App Development Marketing Technology

Are QR Codes Helpful?

Are QR Codes Helpful?
Written by lexie

Perhaps you’re a designer weighing the pros and cons of incorporating a QR code into a promotional sign. Or you’re a marketing professional wondering whether it’s a good move to include QR codes on a new type of specialty packaging your brand is releasing in the next quarter.

You may also still have limited knowledge of QR codes. You might wonder whether they’re really useful for the things you’re involved with. The insight below should be helpful in those scenarios and others.

What Is a QR Code and What Does It Do?

You’ve probably seen QR codes on the packages of some of your favorite products, or maybe on the pages of magazines. These square-shaped codes are sometimes referred to as quick response codes.

After noticing a quick response code, a person could scan it with a smartphone that contains a camera and a barcode reader app. Together, those two components work together and read information contained within a QR code such as:

  • Source details about ingredients for a candy bar
  • MP3 files and tour dates for an emerging musical group
  • The entry form for a contest
  • A link to an interactive product poll
  • Details about how to enroll in a store loyalty program
  • Instructions on how to use or care for a delicate piece of clothing
  • Electronic versions of coupons
  • Clarification about how to take advantage of limited-time offers

As you can see from that short list, the possibilities for details described via QR codes are nearly endless. Let’s look at some specific advantages of QR codes in the following sections.

They’re Much More Versatile Than Barcodes

Courtesy of Giphy

Courtesy of Giphy

Going off of a visual impression alone, you may think barcodes and QR codes are very similar in their functionality. Although they’re both read with scanning devices, there are numerous reasons why QR codes are superior.

Firstly, QR codes are readable in any direction. That benefit eliminates any potential interference if you print a QR code on a background that might create problems for a barcode scanner. Furthermore, it’s possible to fit much more information within a QR code compared to a barcode of the same size. Also, the margin of error for QR codes is up to 30 percent, which means if the QR code gets dirty or damaged, it’s still functional.

Creativity and Timeliness Generally Make QR Codes Gain Traction

It’s not hard to find dismal statistics about QR codes, especially since some information indicates many people aren’t aware of what they do and how to use them. However, taking a creative approach and teaming up with well-known brands could help you overcome hurdles. Get inspired by learning from Mexican fast-food chain Taco Bell. In 2013, it began a partnership with ESPN to coincide with college football championship games.

Taco Bell printed QR codes on its taco packaging and drink cups. When people scanned them, they could access curated videos featuring pregame analysis. This marketing effort took off in a big way. There were over 225,000 QR codes scanned throughout the promotion.

That’s not the first time Taco Bell marketed to customers through QR codes. Two years before the football promotion, it targeted diners with an MTV-related promotion. Clearly, the fast food chain is familiar with how to use QR codes wisely. And in the case of the college football videos, uncovered a way to resonate with consumers by offering timely content.

QR Codes Could Regain Consumer Trust

As mentioned above, QR codes give customers access to supplementary information that isn’t practical to print directly on the packaging. However, there have also been instances where well-known companies have used pertinent additional information to make customers feel confident about their products. Especially after unexpected events caused shoppers to feel doubtful and disloyal.

In India, Nestle’s Maggi noodles were recalled due to allegations they contained excessive amounts of lead. Soon afterward, the subsequent sales ban was lifted, but consumers felt hesitant to buy the noodles again based on what they’d heard in the news. Nestle responded by creating QR codes that contained nutrition facts, suggested recipes and more.

By making this kind of reassuring content available, the brand reminded consumers why they’d initially started purchasing the noodles. They calmed their worries about purchasing them again. Without the help of QR codes, it’s unlikely it would have been possible to fit the content directly on the packages. Even then, the print would have been so microscopic it would have fueled frustration instead of allaying fears.

A Potential Downside of QR Codes

Now that you’ve learned several reasons why QR codes might help your campaigns, it’s important to take a balanced approach. You should consider some cases where QR code usage might make information less accessible. One example relates to a U.S. Senate ruling that suggested food manufacturers can choose to use QR codes when designating a product that was produced through bioengineering.

They might use vague wording such as “scan here to get more food information” rather than explicitly stating:

“Bioengineering was used to make this product. In order to be fully informed, people have to go through the extra effort of taking out their properly equipped smartphones and reading the code.

It’d arguably be a much more straightforward process if they could simply read a bioengineering disclosure directly. Some analysts feel QR codes could have a cloaking effect by hiding essential information.

Hopefully you now feel able answer the question posed in the title of this article when referring to your own campaigns. QR codes aren’t helpful in every situation, but they could be extremely effective in saying things that can’t feasibly be communicated in other ways.

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About the author


Lexie is a designer, writer, and coffee lover. She writes about trends in the web and graphic design industry. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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