4 Great Ideas for Marketing with QR Codes

By Warren Lutz – Contributing Writer


Quick response, or QR, codes have only recently picked up in popularity as a handy marketing tool, with often mixed results. But we are learning a few things about what works and what doesn’t.

Here are four of the best proven and most promising practices for QR codes that have materialized over the past year. If you aren’t incorporating at least one of these into your QR marketing campaign, perhaps you should:

no more boring QR Codes!

QR codes shouldn’t be boring if you want your customers to engage with them!

Use contests and prizes.

Why should consumers scan QR codes? This is the key issue, and if marketers can’t solve it, QR codes will go the way of eight-track tapes.

But one very clear benefit is the chance to win something. Contests, advertised through coupons or display ads that that lead to a smartphone-enabled website and a simple entry form, are great incentives. And they enable businesses to quickly build an audience.

The research so far suggests contests are the top reason why consumers scan QR codes. Wendy’s, for example, recently used QR codes to give away Visa gift cards, fast food gift certificates, and to sign up customers for a $100,000 sweepstakes.

Make them pretty.

Most QR codes aren’t very fun to look at—the first time I saw one, I thought it was a printing error.

It turns out, however, QR code images are very flexible. You can inlay company logos, graphics, product messaging or even create them using underlying photographs within the square code (see illustration). You can also use colors, rounded edges and dots and tiny silhouetted images within the square.

Why do this? There’s evidence to suggest that “pretty” QR codes are scanned far more often—if for no other reason than to see whether they work!

Enable in-store product research.

QR codes are worthless without smartphones, but the good news is that consumers take their smartphones every where—especially shopping.

According to Vibes, a provider of mobile marketing and CRM solutions, 84 percent of consumers performed product research while inside a store on their smartphones. Businesses that use in-store QR codes to link to product reviews—and can suggest more suitable products, as appropriate—which will save time and win shoppers’ trust.

Offer paperless tickets and gift certificates

We tend to think of QR as a business-to-consumer (B2C) tool. Why not flip it into “C2B” messaging?

For example, the latest version of Apple’s iPhone has a digital wallet tool called Passport. When you buy a movie ticket or coupon through your smartphone, you can get your own QR code which can be scanned at the theater or store instead of handing over a paper ticket or money. About 13 percent of movie theaters that work with ticket provider Fandango have installed the QR code readers in their theaters. These are a few initial successes. Of course, there are a ton of flops—for a little bit of fun, check out WTF QR!

QR marketing is still in its infancy. Whether QR codes are here to stay depends largely on how effectively and creatively marketers deploy them.

Have you heard of any QR code success stories? Share with us below!



Step Out of the Black Box

Make Your QR Codes More Beautiful

The best and worst uses of coupon QR codes

QR Code Fatigue

Further Reading:

5 Ways Smartphones are Changing Marketing

5 Best Practices for QR Code Usage

What are QR Codes?

3 thoughts on “4 Great Ideas for Marketing with QR Codes

  1. I don’t scan QR codes because I usually don’t see a benefit to doing so. If more marketers followed one or more of these guidelines, I might be more inclined to try them and see what a business has to say.

  2. Janice Avellar says:

    Totally agree with you, Margie! I scanned QR codes a few times- it was a cool, new thing to do with my smartphone- but once I realized I was just getting kicked back to the company/product website, the novelty was over. Marketers need to do more to motivate me to pull my phone out of my purse.

  3. I don’t scan QR codes unless I know I’ll be getting relevant content and not a sales pitch of some sort, but what I think will be interesting to see over time, beyond just the consumer marketing aspect, is how QR codes are used in areas such as education and healthcare or even real estate.

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