QR Codes for print media: How to leverage it for better user journeys
Last Updated:  October 1, 2020
That’s how much a full-page advertisement in a newspaper can cost you!
Ad space in a newspaper is much like real estate. It’s all about the location and running traditional newspaper ads can cost you anywhere from $2,700 to $163,422 depending on size, day of publishing and ink.
Aside from the monumental cost, the engagement metrics from a newspaper and other print media advertisements can only be guesstimated based on circulation. To top it all, traditional print media advertisements are not convenient for a consumer to peruse. If the aim of a marketing campaign is to get more consumers to download an app or increase website traffic, having the URL doesn’t do much at all.
This is why QR Codes are seeing a massive resurgence, especially in print media. Not only can you reduce the size of the advertisement reducing massive costs but you can also obtain near accurate conversion rates and bridge the gap between the offline and the online world.
And you might have seen this already. It’s hard to miss an advert featuring a QR Code in newspapers and magazines alike. The New York Times, the Washington Post, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Reader’s Digest have all run QR Code advertisements in the recent past.
So, what can QR Codes do for your business? This post will help you master the most effective QR Code strategies and leverage them to increase your ROI.
3 ways QR Codes can elevate print media advertisements
QR Codes for print media marketing provides cutting-edge growth in reaching the target audience target and sales. It furnishes customers with an inclusive and well-directed buying experience. With online and offline advertisements facing stiff competition in the race to preserve the brand’s authenticity and relevance in a rapidly evolving technological landscape, QR Codes help bridge the gap between virtual and real spheres.
QR Codes for advertisements are an excellent way of sharing additional information without taking up too much space.
According to a report by Statista, the number of users who scanned QR Codes on smartphones in the US in 2018 was 9.8M, This only means that a substantial amount of the population is aware of how QR Codes function, and are likely to scan them.
Detailed information about the brand
A QR Code linked directly to a brand’s landing page can reveal detailed information about the product or the advertisement showcased either in forms of a video clip, interactive pictorials, mobile game; the possibilities are endless.
Considering QR Codes accurately serve as a real-time link to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual world, using them for print media advertisements will help marketers boost an interactive user experience.
Luxury brand Victoria Secret’s 2011 campaign had billboards that contained QR Codes on them. The catchy ad encouraged users to scan the QR Code embedded in the image to reveal the model’s secret.
#2. Employ multimedia content for better audience engagement
Adding a customized QR Code to print media not only makes it look aesthetically appealing but also makes it actionable for marketers to track its efficacy and gauge the engagement level. QR Codes can be deployed to share multimedia content such as an interactive video and/or audio clip, PDF files that can convert PDFs to QR Codes, images, and detailed text. Multimedia QR Codes for print media helps brands reach out to their customers on a large scale. It also allows the audience to connect with the brand’s social media accounts with just a single scan.
A QR Code can be pasted on any form of print media advertisement. A QR Code can make any print media advertisement look above average. By turning the advertisement into an interactive one, it can elevate the entire look of the campaign. An interactive campaign with a QR Code can help customers engage better by letting them know that there is a gift or a coupon upon scanning the code, or special discount only for the scanners, and so on.
Peapod, an online grocery retailer in the Northeast and Midwest US that offers home delivery developed an initiative on its mobile app that allowed users to shop grocery items by scanning barcodes under each product. The payment was completed by scanning the QR Code provided on the advert to finish buying the products. These adverts were placed all across the Northeast and Midwest US.
Out-Of-Home (OOH) advertising mediums such as billboards and banners must be designed to draw the user’s attention to improve branding and sales. Brands must realize that employing the colors that represent the brand on the QR Code will help enhance user engagement and makes it easily recognizable. Colors, logos, and background images are a notable way of designing customized QR Codes for print media advertisements.
