Scanning to Win: Master These QR Code Strategies and Capitalize on Major Events Like the Super Bowl

By Katherine Ryan, Vice President, Brand Marketing, Bitly

The advertising industry is dynamic and has undergone an incredible shift in recent years, driven largely by new technologies that are entering the market as well as changing consumer behavior. Technologies, like QR Codes, have become powerful tools for brands to help bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds, creating new opportunities to engage with their audiences.

In 2022, Coinbase made headlines during the Super Bowl by leveraging QR Codes in its advertising campaign and driving 20 million visitors to its site while boosting its crypto app downloads by 279%. This watershed moment ignited a movement across advertising avenues, once again validating the use of QR Codes within marketing strategies. Brands instantly scrambled to capitalize on their potential after seeing the impact they could have on brand recognition and engagement.

Today, QR Codes continue to play a central role in shaping the advertising industry on many different platforms, including television. According to Bitly’s QR Code usage data, there was an 18 percent increase in QR Code scans during the 2024 Super Bowl weekend compared to 2023, which proves QR Codes are continuing to grow in importance within marketing and advertising landscapes.

Just last week, brands like Miller Lite and DoorDash embraced QR Codes throughout the Super Bowl to drive meaningful engagement through sweepstakes offerings and by bringing consumers into the brand experience through a scan from their smartphones. We are learning that leveraging technology can revolutionize brand engagement and captivate audiences like never before.

QR Codes have evolved from their humble beginnings as mere data storage tools in the 1990s. Due to their versatility, accessibility, and affordability, brands are adopting QR Codes as an indispensable tool to connect with consumers. They’re ubiquitous across brand campaigns, popping up everywhere from billboards and airport advertisements to product packaging and television screens. Their ability to connect the physical world with digital content (also known as the phygital movement) means there are new avenues for engagement and interaction.

Here are a few key tips to consider when incorporating QR Codes into your brand campaigns across different platforms (like television and digital avenues) to maximize effectiveness:

Optimal Placement and Duration

Ensure that your QR Codes are prominently displayed and easily scannable within TV advertisements, ideally positioned at the beginning or end of the commercial to maximize viewer engagement and attention. Be sure to leave your QR Code on screen for at least 10 seconds so viewers have enough time to scan.

Clear Call-To-Action (CTA)

Include a CTA alongside your QR Codes so viewers know what to expect once they scan. You should also consider integrating the QR Codes into the script or overall narrative of the commercial itself, truly making the QR Code part of the content and experience. For example, at this year’s Super Bowl, Miller Lite integrated QR Codes into their ad to promote a contest full of special prizes. They had each actor wear a jersey with a QR Code emblazoned on it to encourage submissions—an incredibly creative take on how to boost engagement in your advertisements.

Exclusive Promotions

Offering exclusive promotions or discounts that are only accessible through QR Code scans creates a sense of urgency and drives immediate action amongst consumers. You can also experiment with members-only benefits by establishing rewards or loyalty programs where QR Code scans unlock exclusive perks and personalized experiences.

Gamified Experiences

Consider incorporating gamified experiences or interactive challenges that are tied to QR Code activations. That encourages active participation and engagement from viewers. You can also use QR Codes to pledge a donation to a charitable organization aligned with your brand—that incentivizes consumers to directly engage and support a meaningful brand-aligned cause.

To begin to unlock the full potential of QR Codes brands can try out some of these tips and see how they help you create an immersive and compelling experience that resonates with audiences and drives meaningful results.

QR Codes are poised to continue to innovate how brands advance their marketing efforts to meet ever-changing consumer expectations. QR Codes will remain a cornerstone of effective advertising strategies as long as brands continue to innovate and prioritize consumer value.