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QR Code Marketing Ideas 2021: How to get started

You are a brand that is investing in traditional print media promotions. It could be newspapers, magazine advertisements, outdoor advertising, and promotions, or other creative print-based campaigns.

No matter what digital marketing pundits say, these traditional marketing practices still bring a lot of sales.

But there’s just one problem with print media—it’s not actionable alone. That means to take action (such as visiting a website or downloading an app), people have to pull out their smartphone, type the website link or the app name. And finally, visit the website or download the app.

Since it is a long process, many people simply don’t put the effort. But does that mean print media is not suitable for promotions? Well, no!

Print media is more personal and has a longer attention span than that of digital media.

So all that you need to do is—make it easier for your audience to take action. How? Using QR Codes.

QR Codes are 2D barcodes that store alphanumeric information. You would’ve seen a QR Code being used for payments and inventory tracking. Similarly, marketing is yet another use case of a QR Code.

You might think—how will a QR Code help me in my marketing campaigns? And the answer is—by making your print media promotions actionable.

All that end-users need is—a smartphone to scan the QR Code.

With QR Codes, you can engage your customers with dynamic online content. This will not only help you stand out from all the marketing noise but also help in increasing brand recall.

Let’s get started on how to integrate QR Code advertising into your existing print media campaigns.

A. Most popular QR Code Marketing use cases

The thing with QR Codes is that you can engage your customers in a little over a million ways. But here are some popular ways to get started:

1. Drive traffic to your website

This is the most popular use case of QR Codes – driving traffic from offline print media to the brand’s website. Or any other relevant content for that matter.

Interested customers have the option of visiting your website if they are intrigued by your marketing message. The QR Code will link to your website address. When scanned, the website will open on the scanning device.

Earlier in 2016, Ready Player One’s movie trailer had a QR Code. This QR Code redirected people to the official website of the film.

In 2017, a Finland based global food packaging specialist—Huhtamaki—came up with QR Codes on single-use paper cups. The QR Code, when scanned, redirects customers to promotional content or website.

qr code marketing

Expert tip: Make sure your potential customers have a reason to visit your website. In your marketing message, it should be clear what incentive they have for visiting your website.

See how you can successfully use QR Codes for marketing in India.

2. Increase your social media following

This is another commonly used QR Code marketing technique – acquiring social media following from offline print media.

In your advertising, add a QR Code that leads your potential customers to your social media pages. That way they have an option to immediately Like your Facebook fan page or Follow you on Twitter.

(Tip for Scanova Users: QR Code Management tool Scanova allows you to create a Social Media landing page with your QR Code that has links to all popular social media platforms.

This way you don’t need to limit yourself to one social media profile and customers can follow you on their favorite social media platform.)

qr code marketing

For small businesses, this works well if you communicate with your local audience primarily via social media and you don’t have large marketing budgets.

People love such businesses and will follow you immediately when they visit your stall at the local market or your little store around the corner.

For large businesses and enterprise brands, you will need to provide incentives to get them to follow you. For example

‘Get a daily deal on our Facebook page. Scan to Follow us now’

In 2017, the authorities in Ethiopia and Great Ethiopian Run organized ‘Because She Can’—an all women-run. The run used QR Codes to gain followers on Facebook.

3. Engage customers via product packaging

This one is pretty obvious and extensively used in the consumer electronics, healthcare, and food service industries.

In the limited space you have on the product packaging, you can add a QR Code that will allow you to engage your potential customers with relevant product-related information such as:

  • Product information (raw materials, ingredients, sourcing, sustainability, etc.)
  • How to use the product (recipes, features, etc.
  • How to install the product (video instructions)
  • Safety instructions (Allergies, health hazards, child safety, etc.)
  • Legal documents (terms and conditions, side effects, etc.)

Also, businesses can add QR Codes as a point of attraction to a product. For example—on Valentine’s Day 2015, Tussock Jumper Wines placed a QR Code on the neck of its wine bottles. The buyer (gift giver) could then scan this QR Code to personalize it by adding image, video, text, etc.