QR Codes can take multiple shapes and designs depending on the outlet of the advertisement. Too much of customization and overcrowding the design by adding too many colors and details is a strict no-no as it makes the code deem less alluring, ultimately making it unscannable,
#2 Choose the right size
The size of the QR Code plays the most significant role in print media campaigns. Tucking away the QR Code beyond the user’s reach instead of making it prominent will not serve the purpose of the advertisement at all. If the QR Code is being printed on flyers, magazines or newspapers, make sure that the size of the QR Code is at least 1.2 inches square (2 cm x 2 cm). If the QR Code is being printed on banners and billboards, then it must be ideally bigger than the ones used for smaller print media surfaces.
To know the ideal size of the QR Code to be printed,
Size of the QR Code = Distance between the QR Code and the scanner/10
Always test and scan the QR Code before sending out the final print media campaign.
#3 Avoid broken links and outdated content
The worst thing about a QR Code campaign going wrong is to find out that the code is either broken or displays outdated information.
This not only will hinder customer engagement but will also reflect poorly on the brand. Such mishaps can be easily avoided by deploying dynamic QR Codes for print media campaigns. These QR Codes will help editing the campaign material from time to time without any hassle. Even if the information is typed out wrongly before sending out final print media advertisements, dynamic QR Codes will help change the content.
One such classic example is Red Bull. Red Bull launched a campaign featuring QR Codes in the subway. Although the advert was great, the codes were inaccessible because most subways don’t have mobile connectivity.
#4 Use a high-resolution QR Code
Using high-quality QR Codes, especially for print media adverts is very important. Pixelated and blurry QR Codes will not only make the adverts unscannable but will also make them look unprofessional, ultimately reflecting poorly on the brand image. Depending on the size of the QR Code, choose between JPG, PNG, EPS, or SVG, which can be scaled easily without losing print quality for scanning QR Codes.
Choosing the right kind of material for the QR Code is paramount. Make sure not to use any material that reflects too much light, competes with the readability of the QR Code, uneven surface that may disfigure the QR Code, and printing in between magazine or flyer folds making it difficult to view the full image.
#5 Place the QR codes within reach
The right kind of advertisement is the one that practically reaches the user’s target. QR Codes for OOH advertising and print media advertising, such as flyers, newspapers, and magazines, depending on the placement of the adverts. Placing the QR Code beyond the user’s reach is a recipe for disaster. For maximum impact and scans, place the QR Codes within the user’s appropriate reach. No one wants to crouch down, stretch or climb up a ladder to scan a QR Code.
Nirvana launched a QR Code campaign to promote its 20th anniversary of their classic album. The QR Code was hard to scan as it was tucked away in a corner on the billboard advert, and the size wasn’t appropriate, ultimately making it unscannable.
#6 Assess the scanning time
A QR Code shouldn’t take more than an average of 15 seconds to scan. The time to remove the smartphone from the bag/pocket, open the camera, and hold the device still to scan the QR Code is included in the 15 second-scannability time. This insinuates that the QR Code must not be broken, so it takes a longer time to scan. In addition to that, the placement of the QR Code must also be appropriate.
Dynamic QR Codes are easier to scan as they use a placeholder URL, thereby speeding up the scanning time. Stagnant print media outlets like posters, flyers, banners give customers an ample amount of time to scan the QR Code without any hassle as opposed to electronic billboards and TV commercials that are out of reach.
Printing multiple QR Codes on one single print media outlet surface will not just overcrowd the campaign but will also confuse the audience, making them scan the wrong code, ultimately dealigning the whole campaign. In such cases, use a dynamic QR Code where the campaign can be changed accordingly. If multiple QR Codes must be placed for a particular advert, then consider placing them on opposite ends with a distinctive design to help customers identify the codes. These QR Codes can be linked to different landing pages depending on the overall agenda or theme of the advertisement.
Any advert without an added CTA does not give any reason for customers to scan them. Adding a CTA to the QR Code will not just provide the customers with a reason to scan the codes, but will also tell them what to expect out of the advert. A simple “Scan Me” or “Scan to Avail an Offer” has practically proven a rather marginal amount of higher scan rates as opposed to adverts with no CTAs. A QR Code advert with CTAs will not only intrigue the customers but will also motivate them to scan the code. Add a frame to the QR Code to include the CTAs to help make them stand out.
