QR Codes Are Making A Comeback

Quiz: How Many Things Can QR Codes Do?

If you were asked to come up with a list of ways that QR codes can be used in marketing, how many could you list? Could you come up with at least 10? As QR codes see a resurgence, being driven by everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to USPS postal promotions, it’s time to take stock of how they are being used, as well as the opportunities that are being missed.   By Heidi Tolliver-Walker Published: May 12, 2021

I don’t get to gloat a lot, so please indulge me. Gloat, gloat, gloat. I feel better. For years, I’ve written about QR codes and the value they bring to direct marketing. Every time I do, the comments start piling in. Then I get to sit back and enjoy the roast. “Why do you keep writing about QR codes anyway?” “Nobody uses them—nobody will ever use them.” “They are passé.” “Nobody cares!”


  • I see more QR codes popping up on more types of marketing collateral, signage, and packaging than ever before.
  • These “seemingly everywhere” QR codes lead to more relevant and valuable content than they used to.
  • These QR codes are also readable natively, on nearly every phone, and when I scan them, the links aren’t broken as often.

After 20 years, marketers are starting to get the hang of it. But I’m not sure it’s just the passage of time.

In December, I covered a poll that shows that QR code use is being driven, in part, by the COVID-19 pandemic. Then there are the incentives for QR code use by the United States Postal Service, which offers a 2% discount on multichannel mail (including a specific mention of pieces that use QR codes) used for advertising purposes. Then there is the native capability of today’s phones to recognize QR codes and take viewers directly to content without requiring them to launch a third-party app.

I’d like to believe that my bullish support for QR codes has helped to spur the “resurgence” of these tools (a term I put in quotes because I’m not sure they were ever dying), but there have been factors far larger than my influence at play. Indeed, Who’s Mailing What!, a searchable database of both national and local direct mail campaigns, has recorded an increase in QR code use and has included these boxy gems as the second on their list of direct mailing trends for 2021.

Now, as QR codes are getting the attention they deserve, I’m curious to see if the way they are used will expand, as well. In the marketing world, QR codes are still overwhelmingly used to take viewers to mobile landing pages, where they can view content ranging from web pages to online videos. That’s great, but they can do far more. As I outline in a “QR code 101” white paper, “The Resurgence of QR Codes: Don’t Miss the Opportunity,” a brandable marketing resource for printers offered by Great Reach Communications, there is so much that QR codes can do that we never talk about. Even as I was writing the copy, I marveled how many of these uses I, myself, had forgotten about.

How about you? Before continuing to read this post, take stock for a moment. Could you list 10 uses for QR codes beyond just going to a web page? Seriously. Before answering, stop for a moment and try it. Take out a sheet of paper and write down how many uses for QR codes beyond going to a web page or mobile video that you can come up with. Done? OK, now keep reading.

10 Uses for QR Codes You Might Not Have Thought About

  • Add a contact listing
  • Make a phone call
  • Send a text
  • Write an email
  • Make a payment
  • Watch a video
  • Download an app
  • Create a calendar event
  • Follow social media accounts
  • Add a preferred WIFI network

How many did you miss? This list is not exhaustive, but the point is that there are far more uses than are being tapped right now. Unmined gold.

So as QR codes make a resurgence, let’s do as the title of the white paper said, “Embrace the opportunity.” Take the time to look beyond the most common usage and see how else QR codes might be used to reach your marketing or campaign goals or those of your clients. If you’re a PSP, take the time to educate your customers about them, too. Your customers will get excited about them if you do.

Remember, using QR code is free, so there’s no reason not to freethink a little.

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