive their rewards.

For expert advice and even more ways optical character recognition can benefit your loyalty program, schedule your free consultation with one of our dedicated promotional marketing experts today.

Promotional Games and Visual Recognition 

Promotional games like collect-to-win and instant-win games are immediately enhanced with the addition of digital visual recognition. 

Visual recognition not only adds a layer of fun and whimsy when presented to users, but it can also prevent your brand’s promotional games from falling victim to fraud. Validate a consumer’s purchase and make them feel like they’re using cool, futuristic technology? Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

Brands like MTN DEW are already turning to MRi and our industry-leading OCR technology to secure their promotional games. Encouraging MTN DEW fans (who isn’t?) to purchase one of each of their 50 unique bottles celebrating the 50 U.S states, MTN DEW trusted our visual recognition technology to confirm that loyalty fans purchased each state’s bottle. As always, MRi’s proprietary unique code system and visual character recognition software ensures each purchase is easily validated when entered by the user and offers the MTN DEW brand added back-end security and data.

Enhancing Your Brand’s Promotional Marketing

The opportunities to benefit from optical character recognition expand far beyond just the few we listed above. For even more applications, check out some of the work we’ve done in the past, or contact one of our promotional marketing experts for a free consultation on how your brand can benefit from OCR technology. 

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Systems and Network Administrator

About Us

Marketing Resources, Inc. is a leading promotional marketing agency that specializes in purpose-driven promotions. With over 25 years in the business, MRi helps brands Identify, Develop, Execute, and Analyze promotions and marketing projects that consumers love. We’re a team full of committed, passionate, solutions-driven, hands-on, and innovative individuals who collaborate to bring success to our client’s programs.


The System and Network Administrator plays a critical role on the MRi Digital team, and overall in the success of our company. They are responsible for the day-to-day administration and technical support of complex Linux servers, Virtual Infrastructure and Systems Management, and maintenance and support of end-user systems. You’ll be working closely with our teams on client projects and making sure our internal systems are updated and secure. 

Our ideal candidate will be proactive, have great organizational skills, not shy away from communication with our teams, think through and help solve different problems, and gain an understanding of our business to help our team achieve amazing results.

In this role, we’re looking for that person who does not accept average.

You will help us create the best digital, promotions, products, and campaigns to achieve our client’s marketing goals. MRi takes pride in our ability to constantly push the boundaries of development in the digital promotions space, and you will take an active role in working closely with our client services, business development, creative, and project management team to guide, develop, and deliver exceptional work for our clients and partners.

Our ideal candidate will be proactive, have great organizational skills, not shy away from communication with our teams, think through and help solve different problems, and gain an understanding of our business to help our team achieve amazing results.

Responsibilities May Include

  • Design, install, configure, upgrade, maintain, monitor, and tune performance of Linux-based servers and infrastructure, both internal and client-related promotions.
  • Provide support for problems and issues that come up from our clients, vendors, and internal teams.
  • Examine and audit various server logs and determine if any corrective action is required.
  • Review releases of new operating systems and evaluate the implementation in the enterprise.
  • Install, configure, and maintain server firewall and other security software.
  • Identify and provide technical resolution for potential security breaches, then establish and monitor security and apply appropriate fixes.
  • Implement and maintain technical solutions for disaster recovery and business continuity of enterprise and client systems.
  • Select the ideal server hardware for the company’s needs and administer physical server hardware, including repair and replacement of parts as necessary.
  • Monitor and maintain proper end-user system security by ensuring operating systems and software are up-to-date and applying patches as necessary.
  • Maintenance and support of all end-user service accounts including Office365, Google Workspace, hosted VoIP accounts.

The Essentials

  • 1-2 years of experience in Linux server administration in a small to midsize environment.
  • Bachelor’s degree or minimum 4 years of related work experience.
  • Able to effectively plan, deploy and administer Linux servers in an enterprise environment.
  • Strong familiarity with Linux OS, Windows, macOS, application, and hardware troubleshooting.
  • Familiarity with VMware ESXi and XenServer/XCP-NG, DigitalOcean, Amazon AWS, and Docker.
  • Networking and Storage – Familiarity with pfSense (*BSD pf) firewalls, Ubiquiti network gear, Synology NAS equipment, iSCSI, NFS, SMB, and AFP file protocols.  TCP/IP, UDP, and VLAN. configurations to manage networking and storage.  
  • Ability to compose thorough and clear documentation on routine tasks, standard operating procedures, and other documents beneficial to team members.

You’ll stand out if you have experience with

  • Debian-based Linux or Ubuntu operating systems, roles, services, concepts, security, permissions, middleware, and facilities required. (e.g. SMTP, NFS, SMB, iptables, LVM, LUKS).
  • Amazon AWS S3, EC2, and ElasticBeanstalk required.
  • Samba4 as an Active Directory Domain Controller, Administering Active Directory through. the use of GPOs and OUs.
  • Supporting Windows and macOS systems.
  • Scripting concepts and methods with competence in at least one relevant language (e.g. Bash, Python, Perl, etc.)
  • Internet clients/servers/protocols, including HTTPS, SSH, MTAs (e.g. Postfix).
  • An ability to explain complex technical processes in a more simplified version to team members, clients, and partners.
  • Experience with IT project management practices and techniques.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills.

The Perks

  • Medical insurance options
  • Dental insurance
  • 401(K) plan with company match
  • Flexible remote work policy
  • Paid sick days
  • Generous vacation and paid holidays

Interested in applying?

Send Resumes to resumes@marketingresources.com