50–Count ‘Em, 50!–Creative Uses of QR Codes

Giant QR CodeQR codes are fast becoming a powerful force in marketing, acting as a connector between the physical world and the web. People see a QR code, scan it, and are suddenly engaged in your message (when you do it right.)

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 that I came up with or stumbled upon.

  1. QR Codes on bus stops, train stations and subway stations: A quick scan would give you realtime information on when the next bus, train or subway would 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. 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.
  10. In a jigsaw puzzle. This would create some real engagement as the user would have to put together the puzzle before scanning the image.
  11. On produce. You could include information about the farm, organic vs. conventional growing, best by dates, etc.
  12. Buying coffee (or anything else.)Like Starbucks does.
  13. 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.
  14. On tags for sustainable clothes. Is that piece of clothing really sustainable? Let’s quickly scan and see it’s story.
  15. 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.
  16. On conference name tags. SXSW has been doing this for at least a year or two. Why trade business cards when you can just scan them. Now, don’t you feel all TSA?
  17. Written in calamari ink on diners’ plates. You can’t make this stuff up.
  18. On jewelry. Examples abound.
  19. As part of interactive maps. Check out this example from Town Graphics.
  20. At the bottom of all newspaper and magazine articles. Then you could quickly get to the online version and see the comments that other readers had left.
  21. On liquor bottles. Linked to drink recipes; this would be especially good for new drinks you’re bringing to market.
  22. On building permits. New York City is already doing this.
  23. 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.
  24. On the safety bar ads on ski mountain chair lifts. These days, everyone on the mountain seems to have a smart phone, and they’re going to be a captive audience for 5 – 10 minutes, sitting on that chair going up the mountain.
  25. 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.
  26. In bar bathrooms. I often see Home Runners and 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?
  27. Within a video game console to share avatars. Nintendo is already doing just that.
  28. To get more people to sign a petition. Like the one for cleaning up the BP mess.
  29. 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.
  30. On the backs of tractor trailers. Because “How’s My Driving?” with an 800 number is so last decade.
  31. On wedding invitations instead of RSVP cards. Scan a QR, save a tree. And a stamp.
  32. As a temporary tattoo. Link it to your Facebook profile or Twitter account.
  33. 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.
  34. To encourage community feedback. The library in Groton, CT, does just that.
  35. As wallpaper. Well, it’s better than the wallpaper in our bathroom when we moved in to our house.
  36. On the bottom of flip flops. The imprint they make on the beach…until the tide comes in.
  37. On coffee cups from your local coffee shop. Plenty of advertising opportunities here.
  38. 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.
  39. On a ball field. Have you seen what the groundskeepers can mow into the outfield these days? They’re artists!
  40. On a human billboard. Think “Eat at Joes.”
  41. As wrapping paper. One company is already customizing this with unique videos attached to QR codes.
  42. On trade show booths. Scan a picture, (be entered to) win a free iPod.
  43. On recipes in magazines. Quick link to videos, reviews and feedback at the website.
  44. For self-guided tours at factories. Scan a code, learn what that dohickey does.
  45. Posted on car windows in dealerships. Perfect for after-hour shoppers.
  46. 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.
  47. On movie posters. QR code takes them to a preview of the movie.
  48. 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.
  49. In TV ads to make them interactive. Here’s an exampe from AXA.
  50. Business cards. ‘Nuff said.

I’m sure this is just the beginning. If you’ve got a great idea for a QR code for marketing or communications, or if you’ve seen something in the wild, please feel free to share it below.

Some resources used for this list:

Rich Brooks
50 is a lot

Photo credit: CogDogBlog

45 Responses to “50–Count ‘Em, 50!–Creative Uses of QR Codes”

  1. Stevewckrt

    Thanks for the marketing inspiration!
    MCAads.com is a service provider that helps to make the advertising process easier. They offer numerous solutions for all advertising needs. Are able to help in running statewide newspaper advertising campaigns, they are experienced in their business. Not only can they help with statewide exposure, but they have vast experience in placing nationwide newspaper advertising pieces.

  2. Julie Bavington

    Great ideas! Speaking of captive audiences: Public transit, the backs of movie theater seats, the “bug” corner during tv shows of a target audience, indoor play areas (sports info, local dining info, heck-location of the nearest loo!).

  3. Heather DeSimone

    This is really catching on in the crafts industry. We carry a few items whose suppliers have added QR codes to their packaging. Most of them will link, when scanned, to the brand’s website where they’ll have specifically targeted use ideas or free ideas how to use that product.

  4. emma

    “On wedding invitations instead of RSVP cards. Scan a QR, save a tree. And a stamp.” – A to the MAZING!

    I’m an online marketing manager and have used QR codes as part of an off-line to online strategy but I totally forgot all about this when planing my own wedding this year! Goes to show you can be totally up to date on things but still need inspiration for innovative application. Thanks

  5. YouScan.me


    we believe that QR codes will make the connection between offline and online worlds easier. That’s why we created our QR code generator with social features – YouScan.me – http://www.youscan.me. You can add all your info like Facebook profile or fan page, twitter, youtube, etc. and connect with others.


  6. Tyler Coffin

    2011 is going to be the year of the QR Code for marketers. Next time you create a QR Code, try http://www.SocialQRCode.com. It is designed for businesses to generate QR Codes and mobile landing pages for their businesses social properties. Create a landing page with a Facebook “Like” button or Twitter “Follow” button. Users can also create a mobile coupon that is sharable on Facebook and Twitter!

