For anyone who’s seen the movie A Christmas Story, it’s hard to forget Ralphie’s excitement and anticipation as he uses his decoder ring to write out the secret message given on the Little Orphan Annie radio show. Upon discovering the code was nothing more than an advertisement that said, “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine,” his enthusiasm quickly morphed into disappointment.
Much like the secret decoder ring in this movie classic, quick response (QR) codes hold hidden information, and, when scanned, they guide users to the intended treasure, whether it’s a website, a video, or contact details.
Our goal as marketers is to craft a much better experience than poor Ralphie’s.
QR codes are like unique barcodes made up of small black and white squares. You scan them with your smartphone or a QR code reader, and the devices look at the squares and figure out the information they hold. Over the years, the use of these codes has become more and more popular.
According to an article in Business Insider, the number of U.S. smartphone users who scan QR codes will increase to 99.5 million in 2025, up from 83.4 million in 2022. Now, most smartphone cameras recognize QR codes, increasing ease of use and, consequently, adoption.¹
QR codes can be used creatively to enhance marketing campaigns and engage with customers. A recent study showed that 91 percent of U.S. consumers have used a QR code at least once.²
Here are some of the most common ways to use QR codes in marketing:
- Product information and details. QR codes can link directly to product pages, providing customers with in-depth information, specifications, user reviews, and more. This helps customers make informed purchasing decisions. Suppose you have a softener, filter, or other product in your customer’s home. In that case, you can create “contact us” stickers for service with a QR code linking to your “request service” page, and you can even include another QR code linking to the appropriate user manual.
- Coupon and discount offers. QR codes can lead users to exclusive coupon codes or discounts they can redeem online or in brick-and-mortar stores, encouraging purchases. Think about using these coupons in direct mail, in home shows, on billboards, and in marketing collateral.
- Mobile payments. QR codes can facilitate mobile payment options, allowing customers to transact using digital wallets and payment apps. Add them to your monthly invoices and link to online payment for a simplified customer experience.
- Home show or event promotion. QR codes on event posters, in direct mail, or in newspaper inserts can link to information on your home show booth or any other events you’re hosting.
- Contests and giveaways. QR codes can lead users to contest entry forms or giveaway pages, encouraging participation and interaction with the brand. Think about using them during home shows to grow your email list, generate leads, and engage new and existing customers.
- Social media engagement. QR codes can link to social media profiles, making it easy for users to follow, like, or share content on various platforms.
- Email signups. QR codes can be used to quickly subscribe to newsletters or mailing lists, allowing brands to build their email marketing lists. Think about adding QR codes to your printed invoices to go paperless and get your customers engaged through email marketing.
- Video content. QR codes can direct users to videos, such as product information, tutorials, or how-to content, such as for changing filters or bypassing a softener. In doing so, you can enhance engagement and understanding.
- Feedback and surveys. QR codes can link to feedback forms or surveys, enabling customers to share their opinions and insight. Consider using QR codes on thank-you cards sent after service to get feedback and request reviews through Google or Facebook.
- Location information. QR codes on business cards, flyers, or websites can lead users to maps or navigation apps for easy directions to a physical location.
- Interactive print ads. QR codes on print ads can extend engagement by leading users to interactive content such as games, quizzes, or immersive experiences.
- Charitable donations. QR codes can facilitate quick and secure donations to charitable causes.
Data tracking is the cornerstone of successful marketing efforts. For big and small companies alike, the digitization of the marketplace has opened the door to using data to inform, optimize, and even forecast marketing campaigns more effectively and simply than ever before.
QR codes are an excellent way to track your marketing efforts. Just be sure to use a platform that allows you to track the analytics of your QR codes so you can use the data to know what’s working and what’s not.
QR codes are easy to create, inexpensive, and simple to use, making them an excellent option for offline marketing and customer engagement. There are two primary types of QR codes:
- Static QR codes. These contain fixed information that doesn’t change once the QR code is created. For instance, if a static QR code contains a website URL, that URL will always be the same when the QR code is scanned.
- Dynamic QR codes. These allow you to change the content or destination to which the QR code points even after it has been generated. The destination URL or information can be updated without needing to generate a new QR code. This can be useful for marketing campaigns, events, and situations where you might want to redirect users to different content or update information without replacing the physical QR code. Dynamic QR codes are managed through QR code generator platforms that provide control over the linked content. This offers more flexibility for marketing strategies and allows for adjustments without reprinting or redistributing new QR codes.
A few examples of QR code generator platforms include:
- QR Code Generator. This is a straightforward online tool that lets you create QR codes for URLs, text, contact information, and more. It’s easy to use and provides basic features for generating QR codes quickly.
- QRStuff. This platform offers a range of QR code options, including QR codes for website URLs, social media profiles, electronic business card information, and more. It also has features such as QR code analytics and dynamic QR codes.
- Shortqr.com. Dynamic short links, dynamic codes, custom branding, and custom domains are all features that make this platform a great choice.
QR codes have taken us to a modern era of interactive marketing. Just like Ralphie’s curiosity led him to use his decoder ring in A Christmas Story, customers are intrigued by the hidden possibilities within QR codes. These codes have turned simple black and white squares into bridges between the physical and digital worlds.
- “US QR Code Usage Statistics (2019-2025).” Business Insider, 20 Jul. 2022, www.businessinsider.com/us-qr-code-user-statistics. Accessed 22 Aug. 2023.
- “Essential QR Code Statistics In 2023.” Zipdo, 4 Jul. 2023, zipdo.co/statistics/qr-code/#read. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.
About the author
Amanda Crangle and the team at Lamplight Digital Media help residential and commercial water-treatment companies profitably grow their dealerships using digital marketing. They have worked with over 100 water-treatment dealerships spanning North America, managed millions of dollars in ad spend, and performed over 1,000 scientific website split tests. Crangle intimately knows the water industry, having worked in a dealership as a sales rep and as a general manager.