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QR codes are easy to set up, and offer a range of possible uses for marketers, on product packaging, in shop window displays, in print advertising and more. When used well, they provide a quick response mechanism, and appeal to consumers' curiosity.

Whether they will ever become widely adopted is unclear, as there is a potential barrier in that people need to actively download a code reader app first, though there are ways to overcome this. For example, retailers could start to add QR readers to their mobile apps, while there is talk of the iPhone5 having a pre-installed reader. 

Here are eight examples of how QR codes have been used, mainly from retailers. Please suggest any other great examples you've seen...

Raddison Edwardian

Hotel chain Radisson Edwardian added QR codes to the menus in its restaurants recently. 

Upon scanning the codes, customers could see the selected dish being prepared by the chef. A great way to add to the customer experience, and also to help them decide what to eat. 

Tesco

In one of the best examples I have seen yet, Tesco in Korea created a virtual store for smartphone users in a subway. 

While waiting for the train, mobile users could use their phone's QR code reader to scan and add items to their shopping lists for purchase. 

AXA

In an excellent example, AXA uses QR codes to extend the experience from its TV ads. 

ScottSelect

This TV ad prominently features a QR code which, when scanned, sends users to its mobile landing page:

Best Buy

The US retail chain has added a QR code reader to its mobile apps, which is one good way to ensure that customers don't have to actively download a third party reader before interacting with ads. 

QR codes are used in offline ads to send customers to mobile product pages, as well as in stores. 

Extending shopping hours

By adding QR codes to its shop window, the retailer featured in this video can send users to its mobile site to see details of products, even when the store is closed. 

Lacoste

By using QR codes in shop windows, Lacoste can send users to a classic bat and ball arcade game on their mobiles, with the bait of a 15% discount for those that choose to register at the end. 

Wilkinson Sword

The razor brand used QR codes in Tescos, offering entry to a competition and videos of its products in action. One good touch was to add both a URL and an SMS option for those without code reader apps. 

The code sends users to this mobile landing page:

Graham Charlton

Published 8 July, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (46)

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@davedelaney

Great round up Graham. I had a little fun with my Twitter profile pic. Scan the avatar to see what I mean.

http://a1.twimg.com/profile_images/1352175107/davedelaney_qr_twitter.png

about 5 years ago

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Tony

I was recently at an art festival and all of the booths included QR codes that took you to the artist's websites or contact information. It was a quick and easy way to get info on your phone that you could access later. Good article. Thanks

about 5 years ago

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Kimtag

We like the virtual supermarket idea. That took some preparation as well.

We've had a whole bunch of universities this year using QR Codes linking to a Kimtag listing everything their graduates needed to do on and before graduation. They placed the QR Codes all over campus, students then scanned them and got addresses, phone numbers, places to upload photos, graduation forms and all sorts. Very cool.

about 5 years ago

Angelos Taplatzidis

Angelos Taplatzidis, Marketing Executive at IBM

I cant say QR codes is useful for all, or practical..

about 5 years ago

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Beth S.

The promoters of the TV show Louie! on the FX network sent our comedy club (Rooster T Feathers in Sunnyvale, CA) a case of coasters. On one side of the coaster is a QR code taking the customer to a page where they can enter a drawing for a trip to NY or LV. A customer recently tweeted a pic of the coaster (twitpic.com/5n43as). This doesn't show you the QR code, which is on the other side. By making the coaster something a customer might want to take home with them as a souvenir, the promoters have increased the chances their QR code will get noticed. I thought this was a very creative use of the QR code.

about 5 years ago

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Gerry Arcari

We use QR codes regularly in the retail sector on packaging and POS. A brilliant mechanism to direct consumers to relevant information and videos but why do they have to be so unsightly!?

about 5 years ago

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jj

Thnx for this wonderful application insight info .I have read about qr codes,i have got a keen interst in qr codes & i wanna learn things regarding qr codes so that i cud do something related to qr code,pl.guide my wht nxt to do. specially in educational field & personal networking i.e. business card etc,looking forward ur guidance.
Thnx
kind rgds
JJ

about 5 years ago

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Jerry Kuzma

brilliant. gives me a ton of ideas to approach clients with.

