QR Codes Use in Marketing Campaigns

QR Code on a smartphone

QR Codes are coming to the forefront of the marketing sphere. They are fairly versatile and straightforward. Let’s explore some best practices for using QR Codes in marketing.

What are QR codes?

Quick Response (QR) codes were created to store a lot of data in a small 2D matrix barcode. But unlike barcodes, QR codes can store far more information (more than 7,000 characters) and be read more than 10 times faster. The QR code was officially released by two engineers at Denso Wave in 1994 and first used by Japan’s auto industry.

The other unique feature of a QR code is that the specifications of it were intentionally made to be publicly available. Because of this, being added to the ISO standard in 2000 and smartphone apps and cameras with the capability to read them, the codes were easy to create and accessible to many people around the world.

When created and executed well, QR codes can be incorporated or centered in a marketing campaign. They can also be used daily, such as for a payment option. Two different kinds of QR codes exist: static and dynamic. As implied, static codes are hard-coded once they’re created and are best used for tasks like sharing an email address or contact information.

Dynamic codes don’t store the data but instead redirect the scanner, much like when you share a link to a webpage. But they’re not limited to only webpages. Dynamic QR codes can also lead you to a coupon, event page, a PDF and even SMS text creation. If needed, you can change up the contents or type of dynamic code without regenerating a fresh code. This makes dynamic codes the best for marketing campaigns.

Key Considerations for Proper Use of QR Codes in Marketing Campaigns

In order to utilize QR codes strategically in communications there are a few key considerations to take into account:

  • Context and Content – the QR code should direct the user to targeted content that complements the printed material where the code is located. Simply pointing a QR code at your website’s homepage isn’t likely to convert into action.
  • Instruction/Call to Action – unless you’re in Japan, there’s a good chance that your target users may need a cue to entice them to scan the QR code. It may also be helpful to provide some information about what users can expect to find after scanning code (e.g. “scan this code for a special offer…”).
  • Mobile Landing Page – it’s a safe bet that the person who scans the code will be on a handheld device. Therefore, you’ll want to ensure that you direct users to a mobile-friendly landing page for an optimal user experience. Sending users to a website formatted for desktop viewing won’t be helpful, and won’t make a good impression.
  • Tracking & Reporting – if you’re going to use QR codes in marketing campaigns it’s important to be able to track the number of scans over time, capture geographic data and other information. A QR code tracking and reporting system can help you do this effectively.


There is a real reason to use QR codes in marketing – even in 2022. The technology has improved quite a bit in the last decade. Most phones nowadays can just be pointed at a QR code in camera mode and the QR code gets read.

The reasons for marketers to use QR codes are clear: build direct connections with customers, collect first-party data and add attribution tracking to traditional advertising channels like mailers and billboards.

As of right now, though, QR codes are mostly used in the same straightforward way: as a way to drive website traffic with physical marketing materials. Opening a website, however, is something customers can do themselves, without the aid of a QR code.

Right now, most QR codes on items like brochures or consumer packaged goods look like they were slapped on as afterthoughts. And they often fail to provide clear indications as to where users will be taken after scanning it.

Similar to how augmented reality adds to one’s experience with the material world (rather than replacing it, as is the case with virtual reality), QR codes are used as digital extensions of physical objects.

Consider downloading a dynamic QR code

See the option below for “dynamic”? One significant pitfall to making a QR code is that you can’t edit the data it contains once you print it. But with dynamic QR codes, you can edit this data.

Dynamic QR codes give marketers the ability to use the same physical QR code, but they direct the people who scan them to different campaigns, based on several variables, like location, time of day, or day of the week.

With a free membership to QR code generators like qr-code-generator.com, you can print a dynamic QR code, scan it, and pull up an editable form where you can modify the data your visitors will receive when they scan the QR code themselves.

Customize your QR code

The fun part of creating QR codes is customizing the design of the codes to fit your brand. Want your code to look like your logo? Go for it. Want it to reflect your website’s design scheme? No problem.

Of course, you can customize your QR code further — adjusting the colors, adding a logo, creating social options, and more.

Keep in mind, however, that some customizations can make it more difficult for QR code scanning apps and smartphone cameras to properly read the code. To cover your bases, it’s a good idea to generate two versions of your QR code — one plain version and another with your preferred design.

Test the QR code to make sure it scans

Don’t forget to check to see if the QR code reads correctly, and be sure to try more than one QR code reader. A good place to start is the free tool Google Goggles, which takes a picture and then tells you what link or item it “reads to.”

Another great free tool is the app QR Code Reader, which automatically takes you to whatever it “reads.” Most smartphones these days include a built-in QR code reader, so you should test to make sure your code is readable there, as well.

Share and distribute the QR code

A QR code won’t be able to do its job unless people see it. So make sure you come up with a distribution plan for sharing the code. This could include displaying it in print ads, on clothing, or in physical locations where people can take out their phones to scan it.

Display your QR code where it’s convenient for people to scan

Put QR codes in places where scanning them is easy and there’s enough time for the consumer to scan the code. While you may often see QR codes on billboards and TV commercials, they’re not exactly the most user-friendly locations. It’s a safety hazard to entice people to pull out their phones while driving to scan a code, and a 30-second commercial might not be enough time for someone to find their phone and scan the TV.

Instead, think of places where consumers have the time and ability to scan the code. Places with a strong Wi-Fi connection will help, too.

Optimize the QR’s destination page for mobile devices

Mobile-optimize the page to which you’re sending people. Consumers will be using their phones when scanning the QR code, so they should arrive at a page with a positive mobile experience.

Include a CTA that prompts people to scan your QR code

Offer a call-to-action (CTA) with the code — that is to say, tell people what they’re supposed to do when they see the code, and what they’ll receive if they scan it. Not everyone knows exactly what a QR code is, and those that do won’t be motivated to scan it unless they’re sure there’s something worthwhile on the other side.

Don’t limit your QR code to one mobile scanner

Don’t require a special QR code scanner. Your QR code should be app-agnostic so anyone can scan your code with any reader. A lower barrier to entry makes success more likely for you and the user.

Track and analyze performance

Just like any marketing campaign, you should follow up on any collateral or campaigns using QR codes to see whether they’re actually working. How much traffic comes from each specific code? Are people scanning your code but not redeeming their offer once they get to the landing page? Or are they not even compelled enough to scan your QR code in the first place?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you troubleshoot and adjust poorly performing QR codes to more closely mirror those that work well.

I recommend you include a UTM tracking code on your URL so you can better measure performance— this is particularly important if you use closed-loop marketing analytics or if you perform more in-depth reporting on your campaigns.