Gain marketing insights, consumer behaviour trends and creative inspiration from team BTI
Newsletter Signup
Posted by Amit Chail on September 24, 2013

Since our article a couple of months ago showed the QR codes are alive and well, we wanted to showcase some effective QR based campaigns as well as share with you some best practices in using QR codes.

We will start off by getting your creative juices flowing by sharing some recent successful and unique QR campaigns from across the globe. Below these great campaigns, you will find the critical factors that make these a success.

1)  Shopping. One of the best example of this is Tesco HomePlus in South Korea, as an online store at bus and train stations where shoppers can use QR codes in a virtual grocery store, and the items will be delivered to their homes shortly after.

One of the biggest interactive programs Macy’s has launched in the last few years is its “Backstage Pass” program. The in-store feature enables users to scan QR codes in different departments to get expert advice from some of the brand’s celebrity partners. For example, you could snap a picture of a QR code in the shoe department to queue up a video of Jessica Simpson offering advice on how to wear stacked heels.

Target launched the 2012 holiday season with a mobile-based program designed to foil the practice of “showrooming.” Target showcased the top 20 toys of the season with a QR code that lets consumers buy them online and have them shipped.

Anyone can create a QR code that links to a ‘Buy Now’.

2)   Campaigns & stories. The World Park Campaign used QR codes to create an interactive board game formatted campaign throughout New York’s Central Park for the participant to view photos or read information about certain areas.

This year, Lexus printed an ad in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition with AR and QR codes. If you line up your QR code-reader-equipped smartphone with the ad, the SI models start prancing around. Of course this campaign uses a mixture of QR code and Augmented Reality apps to show you the swimsuit models.

Mercedes launched QR codes to help emergency responders to save lives. Mercedes’ QR codes link to a copy of the car’s schematics, so emergency responders can safely see how to save injured occupants in the event of a crash. See this video for a detailed explanation.

3)   Restaurants. QR codes can be on windows, menus, coasters, posters, etc. A simple use of QR codes in a restaurant is Mesob, an Ethiopian restaurant in New Jersey. Mesob has QR codes on their tables that take the consumer to instructional videos on how their coffee is made.

Another very creative use of QR codes in restaurants is a straightforward WalkIN experience. Consumers use an iPhone or Android app to scan a QR code to reserve their place on the wait list. Merchants manage the queue via an app, adjust wait times and manually add new guests to the list.

McDonald’s is launching a new global packaging design that uses QR codes to give consumers nutritional information about their food. It is the latest brand to promote informed decisions about health. The designs will be featured on all carry-out bags and fountain beverage cups, communicating “brand stories” and delivering facts with a mix of text and illustrations.

Harry’s Bar in Singapore wanted to make it easier for shy locals to meet each other at the bar. So, it introduced “Bottle Message,” QR code tags for beer bottles that let you enter a message for another person to scan and read. After you’ve written something for the person you like, flip over the tag, buy another beer and place the tag over it. Then have it sent to that special someone so they read the message and you can start a conversation. Beer sales at Harry’s Bar doubled after it introduced this new communication tool.

Fill This Glass With Guinness, Get a QR Code. Activate that QR code and the glass checks you in to Foursquare, tweets about your pint and/or updates your Facebook status. And in a nice branding twist, you have to use Guinness — or at least another very dark beer. If your beer is filled with an ordinary pilsner like Budweiser, you won’t be able to read the code.

4)   Promotions. Consumers can win free items by scanning the QR code, for example Taco Bell and ESPN raised awareness with their QR-code-only promotional campaign for the Bowl Championship series college football games.

5)   Real Estate. Deliver a virtual tour with QR codes placed on For Sale Signs and printed ads.  Offering the information on the history of the house could also be something that makes your promotional materials more valuable with QR Codes.

6)   Event Planning. Imbed a QR Code into paper invitations allowing recipients to simply scan it and have them sent to an RSVP form..

7)   vCards & Resumes. Individuals can add a QR code that provides more information about their careers when scanned. This allows for the recipient to better engage with you and for you to stand out.

8)   Social media. QR codes can connect a consumer directly to a company’s social media sites to simplify the way consumers can “”Like” or “Follow” a brand page. This is more effective than just showing the Facebook or Twiter logos with directions to like us.

9)   Music. Instantly put a free sample of your tunes into the hands of a music lover on the go.

10) Anything that else that you can dream up of! Let’s brainstorm together to see how QR Codes can be deployed as part of your integrated campaigns.

Most of the press goes to the bad uses of QR codes giving the impression that they’re dying.  I’d like to think that marketers are still testing the waters to see what works. Of course, there are some really bad examples making you wonder what these people were thinking. There are just too many to show here. Check out some bad examples.

How to increase usage of QR codes? 

These best practices are built on the collective experiences from BTI and the industry over the last 2 years.

  1. Have engaging content!
  2. Give consumers value! Giveaways, discounts and exclusive access will invite and lead consumers to interact with and scan your QR code. Scanning a barcode should provide the consumer with an enhanced brand experience that is exclusive, dynamic and interactive.
  3. Be everywhere –  magazines, bus shelters,  packages, etc. QR codes placed on stationary objectives with no obstructions always yield the best results.
  4. Place QR codes in physical locations where internet access is good to great – either Wi-FI or cellular network coverage.
  5. Since consumers will scan the QR codes from their mobile device, they will be viewing the content on their smartphone and expect instant results. It is critical to ensure that the QR code links through to a mobile-friendly site rather a desktop-designed site. And watch those broken or dead links – the consumer will not try again.
  6. Visuals matter! Ideally opt for a designer QR code instead of the standard black and white codes. You’re allowed some fliexibility. As long as 70% of the code is recognizable to the scanning app, you can use your artistic flare to change the rest. Designer codes earn higher scan-through rates and look better on your materials Here are some examples of creative QR code designs.
  7. Ensure that the codes are scanable by as many devices as possible – all devices can scan a code that is 1” x 1”. Anything smaller will limit your audience as scanability drops significantly.
  8. Ensure that url (link) that is encoded into the QR code is directed to a page ( which can be redirected to the campaign page. Try not the link the code to a campaign page which prevents you to change the content in the future without changing the content on the destination page. This provides the flexibility to redirect the url to another page for another campaign without having to print more QR codes with different links. Any printed materials that will be in the public domain (such as packages, sell sheets, business cards, etc) are ideal for this scenario as it is too expensive to reprint them with a new QR code for new campaigns.
  9. Use smaller urls (url shortners like because they reduce the complexity of the QR code and make them easier to scan.
  10. Measure, analyze and optimize your future campaigns based on past successes and failures.


Marketers who take the early lead of mobile engagement – be it QR codes with or without NFC, or augmented reality – will capture the mind share of the consumers and lead to more conversions.

Penetration will also increase dramatically when Smartphones come pre-loaded with a QR scanner app versus having to download a separate app.

ITS ALL ABOUT CONTENT! To make your QR campaign successful, give the consumer engaging and interesting content. Give them a reason to talk about it and share it with their friends.

Give us a call today to help you design and customize a very effective QR campaign to meet your needs.