Scan, Connect, Engage: The Power of QR Codes in Advertising

While QR codes have been around for almost 30 years, their adoption was rapidly accelerated during the pandemic. Today, you can find QR codes nearly everywhere, from menus to assembly instructions to TV advertising.   

This widespread usage caught the attention of marketers who recognize the transformative impact QR codes have on advertising, particularly TV advertising. By integrating QR codes into commercials, brands tap into a new realm of interactive and measurable advertising. This both enhances viewer engagement and provides valuable data insights, revolutionizing the way TV advertising connects with audiences.  


Introduction to QR Codes 

A Brief History of QR Codes 

QR codes, or Quick Response Codes, were originally invented in 1994 by the Japanese company Denso Wave to track automotive parts. Since their creation, QR codes have evolved into a versatile tool for information sharing and advertising in the physical and digital world. 

What are QR Codes? 

QR codes are matrix barcodes that use black and white squares to store data both horizontally and vertically. They can direct users to websites, videos, contact information, and more when scanned with a smartphone. 

How to Scan a QR Code 

Scanning a QR code is straightforward with most modern smartphones. In the past, scanning a QR code required an additional app to download, but now, it's automatic. To scan, just open the camera, point it at the QR code, and a notification will appear within your camera app, directing you to a link with the encoded information. 



QR Codes Today

Who uses QR codes?

Today, people of all ages use QR codes, and they use them regularly. More than half of people ages 18-59 scan a QR code at least once a week, while more than half of people aged 60+ scan a QR code at least once a month.   

Research shows there is a generally positive sentiment towards QR codes because of their convenience and ease of use. However, comfort level varies across age groups. Users aged 60+ tend to be less confident using QR than those who are younger than 60. 

When will users scan a QR code?

Because users are comfortable using QR codes (87% of people are moderately or very confident in their ability to scan a QR code), they are more likely to scan when the reason to scan is compelling. From our research, we know users will not scan a QR code just for the sake of scanning. They must want what the scan is offering. However, what a user is willing to scan for changes by age. 

Primary drivers of QR code scans for users aged 60+: 

Access to product or business information  
Offers or discounts 

Primary Drivers of QR code scans for users younger than 60: 

Access to product or business information  
Offers or discounts 
Looking at menus 
App downloads 

The use cases for QR codes are plentiful. Looking at reasons to scan, 67% of users are very likely or extremely likely to scan a QR code to learn more about a product or brand and 55% of users are very likely or extremely likely to scan a QR code to make a purchase. However, these percentages are lower for users aged 60+.   


QR Codes Best Practices 

Driving Someone to Scan a QR Code

When utilizing QR codes in advertising, the goal is always to get more scans. To encourage users to scan, you need to offer clear value to the user and establish trust with the user. A QR code must include a call-to-action, a compelling reason to scan, and an expectation of what will happen after a user scans.  


QR Codes in TV Advertising

While not quite mainstream, QR codes have recently appeared on TV more frequently. At Marketing Architects, we use QR codes in our linear TV campaigns and on streaming 

TV is an exciting medium for QR codes because of the control and flexibility you have over the destination. Plus, as one of the most trusted marketing channels, TV is an environment where people feel comfortable scanning QR codes. 67% of people say they’ll engage with a QR code displayed during a TV commercial if it resonates with their interests. On the other hand, people are more hesitant to scan QR codes within a Facebook ad because they feel distrustful of Facebook’s vetting procedures. 

For utilizing QR codes most effectively in TV advertising, ensure the code is visible for a sufficient duration, is large enough to be scanned easily, and pair it with a verbal call-to-action. 


QR Code Use in the Future 

As the landscape evolves, the potential to use QR codes in advertising will too.  In the future, we expect to see QR being used more in digital advertising due to its flexibility, ease of use and accessibility.  

At Marketing Architects, we’re excited to continue exploring this old technology in new and innovative ways. To learn more about our research, check out our original QR code research or reach out to find out how we can make TV (and QR codes!) work for your brand.