I recently picked up a bank-sponsored map of Ireland with a referenced list of restaurants from across the island....each restaurant had a QR code for the reader to scan and get google map location for an easy find-and-eat-using-your-phone experience.

No practical use? QR codes are going to be as common--or more common--than URL's or facebook links are at the present time.

HINT HINT--If the big boys are using them--and using their budgets to drive public awareness--and the little guys can use them for free--we're stupid to not jump in and put QRs to use right now.

All the best, Jerry K

about 5 years ago

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Damien Wright

The Good Cook is a programme shown on BBC1 and they use QR codes to take viewers to a website where they can see all the ingredients and the method of cooking that the chef uses. I thought that this was an excellent use of QR codes.

about 5 years ago

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James Taylor

An interesting set of use cases, but surely QR Codes are becoming reduntant with the emergance of AR softwares that can enable the same sorts of features but in a more visually compelling way?

For instance, i saw the ad for "Bridesmaids" in Stylist last week augmented by Aurasma - http://bit.ly/nxC91y - and that seems like the way to go.

about 5 years ago

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Pete Bresser

In the UK, Bulmers cider using QR codes on the sides of its bottle. Available in ASDA at the moment, perhaps other retailers too.

about 5 years ago

Nico Koepke

Nico Koepke, CEO at KODIME LtdSmall Business

The TV use of QR has to be carefully considered - if not purely wishing to showcase "hey we also have a QR!".

It is not possible for a consumer to grab smartphone, fire up the reader app, get close to screen, take picture - in 20 or 30 secs. Haven't seen related stats (not surprisingly), my guess is the likes of Waitrose TV ads with QR saw minimal action.

Where it does work is if left on-screen for longer periods, like a station ID - and used repeatedly so consumers can "learn" and try.

Also works when adding to YouTube videos and leave standing on last frame.

Generally it is a great tool for social media and all forms of print advertising and direct mail. We are seeing significant click-throughs in some client QR campaigns, however in most cases we recommend the additional use of shortcode number and keyword for maximum impact and 100% audience reach.

about 5 years ago

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John Conner

We have hotels using QR codes in their rooms to highlight local attractions, local coupons to theme parks, and even restaurant coupons. The qr codes were in their welcome packet on the desk. I thought it was a creative way to get hotel guests more information that they needed, when they needed it.

John

about 5 years ago

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Phil Spencer

@Nico Koepke

Your comment is right on the money.

URLs can be used by people without smart phones (and can be remembered, QR codes can't).

I'm not saying don't use QR codes, but it's worth remembering that a QR code is just an obfuscated url.

about 5 years ago

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Leigh Beckett, Consultant at Creative Source

We've done several client projects using QR codes and engagement rates have been very good. We've used them as an additional channel or route to resources in each of the projects where we've used them. So for those people who say they don't get it or think QR codes are a waste of time - have a look at a business card, a headed note card or the contact page of any website and you'll usually find at least three contact options (email, phone, physical address, URL, Fax etc). QR codes are an additional and (currently) novel option to drive visitors to a designated destination. Here's a piece I wrote recently giving 15 potential uses for QR codes, as well as a short video showing how easy they are to produce http://bit.ly/iSR8A7

about 5 years ago

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Gee Ranasinha

Good to finally see some creative and innovative applications beyond the "zap-to-a-non-mobile-optimized-website" nonsense that, unfortunately, still seems to be the majority of QR code use cases.

We recently put together an experiment / promo to educate our clients as to how QR codes could augment existing marketing initiatives by combining a QR code with online video, motion graphics and (of course) a mobile-optimized website.

If you're interested, you can take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp_OCz_nMgg

about 5 years ago

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Ben Childs

I still find interaction with QR slightly tiresome but I think they have huge potential for linking together online and offline experiences, especially in contexts where there is an ongoing "conversation" required between a user and a service.

