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The best and worst uses of coupon QR codes

The best and worst uses of coupon QR codes Brittany Bentz

Below are nine coupon circulars that contain QR codes evaluated and ranked based on the following four categories: appearance, incentive to scan, where the code leads, and overall execution.

These evaluations have been critiqued according to criteria found in the video "QR Codes: The 5 Most Important Things to Make Your QR Code A Success" by Bob Bentz, CEO of Advanced Telecom Services. According to the video, these five elements will guarantee a great QR code campaign:

  • Tell the consumer what she will get if they scan the code

  • Assume this is the consumer's first time scanning (this is no longer as important as it used to be)

  • Include a text message call-to-action as well as a keyword to text (to a short code) in case the consumer does not have a smartphone: Text message marketing allows you to reach 82 percent of consumers

  • If you are directing the consumer to your website, make sure it is mobile friendly

  • Custom QR codes are scanned 2.3 times more than regular black and white ones

Kool-Aid/Crystal Light/Country Time/Rubbermaid

Appearance: 5
Although this QR code is decently sized, it is very plain in black and white.

Incentive to scan: 9
By offering consumers a sweepstakes to enter by scanning, they are well informed of where the code is going to take them and what they will receive from scanning. Also, patrons are going to be more likely to scan the code knowing they have a chance to win a $2,500 prize.

Where the code leads: 10
After scanning the code, you are led to an easy-to-use mobile-friendly website that allows you to sign up for the sweepstakes. The form is very simple to fill out and submit.

Overall execution: 8
Overall, the company relied too heavily on the sweepstakes for incentive to scan its code. It should have included a more interesting QR code to inspire consumers to scan rather than just a plain black and white one. Besides this flaw, the overall execution was very well done.


Appearance: 8
As mentioned above, custom QR codes are scanned 2.3 times more than regular QR codes. In this Energizer ad, the QR code is not exactly customized, but it is colorful. The color is way more appealing to, and the code is also a decent size, making it easy to scan and see.

Incentive to scan: 6
Under the QR code it reads, "Scan here to learn more!" That really does not tell me much about what I am going to see if I scan the code, but that statement is better to include than nothing at all. Similarly, there probably aren't very many people in the world dying to learn more about batteries. Instead, the company could have included a contest or sweepstakes to encourage consumers to scan the QR code.

Where the code leads: 7
Although learning more about batteries may not be the most interesting thing to most people, the QR code leads patrons to a mobile-friendly browser. The browser includes many entertaining items like a video, product reviews, and other available products.

Overall execution: 7
The QR code is appealing to the eye and consumers will be attracted to its color. In contrast, customers may not be thrilled to learn more about batteries. The code leads you to something exciting like a video, but everything else presented is somewhat mundane.


Appearance: 6
Although the company presents a plain black and white code, it is able to spice it up with the spotlight-like background as well as the fun lettering below it.

Incentive to scan: 6
The company invites you to "Join the Sir Can-A-Lot Crusade" by scanning the code or visiting its website. Most people probably are not familiar with the "Sir Can-A-Lot Crusade," so this may not be the best tactic to use without explanation.

Where the code leads: 8
After scanning the code and wondering what this crusade is all about, you are brought to a video of Sir Can-A-Lot. He personally invites all viewers to join him in his crusade. This is a very entertaining tactic to use to engage customers.

Overall execution: 7
Overall the execution of this QR code was a little above average. If the company could have provided its readers with a little blurb about what the crusade entailed, the QR code would be more effective. Additionally, if the QR code was customized or even colored, it would feature a more successful campaign.

Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce

Appearance: 2
This QR code is not only black and white, but also extremely small.

Incentive to scan: 7
This advertisement features a QR code inviting you to scan it "For the latest recipes, chatter, and the occasional coupon." This is a very effective incentive -- except the word "occasional." Although companies may offer a coupon only occasionally, customers will be turned off by the word, thinking it is a waste of their time to scan the code to receive a coupon only every once in awhile.

Where the code leads: 8
After scanning the code, the consumer is led to its Facebook site. This is a very good tactic to use via mobile because then patrons are easily able to "like" the company right from their mobile device. This is especially effective now that Facebook is being accessed more from mobile devices than from computers.

Overall execution: 6
Overall, Sweet Baby Ray's used great tactics to promote its QR code. The only thing that set it back is the small and boring QR code: Had its code been customized or colored, the coupon would have seen more participation.

White Castle

Appearance: 4
Here we are shown what is referred to as a "Naked QR Code." This means it is just a black and white code with no instructions on where scanning it will take you. Apart from being "naked," the QR code is decently sized and easy to scan.

Incentive to scan: 2
This QR code does not inform the reader on where they will be taken if they scan the QR code. The consumer may imply from the advertisement that it will take them to CraverNation.com, but they cannot be positive about that assumption.

