The 411 on QR Codes


The no-contact business card of the century. The magic, the mystifying, the incredible…

The QR Code!

QR (quick response) codes were developed in 1994 by a Japanese engineer for the purpose of tracking parts in car factories. Source: Forbes

They gained more popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic due to their contactless, scannable functionality. Restaurants and bars quickly adapted the easy method of QR codes in place of traditional menus to avoid the continued spread of the disease.

And they aren’t going away anytime soon. According to Forbes, it’s predicted that 99.5 million people in the U.S. will use QR codes by 2025.

If your customers haven’t already, now is the time to jump on the QR code bandwagon!

But Why Should Businesses Use QR Codes?

The best reason why your customers should be using QR codes on promotional products is that it cuts the client’s time in the marketing funnel in half.

The best way you can explain it is they are digitally placing their prospect right where they want them to be. Whether that be to a company website, a how-to video, or a business social media account, they can link any URL to a QR code.

Some of my favorite web pages to link to a QR code are:

  • A press release or white paper about an achievement or goal
  • A hype video about an upcoming event or product release
  • A social media campaign where my company gave back to our local community
  • A company’s social media page
  • An email signup, where I can subscribe prospects to a targeted email marketing campaign

QR codes can increase traffic to your customer’s webpage, client engagement and increase their lead generation through first-party data.

The QR Journey

In the world of promotional products, you can get pretty creative with QR codes!

(I mean look at this; the QR code is on a puzzle piece! How cool?!)

These mystifying codes can aid your customer’s prospects on a journey with their promo products. Before they scan, your customers will want their prospects to ask themselves the question…

“Where Does This Go?”

In this case, curiosity didn’t kill the cat.

Frankly, curiosity is a huge reason why QR codes are so successful. Encouraging your customers to tailor their promo products with QR codes should help them lead their clients on a journey, rather than just a one-stop to a webpage. Let’s take a look at an example.

Example: Conference Kit

Say I get a large swag box with a couple of promo products, a coffee mug, a t-shirt, and a glow stick.

There’s a large QR code on the top part of the box. When I hold up my phone and scan the QR code, the link leads me to a launch video of the conference I registered for. The video shows all of the sessions and events that will happen at the conference. How fun!? I can’t wait to see what else is in my promo kit!

The coffee mug has a QR code on it along with the conference logo. I scan the coffee mug QR code, which leads me to an introduction breakfast session agenda, which lists out who will be speaking. I can register and see who else will be in attendance.

When I scan the t-shirt QR code, the link leads me to an exclusive breakout session, where I get to network with people in my specific industry! I will also get follow-up emails after the sessions have ended. So cool!

And lastly, I scan the glow stick QR code. The link sends me an invitation to an after-party for conference attendees at a local bowling alley! I also got a discounted code for next year’s conference by signing up!

QR codes can open doors to different areas of marketing. In this scenario, the client was able to keep up with attendees, registration numbers, and email sign-ups, and get a head count on next year’s registration numbers!

Generating Your QR Code

So, how do you create a QR code?

One of the easiest ways to create a QR code is through a QR code generator. You can make your own through a couple of free websites, or you can have a print shop do it for you.

Printing Guidelines

There are a few guidelines to keep in mind when creating QR codes for your promotional products. Here are just a few to keep in mind before printing!

Ultimately, there are plenty of reasons to add a QR code to your customer’s next campaign. If they’re already doing it, great! But if not, why not consider advising your customers to take part in this tried-and-true method that’s been around for 20 years? The barcodes are cost-effective, easy to use, and even more convenient now with mobile scanning apps. It’s a great way for your customers to draw attention to their brand and make their client’s experience interactive.

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(Content Marketing Coordinator)

Ashley is the Content Marketing Coordinator at SAGE. She has a true passion for writing and blogging. In her free time, you can find her dancing ballet, cooking up one of her favorite recipes, or spending time with her husband Joe and puppy, named Pickles.


  1. Hi Ashley, I'm wondering about the Google puzzle example you shared - it's white on top of an abstract design. Will that be scannable? Per #7 on the list - it states there has to be enough white space around it to be scannable... so would that type of design work in reality? would love to know so I can apply it in my projects. Thanks!

    • Hi Tania,
      QR codes can be in different colors. The white space I was referring to was if you had a traditional black and white QR code. In many instances today, we see QR codes in two contrasting colors. One color makes up the actual QR code itself, and the other color serves as a contrasting background, making it easier for a phone camera to scan. Hope this helps!

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