Have you found yourself looking at product packaging and wondering when barcodes got so square and dotty? If so, you likely stumbled upon a QR code — something that’s becoming increasingly popular in marketing and advertising. 

QR code stands for quick response code, and it’s a particular type of scannable barcode that contains information in a pixel array, which is a fancy way of describing all those dots.

When someone holds up their smartphone camera to the QR code, an option pops up to visit the link destination embedded in the pixel array. When used correctly, QR codes can create seamless customer experiences to build and strengthen relationships


Haven’t QR Codes Been Around a While?

Yes. QR codes have been around for about 30 years. So, if you’ve been in the marketing biz long enough, you might be wondering, what’s with the sudden resurgence of these types of codes? Are we feeling nostalgic for old technology?

To be fair, using QR codes for marketing wasn’t the point when they were developed in 1994. Instead, they were created by a subsidiary of Toyota to help with supply chain management. At that time, there was no thought of using QR codes for marketing since consumers had no way of scanning them. 

Then smartphones with cameras made scanning a possibility. In the 2010s, we started to see third-party apps allowing people to read QR codes. It was around this time that marketers began to experiment with using these codes in advertising and marketing. But, in general, these efforts fell flat. So why was that? 

The short answer is that using QR codes wasn’t super easy. People needed to download the app and launch it every time they wanted to use it. So, instead of simplifying the process of interacting with a brand or company, using a QR code just complicated the process further. Basically, the QR code scanning technology wasn’t there yet. 

Fast forward a decade, and the situation has changed dramatically. The pixels have aligned, and QR codes are ready to step into frame.


2022 is the Year of QR Code Marketing

If you’re not using QR codes in marketing, now is a great time to start. And here’s why:

QR Codes Have Never Been Easier for Consumers to Use

QR recognition is now a standard feature on smartphones. If you’re in your camera app and hold your phone up to a QR code, it automatically knows what you want to do. There’s no reason to open or use a third-party app. With this streamlined process comes an untapped opportunity for marketers.

QR Code Readers are Virtually Everywhere

According to the Pew Research Center, 85% of U.S. adults own a smartphone. Given that QR code recognition has been native in smartphones since 2017, it’s safe to say that most of your customer base will be able to access QR code campaigns and calls to action. Plus, smartphone users scan QR codes everywhere, including at home, work, retail stores, grocery stores, restaurants, and public transportation.

QR Codes are Popular Across Demographics

Every adult demographic is using QR codes, including people over age 55. However, users between the ages of 34 and 54 are the most likely to use QR codes, which is good news since these groups tend to be top spenders. In addition, gender doesn’t seem to be a factor. While QR code usage initially skewed males, it has shifted over time. Now men and women use QR codes about equally.

The Continued Impact of COVID-19

QR Codes got a boost during the pandemic because they enable touchless interactions. For example, a consumer may scan a QR code to access a digital menu or pay for items during a shopping trip. In fact, one study showed that 60% more people were using QR codes during the pandemic than had previously.

QR Codes are Recognizable But Still Trendy

At this point, most consumers are aware of QR codes and how to use them. However, QR codes in marketing are still relatively new, which means the market isn’t oversaturated.


It Doesn’t Cost Anything to Use a QR Code Generator

Perhaps one of the biggest arguments for incorporating QR codes into your marketing strategy is that you can start with no out-of-pocket costs. Numerous online tools allow you to generate QR codes for free. In our opinion, some of the best free QR code generators are Canva’s QR Code Generator, QRCode Monkey, Beaconstac, and QR Code Generator.  

These QR code generator apps make it easy to create a QR code. You can even customize the design of your QR codes, using different colors, adding logos, and arranging the pixels into different shapes.


Creating Your QR Code Marketing Strategy

Of course, you can’t just slap a pixel array on something and call it a success. Before rolling out your QR code marketing plan, you’ll need to determine how to use QR codes to provide the most significant value to your customers and business.

1. Set Your QR Code Campaign Goals

Spend some time determining what you’re trying to accomplish by including QR codes in your marketing and advertising pieces. Here are some possible campaign goals:

  • Streamlining the customer experience
  • Simplifying payment processes
  • Securing leads or converting prospects to customers
  • Building a subscriber list for a blog or newsletter list
  • Engaging on social media or other channels
  • Increasing brand loyalty and encouraging reorders
  • Creating brand awareness 

2. Define Channels For QR Code Signage

Beyond thinking about your big-picture goals, consider the impact of including a QR code on specific tactics. How do customers use different pieces and channels at various points of the customer journey? Does it make sense to have QR codes on your product packaging, brochures, or digital signage?

3. Determine What You’ll Offer

While QR codes are a way to provide quick access to additional content and functionality, think about what type of interaction with your brand will guide customers further down the buyer’s journey towards conversion or increased loyalty. For each tactic in your marketing strategy, determine what a customer needs at that point.  

Equally important is determining what will convince a customer to scan a QR code. You’ll need a clear and compelling call to action, so the customer knows that the effort is worth their time.

4. Consider How You’ll Measure Success

You’ll also want to determine how you will measure success and how much detail you need. While generating and using QR codes is free, you’ll have to pay if you want detailed information about QR code campaign performance. But while these insights can be helpful, they may be more than you need right now. 