  7. JoshuaStrebel

    We used a QR code on these pedicab ads at sxsw http://www.flickr.com/photos/obuweb/5530787053/ While overall we consider it a huge success (lots of media/influencer mentions and solid branding reinforcement)…. perhaps the mobile (it has wheels) medium just made it hard for peeps to snap the code with a smart phone. The QR code did not get much play, but the overall the ad buy worked.

  8. Andy

    One of the best qualities about QR Codes is how creative you be about where they can go. We put a QR codes on cookies that our clients can scan and enjoy! Check out what we’re doing at PRONTO! mobile ( http://www.prontomm.com). – Andy Lynn

  9. iexposure

    I personally love QR codes – I’ve been recommending them and using them like crazy for some time. While job hunting, I had them on my business card, linking to a google doc of my resume, and my LinkedIn profile.

    I also had a friend of mine who was making a photography portfolio to send out to companies, and I had him throw some QR codes on the pages linking to his website, his flickr profile, and his photography resume – all with analytics, of course.

    One thing I seem to notice is that a lot of people using QR codes in print ads are making them way too tiny, so that they are very difficult for some phones to read.

    Dig the article, and congrats on the CNN connection!

  10. barga

    Can you get QR codes in color? That is to say can you place a QR code at the bottom of your beautifully designed magazine display ad in anything other than Black and white? (and will a smart phone still read it?)

  11. therichbrooks

    Yes, you can do them in any color. We’ve done them in multiple colors. However, you should always test your QR codes before printing a run of 5,000!

  12. Junk

    Yes, you’ll want to keep good contrast between code color and background color.

  13. John Reynolds

    Any local food producer will know the importance of working
    with the buyers and adding value.  A
    Devon company is proving with a little lateral thinking you can educate diners
    in a restaurant.  So how does it work?


    Like any TV programme you need an interested audience.  Then you need to engage them with information
    they will find of interest and value. 
    For the Really Interesting Crab Company in Brixham Devon their audience
    are restaurant diners with an interest in the food they are about to
    consume.  So how do you get them to watch
    your TV programme in a restaurant?  You bump
    into the market leading company in QR code promotion http://www.scanandgo.co.uk and use a box of dots
    of course…

    Watch here – http://tinyurl.com/4xgcehn

  14. Brewer Michelle

    I was notified of this technology by a real estate photographer when he heard about my logo business (www.michellejbrewer.com) and then I read it about the same day in Entrepreneur Magazine while I waited for my car’s inspection.  I told the mechanic I was stealing his magazine because he costs so much… I definitely got the better end of that deal!

    Thanks a ton for the information!

  15. Bradley Howard

    QR codes are worthwhile when you want to deep link into a website (e.g. the specific bottle of wine, restaurant dish information, clothes, house information, etc.). If you just want to promote the brand name, just use the human readable address.

  16. Benjamin Eye

    As our company’s internal communicator, I have been finding QR codes extremely useful for our young, on-the-go workforce. With email readership of company communications not nearly effective as with previous generations, I have seen huge spikes in engagement by posting QR codes in our break rooms.

  17. Paolo

    Hi ,I’ve recently put online an experimental “Service” using QR Codes, called “Identity” (t.m.) that lets you have a sort of “Virtual Business Card” to share with others, entering a (future, I hope…) Community where to save favourites scanned contacts and products, sharing ratings on products.I’d be glad if you could try it, writing me your opinions…
    Hoping somebody will try it, you can find more info about the service here:

  18. Linh

    With the growing number of smart phones, it appears they are become necessities. Smart phones makes the process of scanning QR codes seamless. It is a big reason why we at http://www.mobosurvey.com have integrated or services to support QR codes.

  19. Anonymous

    On the back of a tractor-trailer? What kind of an idea is that? I’m not sure promoting using cellphones while they drive is a good idea. We want to promote safe driving, do we not?

    Anyways, thanks for the other 49 ideas. I want to make a business card with a QR code, but don’t want it to just direct to my website, and I think I have an idea now.

  20. Freedomdave

    If anyone is interested I created a board game that uses QR codes to take you through a virtual prison. bit.ly/prisonganggame

  21. MJ Cranmore

    Check out VizConnect…. I make videos and frequently have to post my videos on YouTube to connect to the QR – BUT it’s nice to have the videos away from YouTube. You never know what video tags will come up after your video stops playing! I have had many cl

  22. MJ Cranmore

    opps…not finished! I have had many clients concerned that a competitor would show up as a recommendation from YouTube at the end of our video. VizConnect is fully contained…no muss, no fuss. LOVE them!!

  23. VaniaManiaK

    DVD covers to get the trailer or Website to get more info than just cover.

  24. Carol Brower

    QrR codes with colr and imbedded artwork are called QirC stands for Quirky Codes.  I suggest looking at the Mac’y star as a great example

  25. Carol Brower

    iMenuToGofla provides branded QR codes to restaurants (or any menu driven businessh that draws customers to them directly instead of to a locator service wgere the consumer is given a choice of restaurants.  The customer can get a map and location, view menu items, order for take out – delivery or dine in, make reservations, make comments on their experience, the options are endless.  The business owner gets an extensive back office, builds a marketable data base, and can provide cutting edge service.  This is a viable option for fine dining, take out restaurants, and even food trucks.  Check it out!