7 ideas for using QR codes

Posted by Faye on March 14, 2011 in Marketing & Social Media |

The QR code fascinates me. I don’t know what it is about that funny-looking black/white graphic that has recently captured my interest — maybe  it’s the mystery of wondering what’s behind the image, or seeing how creative businesses have gotten with them. Whatever it is, they’ve got my attention.

What is a QR code?

The QR code – short for “Quick Response” code – is a two-dimensional code, like the image above, that can be “decoded” or read by a bar code reader, most commonly from a smartphone. If you have a smartphone, you download the specific app which will enable you to read the code. Some codes take you to a website; others take you to an image; but it seems like their overall purpose is to take you to a place where you can find more information.

Smartphone usage continues to grow. According to comScore, smartphone usage was up 18% in a 3-month period (Nov ’09-Jan ’10) from the previous 3-month period. That was from a 2010 report. I would suspect those percentages are higher today. The fact that more smartphone users are entering the market will give marketers more opportunities to target them on their devices. And the QR code is the perfect tool to do just that.

Brands already using QR codes

I’ve already seen some examples of how some companies are using the QR codes. Let’s look at a few.

Miss Me jeans

This cardboard tag was attached to a pair of jeans I recently purchased. The QR code takes you to a video showing a woman walking around in her Miss Me jeans in a sexy manner.  The message: Buying these jeans will enhance your sex appeal. Although most men might have enjoyed the video more than I did, I thought it was a great use of video to market the jeans.

Quilted Northern

This QR code appeared in their magazine ad, which took me to a 20-second commercial for Quilted Northern toilet paper on their YouTube channel.

I would rate the use of the QR code here, “just ok.” It really didn’t give me any more information than what I would have seen in their ad or TV spot. I would suggest a special coupon; or, if they’re going to use video, a demonstration of the product showcasing its absorption qualities compared to other leading tissue. After all, isn’t that why consumers would buy a better quality toilet paper?


I thought this was a rather creative use of a QR code.  Pledge’s ad and coupon in a Sunday newspaper insert was for a fabric sweeper for pet hair. Since this might be a new product, or one that the consumer might not be familiar with, the QR code takes you to a video that shows a demonstration of the product. Brilliant.


Ok, I was intrigued. The ad told me to scan the QR code to watch a dog video. If there’s anything going on that involves a dog, I’m there.

The 2-minute video, “The Bark Heard Round the World” was hilarious! Thumbs up for the entertainment value it delivered. At the end of the video, they invite you to meet Al, the leader of the dog revolution at Facebook.com/Alpo.

So of course I had to check out Alpo’s Facebook page. With more than 3,000 fans, they must be doing something right. Alpo got a lot of mileage out of this QR code. I’m hoping they sold a lot of dog food. Great use of a QR code for brand awareness.

7 ideas for using QR codes in your marketing

The QR code opens up lots of possibilities to direct an audience to more information about your product or service. Here are a few ideas.

1. Retail

Putting a QR code in a print ad could take customers to a coupon or special offer. Smartphone users would be able to show their phones to redeem the discount. Retailers could also use video to show a product demonstration on other uses for its product.

2. Museums/tours

Organizations that offer self-guided tours could post a QR code on each stop on the tour. The code would take you to a longer explanation or description of the object your are looking at. For example, wineries could have QR codes posted at their entrances, with the codes taking you to a description of the winery and specific wines they offer, special deals, etc.

3. Music industry

Musicians – are you listening? If you’re not using QR codes in your print collateral or advertising, you’re missing out on an opportunity to showcase your music to prospective audiences. Create a YouTube channel with your songs and link a different QR code to each one.  Local jazz musician Dwight Lenox already uses QR codes to market his band. Check it out.  ———————–>

4. Business coaches/trainers

If you’re a business coach, what better way to direct people to you? Create a YouTube video of yourself talking to your audience. Create a QR code and stick it on your business card. Offer a 30-second tip on some advice you would give your clients. Providing a helpful nugget of information establishes credibility with your audience, and might bring you a new client!

5. Restaurants

Restaurants have lots of possibilities with the QR code. Other than a coupon — the obvious choice — a restaurant could first create a one-minute YouTube video with the chef in the midst of preparing a specialty dish. Promoting that video through a QR code in print advertising might entice prospective diners to visit your restaurant. Or connect the QR code to a link to your menu online. Coffee shops – direct your customers to online videos of your baristas creating latte art.

6. Real Estate

Realtors — Give your prospective customers a virtual tour of your listing before they even set foot on the property. Get out your video camera, shoot the inside of the home while narrating its features, and upload it to your YouTube channel.  Link the QR code to the video, and put the QR code along side the listing in whatever print media you use, including the for-sale sign.

Other ideas

Oh yeah…idea #7 is hidden in this post. You’ll need a QR code reader to check it out.

I anticipate that we will see more creative uses of the QR code in the future.

What do you think? What other ideas would you add to the list?

Other resources

The QR Stuff website – Where you can get your QR code

Kaywa QR code generator

How QR codes can grow your business – Blog post from Social Media Examiner

How to use QR codes for event marketing – Blog post from Mashable

Why QR codes will go mainstream – Another Mashable post

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  • YouScan.me says:


    we believe that QR codes will make the connection between offline and online worlds easier. That’s why we created our QR code generator with social features – YouScan.me – http://www.youscan.me. You can add all your info like Facebook profile or fan page, twitter, youtube, etc. and connect with others.


  • Avivo says:

    QR Codes are in top 5 trends for 2011 and we like them very much.
    If it is not to pushy we would like to express our opinions about some interesting areas where QR Code can be really useful for businesses.

    Some ideas:
    1. QR Code Tracking – you can track all your QR Codes (i.e. that are printed somewhere in the city centre on large billboard posters) and see which generates most traffic for you
    2. Reusing existing QR Codes – if you already printed some QR Code that points to some live URL location you can keep existing printed QR Code and just change where it is pointing to (so you do not need to print it again)
    3. Inserting custom image (logo, message, …) inside generated QR Code (branded QR Code)

    Recently we finished free QR Code generator (http://qrcode.good-survey.com) that allows creating all sort of QR Codes. Tracking and reusing we talked above are already supported – soon will be custom logo/image integration. Hope you will like it.

  • […] 7 Good ideas near the middle of this page (and good links too) […]

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