QR code case studies

Posted on July 11, 2011 9:20 am by | Marketing | Mobile | QR Codes

A Business Insider post last week took QR codes to task, arguing they “can be confusing and can waste time. And as mobile technology progresses, they probably aren’t even necessary.”

The post, by former Forbes writer Dan Frommer, listed a variety of issues with QR codes to support the argument that communicators and marketers shouldn’t waste their time with them. Not a single one of those points was supported by statistics or research; it was just personal bias and opinion. I made that point in a tweet, noting that, on the flip side, I’d read a variety of case studies showing that QR codes work just fine.

A few people asked for examples, so I figure it’s worth summarizing some case studies here.

Chevy Volt and Cruze

At the 2010 South by Southwest event, GM showcased its new Cruze and the electric Volt, displaying 15 different QR codes on pre-production models on display. Scanning the codes opened a microsite featuring the car’s attributes. Scanning the code on the Volt’s hood produced information on battery life.

GM estimates that 2% of the people attending SxSW Interactive (about 2,400 people) scanned a QR code and and 8.5% of those scanned the QR codes on multiple cars. Blog posts, tweets and other media content mentioning Chevy’s use of QR codes at SXSW racked up 1,680,230 impressions.

Source: eMarketer

Sir Speedy

On behalf of a customer, the printing franchise developed a QR code campaign to heighten awareness of a condominium building the owner needed occupied as soon as possible. A direct-mail postcard included the QR code, which led to a website containing floor plans, photos and other condo information.

The results don’t separate responses between the QR code and the toll-free phone number, but the campaign produced a 3.2% response rate (148 people) and an 18% sales conversion rate.

Source: Sir Speedy


Letterbox QR Code SweepstakesThis Australian franchise organization included a QR code as part of a contest in its catalogue—entering the contest via QR code made participants eligible to win a laptop.

Twenty-five percent of householders entering the contest did so via the QR code, and 60% of those took the time to download the QR code scanner (the contest included information on how to get one). According to one report, this suggests that not already having a scanner—and the time and trouble required to download one—isn’t a barrier (one of the arguments Frommeer made).

Source: InsQRibe

Mountain Dew, Taco Bell and Frito Lay

Note, Mountain Dew and Frito Lay are PepsiCo companies; PepsiCo is one of my clients for internal communications consulting

Mountain Dew and Taco Bell partnered for a promotion in which customers could scan a QR code on drink cups in order to get free music downloads. By late March, the campaign had generated nearly 200,000 QR code scans.

Source: Anthony Cerreta

George Bowers Grocery

This Virginia specialty food shop displayed a QR code that simplified the Foursquare checkin process—scanning the code took users direcly to the George Bowers checkin. Users were drawn to the display—posted in the downtown Staunton area, at the shop and on Facebook—by the headline, “Welcome to the future!” At the store, users could see demonstrations of how to use the scanner.

The effort resulted in a 302% increase in mobile phone traffic to the store’s website and a 25% increase in monthly Foursquare checkins.

Source: Content Marketing Institute

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

During a performance by OddFuture on Fallon’s late-night talk show, Fallon displayed a QR code. He didn’t reference it or explain it—he just held it while the camera zoomed in on it. It linked to the OddFuture website and a YouTube video embedded there. Users got through through a redirect from a page set up to track analytics from the code.

As of the end of March, the site had been accessed 14,001 times, 99% of those acceses coming from the QR code (as opposed to direct linking to the page). While that’s a negligible number, it strikes me that this was an experiment, given there was no explanation and no instructions. For that many people to scan a code just because they saw it on the screen strikes me as remarkable.

Source: MeshedMedia


It’s all explained—including the results—in this video:

There are hundreds of case studies on how QR codes have been used by companies like Macy’s, Target, Audi and others, but I shared only those I found that included measurable results. I hope more organizations share the outcomes of their efforts.

Quickly, here are Frommer’s objections and my reactions:

  • They’re confusing—I don’t find them confusing but I’m willing to believe some people may. But only once. After you’ve scanned a code one time, you’re completely savvy about how they work.
  • You have to download the app—That’s true, but only once. You also had to download the app to use a video streaming service like Qik, but that didn’t stop people who wanted to use it. Now, Qik comes installed already on a number of phones. I expect the surge in QR code adoption will lead to scanners coming pre-installed on phones.
  • There are better alternatives, like typing a complete URL—Yep, while I’m walking down the street, it’s easier to open a browser and peck out a URL than it is to open a app and scan a code. Seriously?
  • It’s difficult to create and maintain QR codes—This one genuinely befuddles me. One of the key advantages of QR codes is the ease of creation.
  • They won’t work where there’s no Internet connectivity—True, but neither will typing in a URL.

