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5 Genius Examples of QR Codes in Marketing

QR (Quick Response) codes are starting to pick up steam among the growing smartphone-browsing crowd – a statistic that has marketers brimming with creative ideas and promotions.  Still, no one wants to open their device to a glut of text messages and alerts from codes they’ve scanned.

Fortunately, these companies have found innovative and unique ways to not only get you to scan their code, but boost their brand awareness in the process.  Here are a few of the most memorable ones – and a few examples to get your mind stirring.

Who’s Using QR Codes?

Nearly half of all smartphone users have used their phones while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores – 40% of them to compare the competition’s prices.  Statistics for who’s scanning QR codes and with what device appear to be mixed, although most data places iPhone users at the top, with the user age range being 25-34.  Japan and the U.S. are currently leaps and bounds ahead of other countries in QR code scans (around 60% approximately) – with Canada and the U.K. trailing dozens of percentage points behind.

Still, QR code creation jumped a whopping 1,253% in 2011, with two million of them created in less than three months. By far, most were used to lead users to a web address, but they can also store vCard details, Google Maps info and even Youtube video links.

1. Creative Ads for Apps

Even though QR codes in marketing are just starting to gain traction, there are still companies and individuals making their message loud and clear to early adopters.  Here are two eye-catching ads, for Instragram and Angry Birds, both created by U.K. Ad Agency “Made by Stupid”. Both QR codes take you directly to download the app, and are a great showcase for both ad creativity and self-explanatory promotion of the apps themselves:

instagram angrybirds qr codes

Instagram and Angry Birds QR codes highlight their respective apps while taking users directly to the download page

2. Greeting Cards and Mixtapes

Here’s a creative and interesting thought – what if you combined greeting cards with playlists? It’s the new generation of mixtape and the QR images, as they’re called, were developed by the same U.K. agency that did the aforementioned unofficial ads for Instagram and Angry Birds. If the user has the premium Spotify app on their phone, they can scan the barcode and instantly start the playlist. Music in the playlists spans nearly every interest and occasion including music for geeks, music for cooks, and everyone’s mixtape favorite – love songs.

3. Breathe New Life into Boring Places

When was the last time you went to a museum? If you responded “on a grade school field trip” or “only old folks go to museums”, you’re in for a treat. Sukiennice Museum in Poland has added a whole new dimension to their paintings to turn each one into a series of stories about insanity, intrigue, deception, war and much more. Sukiennice Museum brought reenactors to tell the “Secrets Behind the Paintings”. Visitors scan the QR code for a particular painting, and get the inside scoop direct from the “painter” themselves.

4. Get Festive with Personalized Gift Messages and Wrapping Paper

Although the holidays are behind us, you can’t help but admire the clever ways in which marketers have attracted holiday shoppers using QR codes.  This past year, JC Penney released “Santa Tags” which would let the gift giver record a personalized message that would be played when the recipient scanned the QR code:

5. QR Codes Share Your Life in a Single Graphic

Funeral QR Codes

While we’ve yet to see any QR codes on tombstones, they can be used to check in at the funeral (much like Foursquare) and notify the family who was in attendance.  Currently, most of the older generation doesn’t exactly know what they are, but once they’re told about how the QR codes (or Remembrance Codes as they’re called in the industry) work, they’re amazed.  Who else thinks that in the future, names and dates will be eclipsed by QR codes that share a story about a loved-one’s life?

How to Get Your Own QR Code

brainy logo 2012

An example of a stylized QR code by Custom QR Codes

The fastest way to get a QR code (for free) is over at QR Stuff.  For a price, you can also get scan analytics. If you’re looking for something a bit more stylish, Custom QR Codes designs the codes in much the same way as a logo.  In fact, up to 30% of a code can be distorted or purposefully left out and it will still be readable by most scanning devices.

Potential Pitfalls of QR Codes

Before you jump on this new trend, be aware that there are some potential issues with QR codes.  For example, spammers are now using QR codes as a way to flood smartphones with their gunk (you knew this was coming, right?) Savvy hackers and scammers can use them to disguise malware downloads and force your phone to send premium text messages non-stop at $1 each.  Because some QR code scanners will let you use shortened URLs, there’s currently no telling where those URLs could point to.

That’s why, like with your computer, it’s important to know how your QR scanner works, what’s being downloaded, and whether or not you trust the source.

Action Steps for Working with QR Codes

So how can you take advantage of this growing trend for your business?  Keep in mind that much more than web addresses can be scanned. For example, you could:

  • Direct employers to your resume, your LinkedIn profile or your Vcard
  • Use a QR code in a direct mail piece, business card or postcard to provide a discount
  • Give customers an inside look at your new Facebook promotion
  • Take them to a page with more detailed information that wouldn’t easily fit in a print ad
  • Use them to deliver step-by-step instructional videos or a printable setup sheet
  • Have the QR code send a tweet when scanned, or check in with Foursquare
  • Let them enroll in an event such as a webinar or teleseminar
  • Use the QR code to let customers send themselves a reminder via SMS
  • Link them to a special “Exclusive” YouTube video

What are some of the most creative uses of QR codes you’ve found?  Have you used a QR code yourself in a promotion? What sort of results did you get?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversions with website reviews and SEO copywriting.  Download a free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up at

  1. This is a freaking excellent post. I’ve got limited knowledge of QR codes beyond make sure they don’t direct to a site that has a bunch of flash that can’t be seen on a phone. I love that part about a check in or a tweet.

