Rebirth of the QR Code and Why it Makes Sense for Your Brand

By: Kat Richards

Read Time: 5 Minutes

Back in 2002, quick response (QR) codes were the new tech, helping brands streamline product packaging for manufacturing lines and store purchases. Unfortunately, the lack of overall adoption led to their quick death. Little did anyone know, this technology would be revived and embraced years later, thanks to COVID-19. In this article, we will explore why QR codes are back, how brands are using them today and new ways marketers can use QR codes in the future.


Why QR codes are making a comeback

A key benefit to QR codes is tying digital and physical worlds together, making it more seamless and immediate for consumers. However, back during their early days, they just never caught on. “In 2012, INC Magazine stated that 97% of consumers didn’t know what a QR code was.” Fast forward to modern day and we’ve seen a huge growth of QR code interactions, growing “by 94% between 2018 and 2020.”

This rise in adoption of QR codes hit a peak during COVID-19 because of their ease and contactless benefits. It allowed companies to expand the usage to menus, and of course, expand payment options. It even created a seamless consumer experience for gathering real-time feedback after a service or experience like vaccination surveys. But now that adoption has reached such a high point, how can brands leverage QR codes moving forward?


QR codes in advertising and marketing

With modern camera integrated scanning across every major smart phone, QR codes are simply more intuitive to use than in 2002. With their newfound ease of use, QR codes can:

  • Provide an easy access point for users to utilize on-demand when they’re intent to learn more.
  • Be a great way to keep trackable data for marketers to gather insights to capture leads. (Source)
  • Offer personalization through location-based codes.
  • Act as a gateway to open the door to AR experiences.


How to use QR codes in marketing post-COVID-19:

We have to think about QR codes as an extension of the experience and the story we’re telling our consumers. Here are three impactful ways to use QR codes in marketing post-COVID-19:


To inform

Especially in education, tourism and retail spaces, consumers want context. QR codes can be used on tour guides in parks via mobile experiences and geolocated prompts. It can also enhance education in schools and in museums next to specific pieces by storytelling. And lastly, providing context in aisles of stores to see reviews of products or even “how-to” videos. This allows marketers to use QR codes to upsell and cross-sell in the moment.

To entertain

Physical ads and videos could be enhanced through QR codes during the commute in elevators, trains or even bus stops to bring an ad to life. Digital commercials could provide the rest of the story for users via QR codes to intrigue further engagement. Tradeshows and conferences could also offer swag and downloadable content using this technology. We’ve also seen QR codes used to bring packaging to life with Snoop Dogg’s wine and Furphy’s ‘Unbelievable’ brand, where it blurs the QR and camera AR closer together.

To use a service/product

QR codes help bring print catalog mailers to life by allowing users to easily shop deals. It also provides a secure way to pay that’s contactless, especially after COVID-19. Tech like this is already used in Amazon Go with walk out checkout and Walmart and Target with self-service kiosks. Ikea also offers the ability to scan an item and at the end of your trip, you can pick up everything at the warehouse. Japan, amongst other places, uses QR codes to shop for groceries while you wait for a train and have the items delivered to your home the same day. QR codes could also be used as a way for luxury brands to scan for authentication or to streamline outdated processes like DMVs or car shopping experiences.


Future of QR codes

As we explore ways to incorporate QR codes into our marketing, we must also be prepared for the impending changes this technology will go through. QR codes already help with homework, offer translation and the ability to shop items via a photo. Imagine if QR codes are more simplified in the future, where only a portion of the image is needed, or it can be embedded into a photo or a logo. The opportunity for marketers to truly bring an experience to life with QR codes is endless, especially if tapped into AR. And only time will tell where QR codes can truly go.

If you’re looking to explore different ways to engage your audience, we’re here to help. See how we created a top-of-mind experience by encouraging people to discover Montana. We prompted users to search through media and print to learn more about Montana adventures they could explore. We also have experience tying complex features from print and social to digital experiences for consumers for our Yamaha Outboards client.


Hoffman York is an integrated advertising agency with a focus on holistic experiences that are easy and engaging for our consumers. By understanding the end-to-end customer journey through research, we can help pinpoint what touchpoints best reach your audience through channels like QR codes and even voice search. Email [email protected] to discuss how HY can help your brand succeed or click here to see a gallery of our past work.


Kat Richards, Consumer Experience Manager About the Author:

As the CX (Consumer Experience) Manager at Hoffman York, Kat Richards provides well-rounded strategies and educated recommendations through qualitative and quantitative data. She specializes in improving experiences through validated learnings with users, as well as aligning agreement with stakeholders to truly enhance a brand. Kat thrives in finding clarity in chaos and communicating effectively to others, utilizing her skills within brand and experience strategy.

With almost 10 years of experience, Kat has generated delight and engagement for brands across a variety of B2C and B2B accounts including Wisconsin Dells, Microsoft, Lowes, PBS News, NFL, Wahl Global, Yamaha Outboards, Wisconsin Lottery, Montana Tourism, Rexnord, Clearon Corp and Aspen Fuel.


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