Are QR Codes Effective for Advertisers?

by @edent | 12 comments | Read ~1,207 times.

I recently read Andrew Grill's post about being a QR Code Sceptic. I agree with some of his points about crap QR code adverts - I've blogged about many of them - but I believe the fundamental business case for QR codes is still strong.

Many people on the blog and on Twitter have asked for case-studies proving how efficacious QR is.

Case-Study comes from the Latin phrase casum stutitius which literally translates to lies told by marketing drones to get you to buy their product.

We get the occasional self-reported statistic - QRazyStuff say their newspaper campaign had 1,200 scans in a day - but there's no way to independently verify those numbers.

Show Me The Numbers

The hallmark of any good study is raw, unvarnished, numbers. Sadly, they are really hard to come across. Understandably, most marketeers don't want their rivals to know how well their adverts are doing.

So, what we're left with is rumours and "industry analysis" - which is a fancy way of saying "guessing".

Guess No More

Recently, Boots gave everyone an all-access pass to the performance statistics of their latest QR advert in the Evening Standard.
By using the popular URL redirection service, they've exposed their scanning stats to all.

Here's the advert.
Boots QR in Evening Standard
A close up of the QR code.
Boots QR Closeup
The code points to allows anyone to view the statistics of one of its URLs by appending a + to the end. So, by visiting we can see how many times the QR codes has been scanned.

The Stats

dermsource statistics

Over the course of a work week, around 800 scans. Over 150 on the days the advert was running.

But Is That Any Good?

How does that measure up in the real world?

Truth be told, I've no idea.

  • How much of a response does a regular advert generate in terms of people calling, emailing, or browsing? Very hard to say.
  • How much is due to the demographic? Are the skin-cream users of London representative of the general public?
  • What does a full page colour advert cost? Was this a good RoI?
  • Would having an explanatory call-to-action helped? "Scan the code to find out more" or "Search for 'QR' in your app store to scan the code."

What Now

At the start of this year, I blogged about the Metro newspaper's use of QR codes. In the two and a half months of running their code, they had 17,000 scans.

The fact is, QR codes work. They are being used widely - although not always successfully. They are being scanned by thousands of people in the UK and I fully expect that to grow to millions.

When executed well, they are the perfect way to enhance an advert. And now we have (some) statistics to prove it.

12 thoughts on “Are QR Codes Effective for Advertisers?

  1. Terence, nice response and well thought out post, and finally some QR code stats!



  2. Roger says:

    "Case-Study comes from the Latin phrase casum stutitius which literally translates to lies told by marketing drones to get you to buy their product". LOL

    Very funny but surely that should be 'dictum exemplum'? 🙂

    "800 scans"

    Most of those scans would have been from the marketing department, the agency and all their friends and relatives. The few remaining scans would have been people who were interested in the scanning process and the QR Code could have been on anything and resolved anywhere.

    There may have been two or three people who scanned the code because they wanted to know more about Liftactive Derm Source enriched with Rhamnose.

    If anyone purchased the product as a result of scanning the code - I salute you!

    1. The microsite that it leads to is very well done - but that's a blog for another day!

  3. Chris says:

    I may have missed something fundamental here, but the referral stats on that code are telling me that of 809 'clicks' (at the time of commenting) 801 have come via 'Email Clients, IM, AIR Apps, and Direct' and 1 has come via a scan of the QR code. Which I'd suggest is pretty poor.

  4. Hi Chris,
    You are missing something 🙂 that refers only to the provided QR code which they did NOT use.
    Essentially, the email/IM means no referer - that is, they clicked on the link directly - which is what a scan would show.
    Hope that clears things up.

  5. Chris says:

    Ah yes, gotcha - I hadn't spotted that. But in that case we have no idea how many of those 800 or so direct referrals came via QR. Could be 800, could be 1. Interesting though, and ta for flagging it up.

    FWIW I did something similar here:

  6. Douglas McDonald says:

    Even if all 800 were scans... it's still rubbish. Similarly, 17k scans isn't that great either given the massive readership over 14 days. Stats still say NO.

    1. The question is "what reliable external source do we have for other styles of campaigns?"

      If they'd stuck a (unique) phone number there - how many calls would it generate?
      If they'd used a (unique) SMS promo there - how many texts would it generate?
      If they'd printed a (unique) URL there - how many hits would it have got?

      The answer is....? I don't know. I'm not aware of anyone publishing independently verifiable response rates for those sorts of adverts.

      If you know someone who is, please tell us!

      17K could be fantastic, it could be 1% of what an SMS promo would bring. What I do know is that 17,000 scans feels like the start of something big.

  7. TomR says:

    I think what is impressive about this figure is the background context it is set against - the retailer (Boots), product (anti-wrinkle skincare) and format (newspaper). Trying to evaluate data yielded by a non-tech company aimed at women in their 40s/50s is surely misleading - (a) what percentage of this demographic have smartphones and (b) what extra information would you need about this product (that is already not displayed) that is more important than the rest of the newspaper on your evening commute...

  8. George Warrens says:

    The ideal QR code is the one which represents a meaningful, memorable, familiar, call to action or slogan URLised. Like or dot whatever. Or

    This URL is printed just below the QR code. So if one cannot scan for some reason one can remember the call to action and check it out later. Real estate agents can QR code a (listing address).
    Problem is finding enough available call to action domains. Some newer TLDs I think come with built in template that are already mobile optimized and these serve as ideal landing pages.

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