In addition, Kitkat added a QR Code on the packaging of chocolates to engage customers. This QR Code, when scanned, redirected buyers to watch a video on YouTube as they took a break.

(Tip for Scanova Users: If you don’t have dedicated webpages for your products, you can easily create mobile-optimized landing pages using Scanova)

See how brands and businesses use QR Codes to enrich Black Friday Shopping.

4. Offline referral marketing

Offline referral marketing directs people from offline to online content.

For example—Kate buys a watch which has a concealed QR Code. She scans it registers with the brand. When she wears the watch to her office, one of her colleagues likes it and wants to buy the same watch.

So Kate shows her the QR Code and asks her to scan it. As her colleague scans it, she gets a 20% discount and places an order.

Hence, Kate gets her incentive for helping the brand sell its product.

Offline referral marketing helps businesses convert word-of-mouth marketing to sales. One can think of it as ‘invite only’ marketing, but offline.

5. Distribute m-coupons from print advertisements

Let’s say your target customer visits a mall with friends. While some of them are busy window shopping, she finds a QR code on one of your promotion creatives. It’s a surprise Christmas gift from your brand. She scans it—well because she is curious and who doesn’t like surprises. In an instant, she is the owner of a 30% discount m-coupon.

The Vantiv ShopTalk Survey, conducted by Socratic Technologies, surveyed 500 consumers in Nov 2016. The survey aimed to understand their experience and preferences on redeeming offers. As per the survey, 24% Millennials and 18% Gen Xers preferred scanning a QR Code to redeem an offer.

One can easily create an m-coupon landing page with Scanova QR Code Generator.

qr code marketing

In 2018 Amazon started using its own custom QR Codes—Amazon SmileCodes—to give offers to its customers. These SmileCodes can only be scanned using the Amazon app. One can find them on delivery packaging of products ordered from Amazon.

6. Create a giant QR Code

Why stick to the conventional route of printing QR Codes on packaging or print media? Marketers can grab customer attention by creating a giant, scannable QR Code.

You could use flowers, colors, paper, plants, etc., to create a unique QR Code.

One such example is soon to be set in the island nation of Tuvalu. Vincent Huang, a Taiwanese artist, is set to create a QR Code mangrove on the island. This is raise awareness on how climate change is affecting the island. On scanning, the QR Code will  lead to a page listing the ill effects of climate change.

QR Code mangrove
Image from Vincent Huang

Scanova’s team created the first ever QR Rangoli, to wish its customers on Diwali. Scanning the QR Code lead to a page with festive wishes and a discount coupon.

QR Code Rangoli

Like I said, these are just a few ways on engaging your customers. Depending on what content you want to show your audience, there are 23 types of QR Codes you can create.

7. Get Google Reviews for your business

If you have a business, you know how important it is to have reviews for your company/business on Google. Your potential customers use these reviews to decide whether they’ll buy your services or not.

But getting your customers to review your services is not that easy. They’ve to follow a series of steps to submit their review. Hence, most of them simply don’t do it.

If you make it easy for them to submit their reviews, you might end up improving your rankings and see an increase in sales.

A Google Review QR Code is what you need here. When scanned, it redirects customers directly to the review page for your business.

8. Increase your downloads for your mobile app

Do you have a mobile app for your business? Then you’d want your target audience to install it on their phones. And to enable that, you’ll have to run promotions.

You can run digital campaigns to get the job done. But though digital content is readily actionable, it has a very short-lived attention span. On the other hand, while print media has a longer attention span, it’s not actionable or trackable.

Here, a QR Code can shelp you ramp up your promotional effort. Simply add an App Store QR Code on your promotional material. When end-users scan it, they’ll be redirected to your app on the relevant app store depending on their phone’s operating system. 

9. Generate leads

Looking forward to generating leads from your promotional effort? QR Codes are up for the game.

They offer the lead generation feature. When your end-users scan the QR Code, they get prompted to fill the lead generation form. Once they do it, they can see the actual content encoded in the QR Code.

