Using QR codes in marketing campaigns: the ultimate guide

Digital Strategy Marketing Theory Article
20 mins

What are quick response codes?

QR codes are a matrix barcode that is quickly readable (hence the name QR) by a mobile. They are known for providing a user’s device with a large variety of information almost immediately after scanning the code with their camera and have a wide range of uses across all different types of industries.

The codes are a great way of bridging the gap between offline and online marketing and can store data such as website URLs, phone numbers, apps, images, videos, audio, PDFs, vCards, Wi-Fi codes and even bitcoins. I bet you are thinking of all the different ways you want to incorporate quick scan codes into your marketing strategy… so let’s take a look at the benefits.

Why use QR codes?

There are numerous benefits to using quick response codes within your print, out of home and direct marketing. Most phone’s cameras can now scan quick response codes without having to download a QR code reader, meaning that they are accessible to everyone who carries around a smart phone (pretty much everyone!)

QR codes are desirable for their speed and they enable your customers to perform actions straight away after scanning your code. No more having to type in long web address URLs or look up further information. When used properly they are a content marketer’s dream as they can be linked to any digital media.

Social media platforms have been using QR codes to allow users to connect with others a lot quicker by scanning their QR code. Check out LinkedIn’s example below and connect with me!

QR codes embed data. The more characters there are in your link, the more complex the code will be. The code below also takes you to my LinkedIn profile, however, I shortened the URL first using which has resulted in a simpler code. With more complex codes, there is more of a risk that the scanner might have difficulty reading the code should your camera go out of focus.

More QR code benefits

Quick response codes are also trackable, and most generators have an analytics feature which will enable us to see scan results and analyse the return of investment of our offline marketing campaigns. If we are linking to a website landing page, we can use URL shorteners like and UTM parameters to track the amount of website visits and Google Analytics data such as bounce rate and time on page. 

It is important that the customer is satisfied with what they have received after scanning and that it is of value. Therefore, being able to analyse these details will help us determine whether they had a good or bad experience.

QR codes contain an element of error correction. This means it can restore data if the code is partially removed, damaged or dirty up to a certain percentage. When creating your codes, you can choose from four error correction levels up to a protection of 30%. The higher the level of error correction, the more pixels within the code and the more complex your code will appear.

Error correction is also how logos are used within quick response codes. When branding your code, 30% of the data can be removed and replaced with your logo. Clever, right?

Take a look at the error correction options on this free QR Code Generator to see how the code changes!

Another benefit to using QR codes is excitement. Many consumers will feel an impulse to scan them as there is some mystery about what will appear.

QR code campaigns are inexpensive and easy to implement. There are many free online tools that allow you to generate your own marketing QR codes. They can hold such a diverse range of data that they can be used by any industry.

How to create QR codes

Making these codes is really simple and there are plenty of online QR code generators to help.

My favourite is The QR Code Generator which allows you to create free codes for pretty much any data you can think of. If you upgrade to a paid-for account, you can create branded QR codes that include your logo and make them really stand out on your marketing and print media. 

For example, the QR code below is branded up using the Digital Leadership Programme’s brand colours and logo. This makes it recognisable and helps it stand out. If you scan the code using a mobile, you have the option to connect with us on all of our online channels. This is clearly distinguished in our call to action ‘follow us’, so the user knows what to expect when scanning the code.

Top tips for using QR codes


  • Remember that when you are providing your customers with a QR code to scan they will be accessing this data from a mobile, so you need to make sure that your content is mobile optimised.


  • Although awareness is growing, not everyone is aware of QR codes – use a call to action to make it clear to your customer what they are scanning the code for (and make sure it is of value to the customer!)


  • Don’t overdo it – QR codes can be a ‘moment of delight’ for your customers’ journey, try to avoid using multiple codes at one time as this could become annoying or confusing.


  • Check your content – although QR codes themselves do not expire, it must be frustrating for a customer to scan a code that goes to a broken link or content that is no longer relevant. Make sure to create dynamic codes (rather than static codes) to ensure that you can make updates to your content or web address after implementing your code.


  • Consider your placement – it might be difficult for customers to scan QR codes on moving objects like buses and company cars unless they are parked. Try to focus your use of QR codes on stationary media like posters, direct marketing pieces, walls or shop windows, gift vouchers, tickets and many more.


  • Finally, remember to ensure they are of high resolution.


I hope you’re looking forward to getting creative with QR codes!

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