50 Creative Uses of QR Codes

Many business have discovered the potential of QR codes in marketing and communications. QR codes can act as a connector between the physical world and the web. As smartphones have advanced, it's become easier for people to access the website or resource behind a QR code. No longer do people need to download a special QR code reader; instead, they can just whip out their phone, open their camera, and the built-in software will do the rest. 

Do people still scan QR codes?

Back in 2011, when this blog post was first posted, QR codes were all the rage…the next big thing…the bees knees…the cat's…well, you get the idea. Over time, the growth of QR codes stalled, and many marketers abandoned them.

However, there has been a recent uptick in QR code usage which many people–including Forbes–attribute to the “touch-free” aspect of the COVID pandemic. Judging by the number of masked models in stock photography currently, they may be right.

QR Codes for touch-free experience

50 creative ways to use QR codes in business

There are plenty of creative ideas for how businesses, non-profits and municipalities can use QR codes to market and communicate themselves better to their stakeholders. Here are 50 to get your creative juices flowing. 

  1. QR Codes on bus stops, train stations and subway stations: A quick scan gives commuters realtime information on when the next bus, train or subway will arrive.
  2. Posted next to paintings and sculptures at museums. Great for visitors who want to learn more about the artist, the time period, and the reaction to the photo. It could also include links to other work by the artist, related artists, and even the ability to buy the image on a mug or poster at the museum shop.
  3. As part of a personalized direct mail piece. Each QR code can go to a PURL (personalized URL (Uniform Resource Locator)).
  4. On historical sites and on walking trails. Sure, a plaque is fine for grandma, but I'd like to delve deeper, whether with a wikipedia entry, or an video of a local historian explaining the significance of the site.
  5. At video kiosks. QR codes can appear as people interact with your kiosk, whether it's at the mall or your place of business.
  6. On For Sale signs. Whether residential or commercial, for sale signs could include codes that had all the information a sell sheet includes, plus video walkthroughs.
  7. Email newsletter signups. Build your subscriber base by having quick links to an email signup box.
  8. E-learning. Have your QR code generate an email that starts an autoresponder, sending daily emails filled with lessons and related information.
  9. Next to packaged food in groceries. Give shoppers quick access to recipes that include the ingredients they see on the shelf.
Scanning a QR code at the supermarket
  1. In a jigsaw puzzle. This would create some real engagement as the user would have to put together the puzzle before scanning the image.
  2. On produce. You could include information about the farm, organic vs. conventional growing, best by dates, etc.
  3. Buying coffee (or anything else.) Like Starbucks does.
  4. On bottles of wine. It would be nice to be able to get info about the vineyard, and maybe buy a case of that bottle I enjoyed at the restaurant.
  5. On tags for sustainable clothes. Is that piece of clothing really sustainable? Let's quickly scan and see it's story.
  6. For conference signage. Next to the name of the upcoming sessions in each room would be the QR code so you could get the full description, speaker bios, and see if there's any room left.
  7. On conference name tags. Why trade business cards when you can just scan them. 
  8. Written in calamari ink on diners' plates. You can't make this stuff up.
  9. On jewelry. Examples abound.
  10. As part of interactive maps. Check out this example from Town Graphics.
  11. At the bottom of print newspaper and magazine articles. Then you could quickly get to the online version and see the comments that other readers had left. (And then lose all faith in humanity due to those comments.)
  12. On liquor bottles. Linked to drink recipes; this would be especially good for new drinks you're bringing to market.
  13. On building permits. New York City is already doing this.
  14. On the fliers that you find under your windshield wipers at the mall. One example might be an offer for a car wash; the URL would give you the discount code and directions to the car wash offering the deal.
  15. On the safety bar ads on ski mountain chair lifts. These days, everyone on the mountain seems to have a smartphone, and they're going to be a captive audience for 5 – 10 minutes, sitting on that chair going up the mountain.
  16. Inside elevators. If I ran a dry cleaning service or something else that helped busy executives out I'd advertise inside elevators in tall buildings. Other good options might include flowers (for spouses left at home with the kids), discounts on take out food, etc.
  17. In bar bathrooms. I often see cab companies advertising above the urinals in bars. (Hey, what can I say? I frequent classy places.) Why not make it easier for patrons to get a safe ride home, rather than drunk dial a wrong number? Just make sure you have a tight grip on your phone.
  18. Within a video game console to share avatars. Nintendo is already doing just that.
  19. To get more people to sign a petition. Like this example from Change.org.
  20. At bars, clubs and anywhere else music is playing. Sure, Shazam is a great tool for finding music, and often you can even buy the track you discovered at iTunes or Amazon. But in a loud club you may not be able to suss out the song. If a QR code appeared above the DJ's head, you could quickly scan the code and purchase that new song.
  21. On the backs of tractor trailers. Because “How's My Driving?” with an 800 number is so last decade.
  22. On wedding invitations instead of RSVP cards. Scan a QR, save a tree. And a stamp.
  23. As a temporary tattoo. Link it to your Facebook profile or Twitter account.
  24. On a laminated card for trade shows. Instead of dropping a business card in a fish bowl. Booths win because they'll get all the pertinent info, and the event could give away prizes to the people who get scanned the most.
  25. To encourage community feedback. The library in Groton, CT, does just that.
  26. For payment methods. Quickly connect to a credit card, Apple Pay, or similar.
Pay with a QR code
  1. On the bottom of flip flops. The imprint they make on the beach…until the tide comes in.
  2. On coffee cups from your local coffee shop. Plenty of advertising opportunities here.
  3. On posters linking to free books. 1st Bank is giving away free copies…of these out-of-copyrighted classics. They also have other boards that link to free sudoku.
  4. On a ball field. Have you seen what the groundskeepers can mow into the outfield these days? They're artists!
  5. On a human billboard. Think “Eat at Joes.”
  6. For bike share and scooter share rentals. 
QR scanning on bike share
  1. On trade show booths. Scan a picture, (be entered to) win a free iPad.
  2. On recipes in magazines. Quick link to videos, reviews and feedback at the website.
  3. For self-guided tours at factories. Scan a code, learn what that dohickey does.
  4. Posted on car windows in dealerships. Perfect for after-hour shoppers.
  5. Scratch and Win cards. It's not enough to have them scratch off the card, make them scan that card to see if they've won.
  6. On movie posters. QR code takes them to a preview of the movie.
  7. On cocktail napkins. The code could take networkers to the sponsor's site, the beverage's site, or some networking site with photos, so you can connect with people after the event.
  8. In TV ads to make them interactive. With the “second screen” being so prevalent while people are watching TV, a QR code in an ad makes a lot of sense.
  9. Business cards. ‘Nuff said.

How to add QR Codes into your own marketing

Start by considering where you might place a QR code where your audience will not only see it, but have an opportunity to engage with it. They're more likely to scan a QR code on a street corner than on a billboard while they're driving down the highway at 70 miles an hour (I would hope.) 

There also has to be an incentive for them to scan it, as the novelty of QR codes has long passed. The more difficult it is to scan a code (because of a short window of opportunity, for example,) the stronger your incentive has to be. You may need to “sell” the idea of scanning in the QR code by revealing the payoff…a new recipe, a behind-the-scenes video, or unlocking a discount code at your business.

Just remember: QR codes aren't a standalone marketing campaign. They're part of a digital marketing strategy that moves customers down the funnel from the physical to the digital…from the real world to your website. 

If you need help working QR codes into your digital marketing, we're here to help