Big Brands Prove the Effectiveness of QR Codes

QR codes

QR codes, those little square bar codes you can scan with your phone, have been getting mixed reviews. Like any marketing medium, QR codes have to be applied properly to the right customer base to be effective. When put in front of the right customers, they can be powerful tools that drive new customers to your site and create an opportunity for you to engage with the ideal customer. However, some businesses are not quite seeing the results they were expecting from their QR codes, and it seems that they have given up on this handy technology rather than following effective techniques used by the big brands.

The use of QR codes is growing rapidly, particularly in Japan and North Korea, and not just for marketing purposes. Several big international brands are continuing to incorporate QR codes into their marketing as well. The differences between those businesses that find success with QR codes and those whose use of this technology fails are the techniques being employed. Check out what has worked for the following big brands and how they were able to make QR codes work for them.

Tesco Korea

One of the most innovative examples of QR code use was put on display by Tesco grocery. Tesco (known in North Korea as Home Plus) decided that they wanted to become the new number one grocery store of North Korea. However, they wanted to accomplish this without increasing their number of stores. They set out to do this by creating virtual markets in subway stations. They put up large screens of all their produce, which included a QR code for each product. Users would scan the product, do their shopping on the go, submit this list electronically, and have their groceries delivered to their homes that day. Tesco users increased by 76% and online sales increased by 130%.

Tesco also applied QR codes to all their products within the store. This allowed consumers to scan an item and find more information about that particular grocery item and in many cases, add it to their shopping cart!

Taco Bell and Mountain Dew

Mountain Dew

Recently, Taco Bell and Mountain Dew teamed up to execute a QR campaign. Their idea? They had customers scan the QR code on drinks to earn a free music download. Whenever a new customer would purchase a drink, he/she had the opportunity to convert that drink into a prize. The result of their niche marketing campaign (they know their customer base is mainly comprised of the 15-25 age group) turned into over 200,000 downloads and untold increased customer engagement.



Verizon has also jumped into the QR mayhem. They had a market campaign which involved in-store users scanning the code and uploading it to Facebook. Then, if one of their friends scanned that code and used it to buy a Verizon mobile phone, the user who first captured the QR code and posted to Facebook won a smartphone. Verizon saw a sales increase of 200%. Additionally, they earned themselves Facebook brand awareness. Over 25,000 new Facebook profiles sported the Verizon brand name.



Heineken decided to turn a music festival into an opportunity to market with QR codes. Their idea was to create a QR code that would be fun, interactive, and encourage people to mix, mingle and make friends. Their creation: the U-Code. The U-Code is a QR code that you put on your body. Each person’s U-Code tells a secret message about that person.

Many people chose funny, some weird, and some just downright silly messages. Heineken set up a site on scene for people to come and create their own. During the course of the festival, they printed over 5,000 of the U-Code stickers. This not only piqued some 5,000 people’s interest in the stickers and Heineken during the festival, but also got a hook into social media through people’s tweets about U-Code and Facebook activity. Heineken’s “Open Your World” slogan became a reality.

So What Works?

It all boils down to how you use QR codes to create engagement with your audience. They work especially well in tandem with social media, as was borne out in such case studies as Verizon and Heineken, even though Heineken wasn’t through a traditional social media platform like Facebook. Looking at Tesco, we see that using a QR code to help consumers save time to make purchases also works well. And Verizon found success with giving away free gifts – awesome free gifts.

Therefore, if you decide to use QR codes in conjunction with your products or marketing, make sure that these codes do more than just lead consumers to your website. Give them a free gift in exchange for word-of-mouth marketing – one that really is worth their effort. Create a fun event, provide a helpful service, offer discounts, or anything else that makes it worth someone’s time to scan and view the destination of your QR code. Think of QR codes as bonus technology that supports a marketing ploy that would already get customers involved without the code. This way you will be much more likely to use QR codes the right way for your business purposes.

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