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Who’s Using QR Codes at Events? Raise Your Hands!

Don’t be so quick to conclude that QR codes (Quick Response codes) are fading away. Just the opposite: these days, companies are concocting all sorts of creative applications for these data-filled little squares that you see printed everywhere.


Consider Tussock Jumper Wines, a company that developed a special QR code app for its bottle neckers. The app lets customers embed the code with a personalized message for the person who’s getting the vino as a gift. And it’s not simply a ho-hum web page behind a QR code (note to self: don’t ever take this lazy way out!). Au contraire: it can be a video, a voice recording, or more information about the wine’s characteristics, as well as information on where you can hightail it to buy more bottles.

This app – like all QR codes – takes advantage of the explosion in smartphone usage.  Did you know that, according to different sources, US smartphone penetration is somewhere between 74% and 100%? It suggests that marketers are putting put mobile close to the top of their list when developing channel selection.

Leading retailers used QR codes quite creatively during this past holiday season.

Macy’s has been leveraging QR code technology for a few seasons. This past season, they offered $1 million in prizes through QR codes appearing on store signage. Shoppers scanned the codes in Macy’s stores to try and unlock prizes worth up to $250. They pushed it even further: these codes were reprogrammed every hour to elongate the shopping experience and keep customers in stores so they could try again and again.

Another retailer that used QR code technology for the holidays was Toys “R” Us. Having determined from research that a certain customer pain point was finding specific items they wanted to purchase once inside the store, the toy company put QR codes to work. At the entrance to their stores, there appeared signs with QR codes that, when scanned, led to a map of that particular store, helping in-store shoppers locate the toys they wanted to buy.

Retailers and QR codes are natural companions – but what about using these codes at your events? Are you? Have you? Will you?

We think it’s worth a look.

We recently came across an excellent article by Claire Walling, called “Cracking the Code,” published on The author offers numerous examples of creative QR codes.

One participant at the International Consumer Electronics Show used codes to create a scavenger hunt for attendees. The prize was an Apple MacBook Air, and in order to participate, attendees had to search for 4 different QR codes in the convention center. Participants had to register to enter the hunt, by providing contact information on the app itself. Naturally, this gave the exhibitor key data to use following the convention. Smart, right?

Here are a few other smart ways to use QR codes at your next event, whether you’re an exhibitor or even hosting one:

  • Track attendance. Have people scan codes at your booth or, if you’re presenting, at the session door.
  • Share your event schedule. Have attendees scan a QR code to access the daily program. Include speaker information and location of rooms.
  • Provide deeper product information. Use QR codes at your display to share additional product information. It can supplement printed trade show materials.
  • Stage a contest. Like the example cited above, create something fun using QR codes to engage attendees, collect contact information, and give away prizes.
  • Gather session evaluations. If you don’t require a ton of feedback from a session at your event, use a QR code instead of printed evaluation forms. This works best with short, simple questions and can be a great way to collect comments on the spot.

These are just a handful of suggestions for good use of QR codes at your events, but there are always caveats to bear in mind, like these:

  • Don’t assume everyone knows what a QR code is or what to do with it.
  • QR codes should be engaging and active, not boring and static.
  • QR codes that lead to an existing web site page are worthless.
  • Make your QR codes worth someone’s time. You have to provide value.
  • Work in the fun factor, especially for trade show usage.
  • Size matters. Too small, and people won’t see it. Too big, and people can’t scan it.

Here’s an idea: pay close attention to QR codes used at the next event you attend. What worked for you, and what failed?

PS: Take a look at this earlier post we wrote about QR codes.

Topics: Event Marketing Materials Global Fulfillment Promotional Swag Kit Assembly