Believe it or not, QR codes have been around since the 1990s. But how many of us discovered them for the first time circa 2021 while dining out during the pandemic? Sitting with our friends and families, spaced six feet apart from other diners, we pointed our smartphones at little plastic table tents and embraced the new norm. 

Hey, at least we were out of the house. 

But nowadays, QR codes are everywhere—far beyond the restaurant menu. And for good reason: They’re one heckuva marketing tool. In an economy where having an online presence is vital, QR codes allow us to leave a digital footprint almost anywhere. Now, almost anything in the physical world can be an opportunity for online engagement. 

Here are just a few places businesses are using QR codes to drive traffic to their digital content:

  • Direct mail
  • Email 
  • Coupons
  • Swag
  • Signage
  • Merchandise
  • Conference videos 
  • Social media videos 
  • Clothing 
  • Food and beverage containers 
  • Event kiosks or tickets 

Here is a fun list with even more clever ideas from the real world. 

Spotlight example:

Hy-Vee and Scan Out Hunger

In 2021, supermarket chain Hy-Vee announced its Scan Out Hunger initiative to address food insecurity. Using a specialized QR code, shoppers accessed the Scan Out Hunger website and made a monetary donation using their smartphones while viewing all Hy-Vee deals and coupons. The campaign was a resounding success, with the chain easily surpassing its original goal of 5 million meals donated to families in need. 

What are QR codes?

An abbreviation for Quick Response code, QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes developed in 1994 by a Japanese auto parts manufacturer. They store information read by a smartphone camera. When scanned, they instantly direct users to a specific digital location, such as a website, video or social media page. QR codes are a powerful marketing tool that bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds, enabling businesses to engage with customers in innovative and interactive ways.

Spotlight example:

Coinbase Superbowl Ad

Over 80 million households in the U.S. will scan a QR code this year. To illustrate, consider this commercial from Coinbase which aired during the 2022 Super Bowl. Viewers may have been surprised to see nothing but a colorful, bouncing QR code on their television screen—but that didn’t stop them from scanning. Within one minute, over 20 million viewers had scanned, so many that it effectively crashed the app users were being directed to. 

Harnessing the power of QR codes

Businesses and nonprofits can benefit from implementing QR codes into their marketing strategy. Here’s why:

  1. They’re affordable. QR codes can be incorporated into almost any printing budget. You can work with your direct mail or print provider to add them to mailings, packaging, swag, signage and other places. Meanwhile, digital QR codes can be generated at minimal cost by dozens of QR code generator programs.
  2. They’re measurable. With the right setup on the backend, QR codes allow you to track the performance of your campaigns. This includes the number of times the code has been scanned, visitor behavior data (such as click rates) and more.
  3. They complement existing campaigns. QR codes are not meant to replace your existing marketing campaigns but to enhance them. They can be seamlessly integrated into any form of advertising. This allows you to provide a direct link from your advertising to your online content, creating a multi-channel experience for your audience. For example, a QR code on a print ad could lead to a video demonstration of your product. This ability to connect various forms of media makes QR codes a versatile addition to any campaign.

QR code best practices 

While they are known as an easy-to-use marketing strategy, there are a few best practices to remember as you incorporate QR codes into your campaigns. These tips ensure you get the best return on your investment. 

  1. Tell users what the QR code does. A QR code shouldn’t stand alone. Let users know where the code will take them once scanned. For example, “Scan here for 20 percent savings” or “Use the QR code to donate.”
  2. State the URL. Similar to the above, it’s a good idea to print the URL the code leads to somewhere in its vicinity. This way, users unfamiliar with QR codes or those who might be unable to scan can still visit the URL.
  3. Make sure your landing page content is mobile-optimized. QR codes are most commonly scanned using smartphones, so the landing page they’re directed to must be mobile-friendly. This means ensuring that the page loads quickly, the layout is easy to navigate on a small screen and any forms or buttons are easily clickable. Additionally, the content should be concise and engaging to hold the user’s attention. Remember, a positive user experience can significantly increase the chances of conversion, so it’s worth investing time and resources to get it right.

Need a hand with QR codes?

Firespring is here to help. We have the expertise to ensure your QR codes are integrated effectively into your marketing strategy and your landing pages are fully optimized for mobile users. 

Contact us today