Karly Young August 13, 2021

QR codes have been around for a few decades, and while they’ve been trendy in the past, they’re experiencing a resurgence in 2021. At The Anstadt Company, we can give you a rundown of QR code usage and how it can make an excellent addition to your marketing mix.

What Are QR Codes?

You’ve likely seen QR codes thousands of times. You can find them on clothes packaging, dinner menus, mailers and more, and they look like a group of pixels and squares. QR codes are like barcodes that you find at the grocery store, but they’re designed for smartphone compatibility. When a phone scans one, it loads a website, video or image.

Invented by Masahiro Hara in 1994, QR codes have only just recently reemerged as a popular marketing tool for sharing information. And now, with readily available online QR code generators, most people can easily create one with a computer or smartphone and an internet connection.

Two types of QR codes are in use today — static and dynamic. A static QR code does not allow the user to make changes once generated, whereas dynamic QR codes and their content can undergo editing. Dynamic QR codes also allow creators to track metrics, such as location, number of scans and operating system used.

Uses for QR Codes

QR code usage is endless. While they have a place in the business world, many people use them in their everyday lives too. On the marketing side, QR codes are commonly used for app downloads at well-known companies. You might find them on used cars to direct you to a CarFax report. Many businesses also use them on their direct mail postcard mailers to drive people to their websites.

Companies rely on print collateral through the mail, at trade shows, in stores and in the newspaper. Any place a business may choose to advertise, they can integrate a QR code. Other business uses include:

  • Displaying company location
  • Linking social media
  • Sharing a discount or promotion
  • Sending a text or email
  • Joining a mailing list

These little codes easily integrate into marketing materials, and they act as a bridge between traditional print collateral and digital marketing. Outside of the business world, they’re often used for convenience, as they can act as a shortcut for performing otherwise lengthy or inconvenient tasks. Possible real-life applications for QR codes include:

  • Linking restaurant menus.
  • A way to RSVP to wedding invitations
  • Enabling museums to share artwork descriptions
  • Providing taxi phone numbers in bar bathrooms
  • Listing performance lineups at music festivals
  • Enhancing a brand experience

QR codes make information more accessible than it would be otherwise — companies don’t need to spend time on long-form print collateral, and regular people can save time typing out a phone number or web address. As a vehicle for convenience, QR codes are a powerful tool for many circumstances.

Why Have QR Codes Gained Popularity in 2021?

While QR codes first started appearing in the 1990s, they lost traction by the 2000s. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought them back. As an accessible way to introduce touch-free business, restaurants, hotels and other public venues began relying on them to keep their businesses as functional as possible amid social distancing requirements.

It’s now standard to sit down at a restaurant and see a QR code taped to the table. Customers can quickly scan the code with their smartphones and redirect to the restaurant’s online menu. As a result, restaurant employees don’t have to think about wiping down menus throughout the day or wasting paper with printed menus. Customers also get peace of mind knowing the restaurant is relatively touchless.

QR codes have also become a common form of touchless payment. Places like hotels and doctor’s offices can also use them for non-contact check-in. While front desk receptionists can avoid contact with guests and patients, customers feel more inclined to frequent a business with established safety procedures.

Beyond touchless menus, payments and check-ins, QR codes have become a useful tool for contact tracing. Many venues requested guests to scan a code, and if any person at the event contracted coronavirus, the code would show every person who shared the space with them.

As 2020 brought about many unique challenges, QR codes proved to be an accessible solution for corporations and small businesses. While it didn’t guarantee the same customer turnout as before, it did help keep many places afloat, even if they operated on thin margins. The resurgence of the QR code is proof that existing technology combined with the power of print is helpful for convenience and safety. QR codes may have fallen to the wayside in the 2000s, but their cost-effective and accessible nature may have saved many businesses and people in 2020.

How to Scan QR Codes With an iPhone or Android

If you want to use QR codes as a marketing tool at trade shows or on handouts, people may ask you how to scan them. It would help if you understood how to do so on both iPhones and Androids.

On iPhones, the QR code scanner is built into the camera app. Users should start by opening the camera app. Once in the app, they should align the QR code inside the camera viewfinder. The lens will focus on the code and a pop-up will appear with a link to the corresponding location. Users need to click the link to be redirected.

Scanning QR codes looks different on Androids depending on the type of phone a person has. On most Samsung models, the QR code scanner is available in the notification bar. When users click the QR code scanning button, the camera app will open. The user should align the code within the camera’s viewfinder to make a pop-up appear. They can then click the link to be redirected.

Other Android users can download a third-party scanning app or access the Google Lens app that’s likely already installed on their phones. Within these scanning apps, the process is similar to the iPhone or a Samsung. These apps may show a square frame the QR code must line up with. When the app registers the code, a link will appear, or the phone will automatically redirect.

QR Code Alternatives in 2021

Since the development of QR codes, many other technologies have taken on similar roles. These newer technologies include:

  • NFC technology: Near-field communication (NFC) is the technology used in Google Pay and Apple Wallet. NFC tech is built into modern smartphones, and users simply need to tap their phone to the trigger to make a payment.
  • Bluetooth beacons: A Bluetooth beacon is a small transmitter that delivers information to other Bluetooth devices within proximity. Companies use them to enhance the shopping experience with welcome messages and in-store deals in specific departments.
  • Geofencing: A geofence defines a particular area and creates a trigger when a phone enters the region. This technology uses GPS or Wi-Fi to send messages to phones, and it allows for real-time messaging similar to Bluetooth beacons.

Learn How to Make QR Codes a Part of Your Business Strategy

QR codes are powerful tools and have proved to be an accessible way to keep businesses afloat amidst the coronavirus pandemic. With the resurgence in QR code adoption, you can integrate it into your marketing mix for lead generation and customer communication.

At The Anstadt Company, we specialize in marketing execution and print solutions that help you #GenerateDemand for your business. With our advanced equipment and capabilities, we can create innovative collateral that fits your marketing strategy and vision. We also support QR code integration in a wide range of print marketing materials.

Reach out to our team today to learn more about our capabilities or request sample materials for your business.



Founded in 1878, The Anstadt Company is a 5th generation, family-owned marketing execution and print solutions company uniquely positioned to help you #GenerateDemand for your brands, products and services.