Don’t forget to test the designed QR Code using various scanning apps and devices to test its scannability. Request for a sample advert before printing it out in large volumes to avoid any mishaps.
3 ways to maximize the efficacy of the QR Codes on print media
A QR Code can be used to offer discounts or deals, convey a message, increase a brand’s service, announce a new product; the list is endless. There is a wealth of opportunities hiding under a QR Code that helps companies connect an array of customer segments with distinctive, personalized links based on the feedback, analysis, and trends of the QR Code used.
Some of the protocols to be considered to maximize the efficacy of QR Codes for print media are –
#1 Update the campaign’s details on a regular basis
A print media advert stays out in the open for a long duration and it is imperative to update the message of the campaign to keep it fresh and not outdated. Imagine a consumer scanning the QR Code to land to the same old content; they are going to stop scanning it to avoid repeated adverts.
Include discounts and coupons
No consumer wants to overspend; everyone likes saving money. Link the QR Code on adverts to a monthly or weekly special discount and/or savings offer. This will not only boost sales but also establishes a habit of scanning the QR Codes for additional savings for new and existing customers in the future. Along with this, extend the savings by offering additional discounts on the customer’s bill, but only upon scanning the QR Code. This will further push them to scan the QR Codes thereby increasing the scan rates.
Make it interesting
Give the customers a compelling reason to scan the QR Code. Link the QR Code to a welcome video and social media accounts for new customers and a welcome back bonus for existing customers. Link it to a PURL (Personalized URL) that offers products based on customers’ preferences, offer customers unique trade show materials upon scanning the QR Code, or giveaways as an entry.
#2 Be innovative
Since QR Codes are capable of holding a lot of information and offers flexibility, they are unique, which can be used as a mystery marketing tool. The “sense of the unknown” generates curiosity, excitement, and anticipation. A QR Code that has an uninspired motive can be a letdown. Implementing creative marketing QR Code campaigns can encourage customers to scan the QR Code and make it worth their time and effort thereby producing a wholesome worthwhile experience for users.
Some of the ways to create an innovative QR Code campaign are – develop either a scavenger hunt or mobile game, AR product experience, solve a puzzle or crosswords.
#3 Shape it as a cost-effective tool
Dynamic QR Codes for print media campaigns are highly effective in driving consumers to make informed decisions. They are also extremely cost-effective as the marketing campaign can be changed based on the market trends and audience demands even if it is on print media like billboards, banners, and newspapers. The only effort that is invested is in the development of the workability of the campaign; if that is not something in place already, and/or the cost attainment, if applicable.
Impact of QR Codes on print media campaigns
Print media campaigns cost a lot as there is a wide distribution of the print media material spread across a colossal amount of area. These campaigns once printed cannot be changed, and even if they are, the cost value that goes into reprinting a different campaign is tremendous. But with a QR Code marketing campaign, the intent of the advert can not only be changed from time to time but the tariff involved in modifying the campaign is comparatively low. QR Codes for print media campaigns function as a cost-effective marketing tool.
Marketers can leverage the technology of QR Codes to create endless innovative campaigns and engage the audience with their brand.
The New York Times partnered with Facebook to co-develop a series of AR filters and effects on Instagram, covering California’s wildfires based on the centennial of women’s suffrage.
The filter can be unlocked via the NYTimes Instagram account page, under their effects tab, and their California fires highlight, and throughout the Times digital and print products.
Readers can launch the AR effect by holding their smartphone scanners over a QR Code featured on September 20, the Sunday edition of the NY Times paper.
The AR effect explains the damage of air quality by explaining the air quality number and trivia about places that are affected adversely by air pollution.
Vogue Singapore’s digital magazine
Vogue Singapore has relaunched with a monthly print magazine and website, 20 years after it closed the brief Southeast Asian edition in the 1990s.
The Autumn/Winter 2020 launch issue includes scannable QR Codes, including AR and VR content. Published in English, the launch issue is a collectible print edition featuring three covers.
“We are living in unprecedented times,” stated Norman Tan, editor in chief of Vogue Singapore. “Our mission is to craft a Vogue that is imaginative, inspirational, and artful.”