Also, just to be clear, QR codes are not merely obfuscated URLs - and even if they were there would be a strong argument to suggest that entering a URL by hand is at least as problematic as scanning a QR code. In actual fact, QR codes can be used to trigger a URL, a phone number, an email, an SMS message, a calendar appointment and I think even a wifi login on some devices. Not all these work perfectly I admit, but considering how much can be achieved with a URL now that there are bespoke URL handlers on most smartphones [e.g. a Google Maps URL will launch the Map application on iPhone/Android] it vastly undermines the potential uses of QR codes to say that they're just obfuscated URLs.

about 5 years ago

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Phil Spencer

@Ben

All of those things can be achieved with a url too!

Perhaps my tone was misleading - I didn't mean to belittle the use of QR codes - I think there are some great applications - I was simply (perhaps in a slightly inflammatory or deliberately controversial manner and I apologise) trying to present a different way of looking at them.

I think my point was that they're just a short cut to something, there is no magic in the code itself.

about 5 years ago

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Phil Spencer

Actually, my point was that they aren't human readable and can't be recalled, thus aren't appropriate for every situation. As always - horses for courses.

about 5 years ago

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Ben Childs

@Phil

I'm not sure why I suddenly found and donned an "Ambassador of QR" hat...

Yeah, I agree they can be _technically_ achieved with a URL. I guess what I meant was that IMO the opportunity for QR doesn't matter whether the underlying technology is in fact the humble URL, but rather that hopefully when more companies begin to apply them usefully in context, users will begin to recognise them as "One of those square things that will do something suitably useful or just plain cool when I hold my phone up to it". For a short while we ran an R&D piece using RFID technology - http://www.fivetreesforest - basically a lo-fi role-play game which spanned real and virtual worlds - the majority of the underlying interactions being either SMS sending or triggering a URL. However, the user engagement was often astounding - often just due to the physical interaction of touching the phone to something and it responding without the user seeing a URL. Many of the behaviours and our learnings would likely be the same for QR.

</ambassadorHat> :-)

about 5 years ago

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Phil Spencer

@Ben

Totally agree that it is all about context. The http://www.fivetreesforest.org project looks really interesting.

I also think @James Taylor makes a great point about Aurasma.

about 5 years ago

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john karamanski

QR Codes allow stories to be told in a easy to use and find format. Plus new applications allow them to be shared.

about 5 years ago

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Douglas P. Scott (Select)

Thanks for adding Scott Select to an article that includes such wonderful brands as Best Buy and Lacoste!

I see great possibilties for QR Codes and we are using them in many other places beyond television. Our best results have been on direct mail and print, but we have one on our Twitter page, on a yard sign out front that takes folks to our Foursquare check-in and in our waiting area connecting them to our social media sites.

As for their use on TV and the "there's not enough time arguement". If you have a smartphone, then you have a dvr (tivo), which means you can pause the ad and scan that way.

The biggest problem in my eyes are marketers that don't know how to use them properly, putting them on glarry surfaces, not shorting the URL, printers throwing them off-center, or companies like Sears who made them too small in their '10 holiday ads, making them all unreadable, which discourages the user from trying again.

FYI the best reader of the 10 I have tried is Qrafter.

Thanks again Econsultancy

about 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

There are a number of drawbacks with QR codes - lack of public awareness (at the moment anyway), the need to download a code reader, and variable mobile internet connections which can spoil the user experience.

However, when used creatively, and when the user has a compelling reason to use them - to get a discount, play a game, or find some useful content, such as the videos on the Raddisson Edwardian menus, they have value.

That said, it's worth checking out the alternatives to QR codes, such as Blippar: http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/7560-blippar-aims-to-make-qr-codes-redundant

about 5 years ago

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Mark greenley

I recently received a business card from a locksmith, a company with a 150 year history but with no online marketing collateral at all, not even the most basic website. Suprisingly the only thing on the card other than the name of the business was QR code. When I scanned the code it was I was presented with a vCard for the company.

I'm still unsure whether I think this strategy of having no other marketing material other than the business card displays nothing more than extreme naivety or supreme confidence in their long heritage, but the next time I need a locksmith I know who I'll be calling first!

about 5 years ago

Gabriel Karam

Gabriel Karam, Digital Director at Zed Digital - Zenith Media

Like any other tool if used and integrated wisely, will definitely generate an impact and good return. Marketers need to look at it as a 360 Degree approach rather than a marketing tool.

about 5 years ago

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Nick Martin

Those are some awesome scenarios for 2D barcodes. Graham - you're right in calling out some issues for adoption in this space. I also think that the conversation is still too focused on the novelty of using a QR code or Tag and doesn't consider what the backend experience should look like.