  2. Brian D. Hawkins Feb 09, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    This is one of the better posts I’ve seen on QR Codes. Many people think they are dieing off already but my niece in Japan says they are everywhere she looks. Great topic.

    • Gillian Anderson Jan 09, 2015 at 4:10 am

      Very nice and informative post, Quick Response Codes which employ four standardized encoding modes (numeric, alphanumeric, byte / binary, and kanji) to proficiently store data. It supports URL, Email, Dynamic Codes, Tracking, Analytics, Free text and vCards.

  3. Give that agency who did the instagram QR code a cuddle! How good is that? A QR code that says everything about the brand and what it will do for you. I’m impressed. Now if I could just think up something creative for our plumbing company…………………………………………………………………..(nope, nothing yet)……………………

  4. The best I have seen yet was software system that when the QR code was scanned it automatically pulled their email up on their phone, pre-populated the “To” address (to your email,being the marketers) and populated the customized (by you) subject and message.

    For example it had a pre-populated message that said “please send me information on this right away”.

    Then all the prosepct had to do was hit the send button…..which is the voluntary opt-in.

    The email then went straight to a database (for current and future marketing) that was set up with an auto- responder to send the requested info and followed with a lead nurturing campaign.

    The software also allowed you to generate an unlimited number QR Codes and campaigns.

    Simply brilliant! When have you ever seen a QR code used as a lead capture? Even QR Codes are in its beginnings it has only been used to guide one to information that would hopefully then capture the prospects/leads information. This system eliminated steps that could potentially derail the prospects interest.

    Sad part of the story: this gentleman had a limited offering and I did not pull the trigger fast enough… regrettably.

    If someone knows of another system like this please let me know.

  5. From what I can see, the funeral home one is a great example of how NOT to do a QR code. The page it sends you to doesn’t render properly on an iPhone.

    I wonder how many people who have read this page have actually scanned the codes, rather than just thinking they look pretty. The destination need to be effective too!!!

  6. I realize that instagram is far bigger then my website, but the design of there QR code looks very similiar to mine, which I created over a year ago.
    My site, QRposterboard, is a QR code that is made up of other smaller QR codes. I launched the site a long time ago with the hopes of QR codes going viral and I’m still waiting :)

  7. An excellent post! Very inspiring. I just created a QR code for my site!

  8. Create a QR code out of pipe images!

  9. Using a qr code by Itself with no wording. Just seeing how many people just scan codes to see where it takes them. Using it to capture leads for my bodyshop biz.

  10. Hi I am a visual artist and have recently created an illustrated mural on the inside wall of a central church in Bristol UK which which rents its rooms out to some 1000 people a week. My mural incorporates x2 Q.R codes.

    I created my mural, ‘The Father’s Welcome’ as a contemporary visualisation based around the Boblical story of The Prodigal son. It is designed to help the church communicate something of its life and ministry to the users of the building.

    The mural encorporates x2 Q.R codes in the artwork which in total is over 5 meters long and 1.5 meters high to help engage a younger generation of smartphone users.

    The Q.R coses link them to the website which puts the artwork in wider context.

    To date the inovative approach of the mural has been detailed in the main local city newspaper and made the front cover of a national church newspaper.

  11. Nice article. One of the best application of qr code is to really bring benefit to the customers. Home Plus is a perfect example:

  12. Many companies are getting in the QR Code actions it seems. Even a large company like Pitney Bowes is creating tools to create dynamic QR Codes with mobile landing pages.
    I think their tracking system appeal to me the most.

    Nice post, a very good read.

  13. Really helpful! Nice article. I think this could be very influential in our business.

  14. Its not really innovative – more assistive – but following a great article in .net magazine, we’re using QR codes on individual blog posts. Only visible when printed or print previewed, they provide a convenient means for those who receive or generate printed material from our site to link back to the original post. Very easy to implement through Google’s Chart API. Try it from our latest post –

  15. I personally like using QR codes, just because of the fact it’s a very good way to market. In my personal business cards, I have my phone number QR code printed to make it easier for my clients to call just by scanning the card. I really loved this post, keep up the good work.

  16. QR tags have been a wonderful way to promote my website!

  17. I am thinking of using QR codes for product data sheets on my website as we sell stone cleaning poultices and lime mortar which requires health and safety data sheets to be easily available. A QR code printed on the packaging would be an ideal solution.

  18. Another creative way to use QR code jewelry as a dispersion material or flyer, instead of boring mugs and pen drives. We design custom QR Jewels for companies with their logo or/and marketing message.

  19. Thanks for this Article. I am always looking for new and interesting tools.

  20. now there is a new generation of qrcode : qrvideo
    QR Video offers a transparent display, in full color and merged in the video stream.
    Now you can scan a video : . just check the website

  21. One of out clients used different short URLs to generate qrcodes to conduct A/B test for effectiveness of different ad channels – an insightful act.
    Thanks so the clever integration of some ready-to-use technologies.

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