My only objection to QR codes is when they’re used without creativity or inspiration. But I do expect to see them proliferate along with consumer acceptance.

Do you have a QR code case study? Share it!

07/11/11 | 10 Comments | QR code case studies



  • 1.Shel, Great QR Code observations!

    I think the answer to most naysayers objections that it is too complicated to download an app to scan a QR Code is: Angry Birds! No one would be playing Angry Birds if it was too hard to download an app!

    Creativity, Inspiration and best practices truly will help QR Code usage increase!

  • 2.You are absolutely right on! Thanks for this much more balanced and accurate piece.

    Steve Briggs | July 2011 | Boulder, CO

  • 3.Great post and thanks for sharing so many case studies. I'll add just one more: I run marketing for an omnichannel designer, manufacturer and marketer of high-end glassware and pottery for the home. We make all our products here in the United States in three workshops that are open to the public. Our high-touch, hands-on manufacturing approach is unique to our industry and we needed a way to communicate that to customers who shop in one of our 8 stores, or receive our catalog, but can't, or haven't yet, visited one of our workshops. Over the last year, we have slowly added QR codes to signs in our stores and on key pages of our catalogs - putting our unique production process in the hands of our customer, allowing them to watch an artisan make a product that they are considering buying. We've seen customers in the store pause and question what it is, but as you say, once they do it, they get it and they are excited. The codes that are added to our catalogs have seen solid traffic, and yes, even conversions - some codes in catalogs have seen scan through rates of upwards of 5%. The point is: they work, they're cheap and easy and our customer gets it. One final point on QR codes - we recently participated in a charity walk/ride event and on the back of our team shirts we printed a QR code that linked to a video about our participation in the charity event. Yes, it was tough to scan while riding a bike, but the walkers on our team commented that they couldn't walk more than 5 minutes without someone jogging up to them to scan the back of their t-shirt...fun stuff!

    Ross Evans | July 2011 | Vermont

  • 4.hi
    Thnx for this wonderful application insight info .I have read about qr codes,i have got a keen interst in qr codes & i wanna learn things regarding qr codes so that i cud do something related to qr code,pl.guide my wht nxt to do. specially in educational field & personal networking i.e. business card etc, looking forward guidance.
    Kind Rgds

    jj | July 2011

  • 5.Dan Frommer seems to write about QR codes a lot considering....they are dying.

    He wrote another death to QR article in March 2011 just 3 months ago.

    I guess he likes the SEO benefit. :)


    Dean Collins | July 2011 | New York

  • 6.Nice rebuttal to the BI article. We have to remember that online publications depend on ad revenues and controversial content gens a lot of ad/page impressions. The facts? Whatever!

    The key to QR code success is the user experience after the code is scanned. It will succeed or fail depending on its mobile optimization (is it?) and value to the user. Going from a product ad to a full sized home page still occurs much too often and is a guaranteed fail.

    I agree that it will all be nailed down as QRs go mainstream.

    Dave | July 2011 | Florida

  • 7.If you manage a brand that is the category leader then the overall objective of your marketing strategy should be to defend the leadership position, in particular against the competitor that is close behind, the challenger.

    remove rip of reports | November 2011

  • 8.Was just doing some research on QR codes and came across this blog. Very interesting and informative. Are there any interesting case studies of how QR Codes have been successfully used in Internal Communications? Can you please share them?

    Blessen | February 2012 | Mumbai

  • 9.Hey,
    You've done a great job, QR Codes are enjoy a great popularity since it appears in the market. we may have seen them at conferences, in catalogs, on billboards and even in the Journal of Accountancy, it become our habit to scan the black-white pic with our smartphone. my friend recommand a QR Code to me, i find this is definitely good. i'd like to share with others.

    Iris_21990 | March 2012 | chengdu

  • 10.QR code case studies is svery important nice to read all .

    QR code maker | April 2012 | USA

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