2D barcodes, or any trigger that connects a person's digital and physical environments through a mobile device (NFC, image rec, voice etc.), give companies the opportunity to engage an audience in a manner that moves them along a sales cycle if done right.

Thanks for the great post!

Nick Martin
Online Community Manager
Microsoft Tag

about 5 years ago

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Nick Booker

Significant potential here for use in tourism and visitor attractions/centres/museums for regular updates on displays etc - useful summary

about 5 years ago

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Brian Raines

Some basic QR code best practices that you need to follow...

#1 Mobile-optimized landing pages

#2 Value exchange with the consumer for scanning (mobile coupon, discount offer, unique content, etc)

#3 Use a QR code campaign management tool to create, manage and track usage (to improve the user experience!)

about 5 years ago

Guy Redmond

Guy Redmond, Digital Marketing Engineer at Nestle

I love what Tesco did in Korea, but not sure it would work too well on the circle line...
2011 definitely is the year of the mobile, let's hope the service providers (and places such as the London underground and supermarkets) can deliver the experience.

about 5 years ago

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Greg Batchelor

I think QR codes are here to stay. We have only scratched the surface of possible uses. Beyond the creative uses, let's also think about pure accessibility, such as for the physically impaired.

We just added QR codes to our classifieds. One can instantly print a "For Sale" sign with QR code for their ad.

The biggest advantage of QR over a URL is deep linking. QR enables you to easily send a visitor directly to a specific product, or in our case a specific item. In our case that would unrealistic with a URL.

Having to download a scan app is a non-issue. Once loaded it's there and available whenever needed with a single tap. Tap, point, and you are there. What could be easier?

about 5 years ago

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ben

Having to download a scan app is THE issue. Those without a smartphone (most of the U.S) can't get a Qr code scanner at all. When you compare that with Japan where even the most basic phone has a reader built-in it's understandable why there not big in the U.S. like in Japan. The best way to do it would be to have a shortcode which a user with a basic camera phone could send a picture of the Qr code to and get the result as a text.

about 5 years ago

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Peter M.

I thought that this was an good idea to use of QR codes.

about 5 years ago

christopher gordon

christopher gordon, Marketing Communications Manager at Tetra Pak

My favourite use for various reasons has the be the Living Headstone...

A QR Code inserted into a memorial stone so that a family can enjoy a richer memory of thier dearly departed.

Its so good its bad, or so bad its good - a question of perspective and taste!

http://www.monuments.com/livingheadstone

about 5 years ago

christopher gordon

christopher gordon, Marketing Communications Manager at Tetra Pak

On a serious note, a QR Code offers a lot of potential when used within paper based product catalogues to help companies and clients migrate into the digital realm.

I know with my clients here in Italy that paper rules as the digital transition is in its infancy - Italy is 20 years behind in many ways.

A QR code next to a key product which links back to a richer online experience offers (I believe) huge potential for measureable engagement with customers.

Yes of course there are drawbacks, but if correctly targeted and used a company can gain significant advantages.

about 5 years ago

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Evelina Ivanova

The article is very interesting and useful.Thanks to the authour.

almost 5 years ago

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Mike Hughes

A great article with some really interesting case studies. Thanks for putting it together.

Whilst QR are still relatively new (in the UK at least) there is no doubt that they will be an important part of marketing content going forward. My business has move from traditional print, to digital print and now into digital media and I can say that much of the 'noise' and discussion is around QR codes, email and social media and how these can be integrated with together with traditional media to create a consistent personalised experience accross all.

We have just started working with personalised QR codes on Direct Mail which links people directly to a personlised landing page (PURLS) and we have a number of our client tryling these this autumn so I will provide some feedback in the new year on the suggest of these campaigns.

almost 5 years ago

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Cage

Keep on working, great job!

about 4 years ago

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