A 360-degree initiative called Vogue Studio lets its readers participate in an all-day virtual event to celebrate the digital magazine launch. It featured various AR and VR activations, such as animated fashion shoots in Singapore’s futuristic gardens, live performances, and Xiowén in 21 different looks in a virtual world.
Photo sharing social media giant Instagram has come up with a fresh way that allows its users to open profiles of other Instagram users.
The latest addition of QR Codes to its app, the replacement of Nametags, helps users to generate the codes which can be scanned from any app that supports QR Code scanning, including third-party QR Code scanning apps.
The scannable Instagram QR Codes can be printed and implemented at various locations such as brick and mortar stores, billboards, and flyers to help businesses advertise their products and help increase foot traffic.
How to generate Instagram QR Codes for your profile?
To generate Instagram QR Code for your profile,
Tap on the hamburger icon on the top right section of your Instagram profile
Click on QR Code
Click on Scan QR Code to scan other users’ QR Code
Tap on the Share icon to print or share your Instagram QR Code
HT Media Group relaunched its flagship publication Hindustan Times with a comprehensive re-design and a multi-platform sharable format. The all-new digital-first version has elements that offer print to digital conversion with QR Codes, video pointers, photo galleries that link readers to HTs digital platforms, and even podcasts.
“The re-design and the integration of Print and Digital format has been assimilated with a sharp focus on millennials. Design and content changes were made based on insights and thorough research of millennials and their reading habits and preferences,” said Samudra Bhattacharya, CEO – Print, HT Media during the launch e-conference.
This American soft drink giant has long established its foothold in marketing campaigns leveraging the technology of QR Codes. Coca Cola introduced the SmartLabel campaign that uses QR Code to divulge extensive and detailed product information for any item in the food, beverage, and consumer goods space in an effortless but uniform way. The Director of Social Commitment at Coca-Cola said, “The purpose behind SmartLabel is to provide full transparency and promote clear facts for all products and to make sure that users have complete access to the ingredients in the products to help make informed decisions.”
The information could be accessed by simply scanning the QR Code placed on the packaging of every participating product of Coca-Cola. The soft drink company has advocated to create more transparency in labeling by appealing to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to execute the new Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) by 2020. Coca-Cola swears that 99% of their SmartLabel’s traffic comes from scanning the QR Codes on mobiles, thus striving to place the QR Code on all of its more than 2,000 products in the US by 2020.
The fast-food giant launched a QR Code based print media campaign to promote its new guacamole. The customized QR Codes were made out of two ingredients – lemons and avocados. Each advert linked the users to a customized recipe that matched the ingredients (lemons or avocadoes). For example, the print ad showcasing avocado directed the user to a guacamole recipe whilst the ad representing lemons led to a lemon-marinated chicken recipe.
Upon scanning the QR Code, the ad directed users to its special Cantina Bell menu which included recipes by celebrity chefs, and nutritional information about the products on the menu. The QR Code also alerted the customer with the closest Taco Bell outlet to try out the new menu. The nationwide promotion had an additional video showing the making of the QR Code, which was the campaign’s best attractions.
The flexibility of a QR Code makes it a wonderful marketing tool for print media adverts. QR Codes for print media adverts can be incorporated everywhere including tickets, flyers, brochures, magazines, and table tents making it one of the most successful marketing tools ever. A QR Code campaign on print media will not only make the campaign more powerful but will also help brands in increasing their business strategies, sales and ROI, and audience reach as it provides more than favorable outcomes. Since QR Codes are extremely beneficial, they can be adjusted according to the company’s advertising strategy and competitive marketplace; they are an efficient marketing tool. QR Codes for print media adverts also helps customers save time and enjoy a frictionless scanning experience.
Want to create a QR Code for your print media campaign? Try Beaconstac’s free QR Code generator to create unique customized QR Codes.
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QR Codes for museums can be used to share interesting facts about an art piece, minimize waiting time, and more. Read this blog post to learn 7 interesting ways QR Codes can help museums improve visitor experience!