10. Help people know your business’ exact location

It’s common for businesses to get people to visit their brick-and-mortar stores. While you will add your store/office address to the promotional material, you can go a step ahead to help people actually reach you seamlessly. How?

With a Google Maps QR Code. When end-users scan it, it redirects them to the encoded location on the maps application on their smartphone. No need for them to manually type your address in the app to locate your business.

11. Easily share your contact details

As a marketer, you know how important it is to build a network of valuable contacts. So whenever you meet potential prospects, you give them your business card in the hope that they’ll save you as a contact and contact you.

But there’s a problem. Recipients need to put effort into opening the contacts app on their smartphone to type all your contact details and finally, save you as a contact. Hence, many business cards end up in the trash.
But a VCard QR Code on your business card can help you surpass this problem. When recipients scan it, it will show all your contact details with a button to save your contact. They can simply click the button to do the needful. A much simpler process, right? And the simpler the process, the better are the results.

12. Share audio files

If you have a podcast, audio guide, or a recently launched song, you’d like to share it with your audience.

In 1989, David Huron, a professor at School of Music at Ohio State University wrote a paper—“Music in Advertising: An Analytic Paradigm”. In this paper, he wrote that music can serve the overall promotional goals in one or more of several capacities. And his words hold true to this day.

Audio QR Codes can help you share the audio files seamlessly. Your audience just needs to scan the QR Code to enjoy the music. And again, it helps increase your overall conversion rate.

B. Tracking your QR Code Marketing campaigns

I am a big fan of this saying:

Tracking the success of a campaign is necessary for further optimization. Especially for a marketer.

The good news is that QR Code marketing campaigns can be tracked easily. All you need to ensure is that the QR Code Management tool you are using allows you to create Dynamic QR Codes and has QR Code tracking feature.

(Tip for Scanova users: Scanova QR Code Management not only provides QR Code tracking but also allows integration with Webhooks and Google Analytics so that all your digital campaigns tracking data is visible in one place. It also offers a feature called event tracking. This lets you see how your target audience is interacting with the encoded content after scanning the QR Code.)

C. Some popular QR Code marketing campaigns

Marketing campaigns that used QR Codes are were a huge success:

1. Burger King

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Burger King came up with various promotions to attract and engage customers. One of those were QR Codes in TV advertisements. These ads featured a floating QR Code. If a viewer could scan the QR Code, she’d get a free Whopper on the next purchase on the Burger King app.

Burger King QR Code

2. Netflix

Netflix used QR Codes to spread the word about their series Gilmore Girls reboot. And to do it, they printed Snapcodes on 10,000 coffee mugs that led to millions of views on Gilmore Girls-inspired photo filters.

3. Instagram

Instagram has introduced QR Codes which can be fully customized by the user. And these can only be scanned by Instagram’s in-built scanner. When scanned, the QR Code leads end-users to see your Instagram profile. Hence, many marketers and businesses are using them to increase their followership on the app. 

4. Amazon

Amazon has been using QR Codes for a while. It could be for various use cases. For example, driving web traffic, offering personalized gifts, providing product information, and increasing brand awareness. 

Recently, Amazon introduced Amazon SmileCodes on the product packaging. When scanned, they help customers avail coupons and discounts on their future purchases. They even provide product information and help people retrieve the security code for their Amazon locker.

Amazon SmileCodes

5. Walmart

In 2013, Walmart and Procter & Gamble placed QR Codes at all the bus shelters in Toronto. This was to encourage people to use their time more productively while waiting for the bus. People just needed to scan the QR Code which redirected them to the Walmart online shopping portal. Here, they could order groceries and other utilities while waiting for the bus.

That’s it. That is all you need to know about how QR Codes are used for marketing. In fact, a lot of marketers are already using QR Codes in their campaigns. So, get started today and add the dimension of QR Code Marketing to your existing print media and outdoor campaigns.


Get started with QR Code Marketing

Create a visually-appealing and dynamic QR Code for your print media advertising campaigns.
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