Where the code leads: 9
After scanning the QR code, you are led to mobile-friendly site, CraverNation.com. Here the consumer is able to sign up to receive coupons and enter contests to win prizes like concert tickets.

Overall execution: 5
White Castle definitely has a fun and mobile-friendly website to provide to its consumers, but it failed in promoting it the correct way with the "naked" QR code. The company should have given it a fun appearance and included a few words to allow readers to know where the QR code is going to lead them.


Appearance: 4
The appearance is much like the other QR codes featured -- black and white. It is a good size for scanning, though.

Incentive to scan: 6
Here, the consumer is not exactly sure what they are getting by scanning this QR code. It looks like they might be receiving the coupon via mobile. There are no instructions or information letting the customer know what they will receive if they scan.

Where the code leads: 5
The QR code leads to the site via mobile and applies the 15 percent off coupon to your online account. Although this could be a good idea, most people are not shopping for perfume via mobile. Many shoppers find it easier to enter their credit card information from the comfort of their own home on their own computer.

Overall execution: 5
Overall, this execution is not terrible. Carrying coupons around in your wallet can be a pain, so scanning a QR code to receive a coupon is a good idea. After scanning, the QR code coupon is automatically inputted into the mobile shop. Many consumers will not be purchasing fragrances via mobile.

Mrs. Dash

Appearance: 3
This QR code is plain -- black and white -- and a little too small for readers to see.

Incentive to scan: 4
The incentive to scan is to receive a recipe. That is a great tactic to use in the food industry, but not when the recipe is written on the paper right next to the QR code.

Where the code leads: 4
As mentioned earlier, the QR code leads to a recipe already written on the paper. No one is going to scan the code to get a recipe they already have in their possession. In addition, on the opposite side, Mrs. Dash is offering a free sample packet of seasoning when consumers "like" its business on Facebook. Here, the best use of the QR code would be to offer the free sample and have the code lead consumers to the company's Facebook page so they can "like" them immediately.

Overall execution: 4
Overall, this QR code execution was pretty poor. Mrs. Dash had the right idea by using recipes to increase scans, but not while the recipe is already given to the customer. In addition, it was also on the right track by offering a free sample to "like" the company on Facebook in order to increase its social media presence. In order to promote this, it should have let the QR code lead consumers to its Facebook page to make "liking" the company an easier and more readily available task to customers.

Snyder's of Hanover

Appearance: 3
The appearance here is very similar to the Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce: It is very small and black and white. These QR codes are usually the least effective among advertising.

Incentive to scan: 9
On the other hand, the incentive to scan is very well done. Here, the company is promoting a chance to win an outdoor patio makeover. The instructions read, "Scan QR code to enter."

Where the code leads: 0
Unfortunately, after promoting a chance to win a backyard makeover, the QR code leads readers to a different site: Snyder's website, which is not where consumers can sign up for their sweepstakes. The QR code now becomes completely obsolete.

Overall execution: 4
Overall, Snyder had the right idea by promoting the use of its QR code through a sweepstakes. It failed to provide the correct link from the QR code, which is going to lessen participation by a great deal. The QR code should have been more colorful and exciting to look at.


Appearance: 4
This is the perfect example of a "naked" QR code: A black and white code where the consumer is given no insight as to what it will do or where it will lead. The size is easily readable.

Incentive to scan: 0
There is absolutely no incentive to scan this QR code. It is literally floating in the middle of the page and has given the consumer zero information as to its purpose.

Where the code leads: 2
After scanning, the code leads the consumer to Maruchan's website. Usually, it is not effective to lead customers to your home page: They want to feel wanted, appreciated, and special. Take consumers to a unique page that lets them know you care. In addition, the company's site is not mobile friendly.

Overall execution: 2
The overall execution of this QR code was terrible. The code itself is not appealing at all to the reader and they have no idea where scanning it will take them. In addition, once the code is scanned, you are led to a hard-to-navigate website via mobile. It looks like the company got a QR code made to lead people to its homepage and just stuck it in a random corner in its advertisement. This is every example of what not to do with a QR code.

With the use of QR codes on the rise, it is quite obvious that many vendors have not yet gotten it right. One key aspect to the QR code that seems to be missing is interactive text messaging. Only about 50 percent of consumers have smartphones that contain the ability to scan QR codes – so what about the other 50 percent? Allow all of your consumers to participate by creating a keyword to text message to a short code via mobile in order to receive the same offers as presented in the QR code.

Brittany Bentz is a marketer at Advanced Telecom Services.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Brittany Bentz works in the marketing department at Advanced Telecom Services, a Philadelphia-based telecommunications and mobile marketing company that specializes in custom QR codes, IVR, text message marketing, mobile websites, and more. ...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Ben Acheson

2012, September 13

QR Codes are not engaging. They're impersonal and techie. The next generation is already here in the shape of URLs embedded invisibly within images. Images can be quite compelling in their own right and people are much more likely to respond to them.