You may be happy enough to see that your web traffic has significantly increased since you started using QR codes. Plus, if you want to track performance without paying, there are ways of doing that too. For example, you could exclusively use a QR code on a brochure that links to a dedicated landing page.   

However, if you’re going to make QR codes a core part of your marketing strategy, a QR code management solution can make the process so much easier.


Which QR Codes Work the Best?

According to the latest QR code statistics, the following are the most popular reasons why consumers scan QR codes: 

  • Touchless payments. If you’re looking for an easy and touch-free way to collect payments, a couple of great options are PayPal QR codes and Square QR codes.
  • Receive a coupon or special offer. The promise of a discount is often enough to encourage someone to scan a QR code on a print ad or in-store signage. 
  • To access additional product details. Possible destination links include an ebook or white paper, a YouTube video link, training information, or a website. 

Other QR Code Types With Good Performance

  • A link to download your app. QR code readers can detect the phone platform and route it to your app in the correct store. Streamlining the process of finding your app should increase the number of downloads.
  • Contest sign-up or free gift. Using QR codes to send people to landing pages can make it easy for people to exchange their information for a chance to win or receive a free gift. QR codes are popular for online sweepstakes and promotional giveaways.
  • Brand interaction. You might use a QR code to send someone to a social media page, invite them to review a product, or provide directions to your location via Google Mobile Maps.
  • Event ticketing or registration. You can send someone directly to an event details page and streamline the process of finding and getting tickets for an event.
  • Recognition and gifts. You can use QR codes to deliver things like digital greeting cards or music playlists.
  • Subscription sign-up. QR codes can help you build your subscriber list for a newsletter or blog.


Putting QR Codes to Use: QR Code Campaign Examples

There are many different ways you can use QR codes in marketing, advertising, and promotional materials.

Top Applications for QR Codes in Marketing

These are some top applications for QR codes within a marketing strategy:

  • QR codes on menus. Including a QR code on a menu can encourage quicker payments, faster orders — all without touching anything.
  • QR codes on business cards. Adding a QR code to the back of your business card is an easy way to promote your online brand without breaking the bank.
  • QR codes on marketing materials. Direct mail, flyers, brochures, and catalogs are great opportunities to use QR codes — just make sure your offer is appropriate to the stage of the journey. For example, if you’re sending out a direct mail campaign to prospects, getting additional product information is probably higher on their list than your return policy.
  • QR codes on store and event signage. You might include event marketing QR codes on large format graphics and displays to make it easy for people to find more information, request a follow-up appointment, or join your preferred member list.
  • QR codes on packaging. Including a QR code on product packaging can be a great way to deepen your relationship with a customer. Now that you’ve gotten your product in their hands, think about what you want them to do next. Get more information about why to buy? Sign up for a rewards program or a subscription program? Leave a review?
  • QR codes on purchase receipts. There are lots of options here. For example, you could link to your return policy or sign-up for new offers.
  • QR codes on invoices. If you’d like to encourage electronic payments, you might include a QR code in an online payment portal.

Top Applications for QR Codes in Advertising:

Some great QR code advertising examples include the following:

  • QR codes on television ads. Using QR codes on TV ads can dramatically boost direct response rates. While watching television, many people are also using their mobile phones. Having a QR code makes it easy for customers to act immediately — before the commercial break ends. Just make sure the code is visible, scannable, and stays on screen for long enough.
  • QR codes on out-of-home media. People using public transportation are a captive audience. Plus, they are likely using their phones. So, if out-of-home media aligns with your brand strategy, consider paid placements at airports, subways, train stations, bus stops, city taxis, and buses.
  • QR codes on print ads. By using a QR code on print advertising, you may be able to trim down the ad content while encouraging meaningful brand interaction.

QR Code Promotional Products

People tend to hang onto promotional materials — especially handy ones like hand sanitizer, post-it notes, and notepads. By adding a QR code to a promotional item, you can ensure that your customer or prospect has quick access to valuable intel for years to come. However, not everything will work as a QR code promotional product. 

When choosing products, look for something with a flat surface that will hold up with repeated use. Size also matters since you’ll need a space that’s about one-inch square for reliable scanning. So, pens aren’t going to be an option. 

Another thing to think about is aesthetics. QR codes aren’t the epitome of beauty. So while someone might be cool sipping coffee out of a mug with your snazzy logo on it, they probably won’t want to be looking at an unsightly pixel array. Now, if the QR code was on the bottom of the mug, that may be another story. 

In other words, you want items where the QR code won’t be the focus. Printing on the back or the bottom is one option. And, if the giveaway is big enough, such as a promotional calendar, the QR code might be able to be on the front without being overwhelming. 

Lastly, some objects are so functional that appearance may not matter as much. For example, if you put a QR code on a first aid kit, custom pulpboard coasters, or a bottle of hand sanitizer, your customer is unlikely to care.


We Can Help Make 2022 Your QR Code Year

There is a lot of potential for QR codes, and we’re ready to help you capitalize on this growing trend — whether you’re just getting started or looking to optimize your current QR code campaigns.

We can create QR codes for your marketing and advertising campaigns, recommend promotional products, and provide digital or offset printing. We can also help support your campaign efforts by developing mobile apps, landing pages, and other exciting destinations for QR code links.

Are you ready to get started?