The Rise of Clever QR

by Nathan Rothfield

The inventors of the QR code, a Japanese company called Denso Wave, probably never thought it would take a worldwide pandemic to bring their 1994 creation to the global forefront in 2021. Yet, here we are, using QR codes more than ever in the interest of public safety.
However, it is important to make sure that we keep the intended use of QR codes in mind, especially when we think of our marketing strategies. This is because people are now using their devices more than ever. Our recent familiarisation with QR codes reminds us that they can be an easy tool to quickly transfer information from a business to a consumer.
Let’s dive into the ways in which the humble QR code can become a very effective tool in your marketing approach and engage your audience in new ways.

What is a QR code, and how does it work?

At first glance, a QR code looks like a strange graphic full of black squares and dots. However, this image offers much more as it can be scanned by any smartphone, which translates the image into something more meaningful. The “QR” stands for quick response, which is fitting as you can divulge a significant amount of information with one simple snap.
QR codes can contain web address information, links, and a multitude of media like videos and images. So why not just type the address into the search bar? The point of a QR code is the simplification of that process.
Therefore, the QR code becomes (and works in the same way as) a barcode. Those black squares and dots represent pieces of information. A QR code is an encoded piece of data that can be alphanumeric, numeric, binary or Kanji.
So why is something that can be scanned at the touch of a button by millions of people worldwide great for marketers? We know the answer is in the question there, but let’s dive a little deeper.

Creative ideas for QR code marketing

QR codes appear within direct mail campaigns and on movie posters, business cards and more. Marketers can use them creatively across different platforms and media to communicate and exchange information.
Business cards: Rather than overloading your business card with information, keep things minimal and let a QR code lead people to a website, digital portfolio, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
Scavenger hunts: Scavenger hunts are fun and engaging, and QR codes can be the key for destination marketing, sending people to places they might not otherwise go. Opening a new retail location or restaurant? Send people directly to it!
Labels: A QR code on a product label can enhance the consumer experience by providing access to exclusive digital content or redirecting them to a web page where they can learn (and buy) more. For example, Malibu Rum implemented ‘smart’ labelling using QR codes to direct customers to the ‘Malibu Games’, an interactive mobile game giving people the chance to win Malibu merchandise and unlock drink recipes.
Storefront displays: It is unlikely that your retail business is open 24/7, but a QR code on the door or window can keep the sales rolling in after you’ve left for the day. Turn a potential lost sale into an online sale with the bonus of customer contact information.
Promotions and discounts: Discounts that are specific to a QR code on advertisements may encourage new people to try your business. You can extend this strategy by turning the discount into a “retweet” to have people share it with their followers and expand your reach.
Authenticity: Fashion brands such as Diesel, Ralph Lauren, and Nike incorporate QR codes into products to protect consumers from purchasing counterfeit merchandise. The QR code is easily accessible for quick verification and captures product specific information such as the part number, manufacture date, origin, product name, batch number and more.
Promote Events: Savvy hotels and event operators can integrate QR codes on event flyers and brochures, allowing guests to quickly register for events that save to their calendar. The marketing team also benefits as they can add features like name and email address to retarget customers when similar events occur.

Five simple but highly engaging ways to integrate QR codes into your marketing mix

When it comes to incorporating QR codes into your marketing mix, one of the most important elements is figuring out an innovative way to not only make people notice the QR code but scan it.
The two prominent drivers can be gaining an incentive or the simplification of an often long-winded task. However, the introduction to the QR code must be engaging to ensure people even notice the two drivers above.


The idea of placing a QR code in a TV commercial almost seems like the last place it should go. TV ads aren’t a permanent fixture after all. However, the repetitive nature of the ad is very effective. For example, Burger King tried this during an advertisement at the VMAs; it was shown to users several times throughout the broadcast and included a link to download the company’s app. Not only was the ad itself very clever, but it offered discounts and free items, along with the chance to enter a competition to win a year of free Whoppers and tickets to the next VMA event.

Enhancing an experience with augmented reality

QR codes make it easy to add a digital element to an otherwise plain space. The simple addition of a QR code can open a visitor up to a whole world of information and experiences that work alongside the location. Take, for example, a museum; whilst interesting, they can be a little stale.
The Sukiennice Museum in Poland decided to add an extra dimension to their paintings by attaching very riveting stories to each one known as the “Secrets Behind the Paintings.” Visitors to the museum can scan the QR code for a behind the scenes tale from an actor portraying the artist responsible for the work.

Combined with promotional products

There is no better way to capture someone’s attention than by giving them free stuff! By placing QR codes on various marketing materials that you are using as a gift or giveaway, you encourage people to take that QR code home. For example, if you have a promotional event, place QR codes on all the promotional goodies, and they’ll be given directly to your consumers.
If the item is something like a water bottle or that will be used regularly, how long do you think the consumer will stare at that code until curiosity gets the better of them?

Email marketing

People are reading emails on their phones a lot, and mobile email readership is booming. You can set up a QR code that automatically generates an email message that will appear in the user’s inbox, seconds after that, have scanned it. This puts all of the information you want on the device they have in their hand within seconds.
The bonus benefit of this tactic is that it creates an easy way for mobile users to share the content with their other email contacts, something they may do if you include the option to potentially earn rewards for referrals.

Personalised messaging for the holidays

It’s no secret that holidays are often huge opportunities for those in the retail space. QR codes can add another layer of enjoyment to the holidays while also attracting customers with clever but useful gimmicks.
JC Penney did this with “Santa Tags”, which allowed shoppers to record a personalised message that the recipient could access when they scanned the QR code on the tag. For those involved, it made the holidays a little more fun; for JC Penny, it gave them a leg up on the competition.

How to track ROI in print campaigns

As with any marketing campaign, you have certain goals. This is no different for your QR code use, and you’ll want a way to analyse whether you’ve met them or not. Tracking conversions for a print campaign is possible when you use QR codes. They allow you to track how many people have scanned your code, when, and the device they used.
A dynamic QR code is both editable and trackable, allowing you to monitor its scanning activity. QR Code tracking works in two ways:
Scan tracking
Number of scans, device, browser, scans by time, and GPS location.
Understand where your audience location, the best time to reach them and which mobile and browser they use.
Event tracking
Gain valuable insights such a how people interact with the content in the QR Code, such as the number of clicks and engagement rate on any actionable elements.

So, how can you generate a QR code?

You can get a free QR code at a base level using a QR code generator tool, or you can choose to pay to gain further scan analytics, or speak to us to assist you.
There is a range of designs to customise, colours, size, and style to help your custom QR code match other branding elements of your business.

To ideate, design and measure success from your custom QR codes, let’s get in touch…

While it’s clear that custom QR codes can be an effective addition to your marketing strategies, understanding how to design and deliver an effective plan is vital.
The team of experts at Rothfield can help you create and execute a marketing strategy that works to achieve your goals. Rothfield brings over 30 years of experience to the table. We’ve worked alongside some of Australia’s most respected brands in many different sectors. As a result, we know how to provide creative marketing solutions that help your business grow.

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